Hong Kong Protestors Face Dilemma of Demonstration Fatigue

Hong Kong demonstration July 1, 2019. Reuters: Tyrone Liu

Yellow-hatted protestors took to the streets of Hong Kong on July 1st, with some marching to the Legislative Council (LegCo) building and breaking in. With windows smashed and graffiti sprayed on the walls the young remained until Hong Kong police announced they were coming.

Tear gas followed the protestors as they emptied into the streets and riot police built human barricades around the building. News reports show footage of the protestors facing off with them late into the night.

Hong Kong demonstrators clash with police early morning July 2nd. Photo: Anthony Wallace AFP/Getty images

After tempers calm the protest movement will be faced with the same dilemma that all social movements face – demonstration fatigue. Without another inciting incident — this time it was the anniversary of the British handover to China and a continuing fight to eliminate a proposed extradition bill with Beijing, the protest movement may have a hard time maintaining momentum.

Source: Bloomberg

The Hong Kong movement galvanized around opposition to a proposed extradition bill on June 12th with an estimated over one million people taking to the streets. That bill has been temporarily suspended from consideration in the legislature, but not withdrawn. Other long standing grievances include China’s heavy hand in limiting voter choices during Hong Kong election and stacking the legislature with Beijing appointees.

Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong is at risk of losing her position if demonstrations continue, though what substantial gains come next remains an open question. More freedom for the island seems unlikely as the the “One Country, Two Systems” formula post UK-hand-over has already been weakened.

China is playing the long game and demonstrations mainly add short-term pressure in a system tilting more and more towards Beijing.

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