A few weeks ago, during a lecture delivered at the India International Centre in Delhi, a noted intellectual dismissed the protests in Hong Kong as a futile exercise. His argument was that in the world we live in, public protests can no longer yield results or persuade obdurate governments from revising a position it has taken. Luckily, his prognosis proved to be rather inaccurate. The three-month sustained agitation in which hundreds of thousands of citizens participated did not go in vain. On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, gave in to one of the chief demands of the protesters with the “withdrawal” of a proposed draconian bill that would have enabled extradition of suspected persons to mainland China to be tried under its repressive judicial system.
This dramatic U-turn by Lam — who had earlier merely suspended the bill — was undoubtedly prompted by the fact that Beijing wants peace to prevail on the streets of Hong Kong when the Chinese Communist Party celebrates 70 years in power on October 1. That said, the protests had become a source of deep embarrassment for the island-state’s administration. Reports of Hong Kong’s international airport shutting down and the streets witnessing rallies attended by millions had begun to effect business. No one believed that the spontaneous protests involving a diversity of the island’s population were a conspiracy by international powers to destabilise China, as Beijing alleged. On the contrary, reports confirmed that the protests were citizens expressing their genuine concerns.
There are those who argue that the city administration has cleverly yielded to only one of the five demands and conveniently ignored the other four, related to restoration of democracy and human rights, police behaviour and universal voting rights for all adults. But that does not take away from the success of a leaderless campaign in which citizens came together, battled odds and the state’s might to get rid of a regressive law. This was the triumph of people’s power and will go down in history as that.
The writer is an Editorial Consultant with BusinessLine