香港人民為何再次走上街頭

陳婉瑩 (香港大學教授)

 2019年6月17日  轉載《紐約時報》「觀點」欄

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香港行政長官林鄭月娥(Carrie Lam)週六在新聞發布會上表示:「我不覺得在現階段是可以就此撤回這條條例,否則令社會收到的信息是『這條條例根本沒有立足之地,所以你現在要收回』。」

在很多方面,週六的聲明可視為反林鄭月娥一方取得的一個小小勝利。一項允許公民、外國居民甚至遊客被引渡到中國大陸的法律草案被無限期擱置。但林鄭月娥沒有收回法案。如果她希望拖延會讓人們冷靜下來,忘記此事,那只是一廂情願。

抗議者表示,除了撤回法案,他們不會接受任何條件。週日,數十萬——據有些人估計,這個數字是兩百萬——回到街頭。這震驚了當局,林鄭月娥為自己處理此事的方式發表了令人意外的道歉。對香港來說,這場鬥爭比之前任何抗議活動都更像是最後一搏。

2014年的79天裡,成千上萬名抗議者在香港主幹道紮營。「佔中」運動的氣氛通常是嚴肅的,但也會有恬靜平和的時刻,因為佔領那裡的多都是年輕的活動人士,他們抗議,並分享對自由選舉的希望。然後就是警察與逮捕。

此後發生了很多事情。這些營地被拆除後,親民主的「雨傘運動」的所有目標都沒有實現,該運動分裂成多個派系,幾名領導人被送進監獄。

許多人擔心香港在中國的特殊地位會受到威脅。事實證明,這些擔憂是有根據的:2015年,五位因出售政治書籍而為人知的香港書商被綁架到大陸;2017年,億萬富翁肖建華從一家豪華酒店的房間裡失蹤,此後再也沒有出現在公共場合;親北京勢力接管了立法機關;北京駐香港辦事處在當地事務上表現出更堅決的態度。

除了大陸的逐漸侵佔,香港人還不得不應對不斷上漲的房價、公共醫療服務的漫長等待以及創紀錄的貧困人口數量。甚至一度是城市驕傲的地鐵系統也被施工問題所困擾。

五年來,改變似乎遙遙無期。人們覺得深陷困境。這座城市處於一種萎靡不振的狀態。

6月9日,估計有100萬香港人走上街頭,抗議引渡法案。林鄭月娥是由北京親自挑選的,她發誓要推進該法案後,第二次抗議活動於6月12日舉行,該法案原定於當天進行最後辯論,並由議員投票表決。此後,相關辯論被推遲。

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但在週六,林鄭月娥似乎做出了讓步:該法案被無限期擱置。但抗議者知道,他們需要聽到的是,該法案將被徹底撤銷,無論付出什麼代價。

過去的五年是艱難的五年,但是他們以及這項法案促成了一場更加堅定的運動。2014年,雨傘運動的和平靜坐得到了某些團體的支持,但沒有得到全面的支持。他們想擴大香港的自由,但許多人覺得一切都還好,那為什麼要找麻煩呢?

這一次,抗議者迅速組織起來,通過加密信息應用程序進行溝通,並且戴著口罩。他們看上去甚至比當時的「佔領華爾街」一代還要年輕。對該法案的反對並不局限於由學生和民主倡導者組成的鬆散聯盟。它幾乎涵蓋了社會的每一個領域,包括溫和的教授、作家、前政府高官、宗教和商業領袖。上週日,抗議者頂著32度的盛夏烈日走上街頭,餐館和小商店的老闆為他們提供水和冰。學生、家庭主婦和各行各業的職場人士簽署請願書,要求撤銷該法案。

但政府也吸取了教訓。這一次,它不允許示威者佔用公共空間,警察在武力使用上準備更充分。他們已將催淚瓦斯的使用正常化,週三,警方在一天內發射了150發催淚瓦斯,幾乎是「佔中」期間催淚瓦斯使用總量的兩倍。警察用警棍毆打手無寸鐵的抗議者,並在沒有警告的情況下向個人或人群發射橡皮子彈。他們瞄準了人體部位。香港從來沒有見過如此殘暴、如此明目張膽的警察——當局顯然毫不忌憚現場錄像和全球轉播。

直到週六,林鄭月娥都不肯讓步。她似乎下定決心要在由建制派控制的立法機構於7月休會之前通過該法案。在這座城市的歷史上,從來沒有一項如此重大的法案在這麼短的時間內未經公眾討論或審議就獲得通過。林鄭月娥於週六表示,她感到遺憾的是,未能讓公眾相信這項法案是必要的,她還會聽取更多意見。

因此,香港沒有死——目前還沒有。但它仍面臨嚴重威脅。

「一國兩制」安排和香港的小憲法《基本法》都存在不確定性。它們必然是未完成的作品,需要香港和北京的當權者發揮創意和善意。

香港人一直生活在這種不確定性中,努力捍衛自己的自由,並且迴避與北京的直接對抗。但是他們,尤其是年輕人,已經準備好維護自己的權利。

或許,這一次,香港人民將笑到最後。

 

016

Why Hong Kong Will Still March on Sunday

Yes, the extradition bill has been suspended.

No, that will not be enough.

By Yuen Ying Chan  (Ms. Chan is a professor at Hong Kong University.)

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“I believe that we cannot withdraw this bill, or else society will say that this bill was groundless,” Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said at a news conference on Saturday.

In many ways Saturday’s announcement might be viewed as a small victory for Mrs Lam’s opposition. A draft bill that would allow citizens and foreign residents and even visitors to be extradited to mainland China has been suspended, indefinitely. But Mrs. Lam stopped short of withdrawing the bill. If she hoped that a delay would allow people to cool off and move on, that is wishful thinking.

Protesters said they will not accept anything less than withdrawal of the bill. On Sunday, hundreds of thousands — and by some estimates, 2 million — were back in the streets; authorities were so stunned that Mrs. Lam issued an unexpected apology for her handling of this episode. For Hong Kong, this battle, more than the protests that have come before, feels like a last stand.

For 79 days in 2014, thousands of protesters set up camp in Hong Kong’s main thoroughfares. The mood of Occupy Central was often sober, but sometimes idyllic, as the mostly young activists took up space, protested, and shared their hopes for free elections. Then came the police and the arrests.

Much has happened since. After the camps were removed, with none of the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement’s goals met, the movement split into factions and several of its leaders were sent to jail.

Many people were apprehensive that Hong Kong’s special status within China would be in jeopardy. Those fears have proved well-founded: In 2015 five Hong Kong booksellers known for selling political titles were abducted to the mainland; in 2017 a billionaire, Xiao Jianhua, disappeared from his room in a luxury hotel and has not been seen in public since; pro-Beijing forces have taken over the legislature; and Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong has become much more assertive in local affairs.

 

As well as the mainland’s gradual encroachment, Hong Kongers have had to cope with rising housing costs, long waits for public medical services and record numbers living in poverty. Even the subway system, once the pride of the city, has been plagued by construction problems.

For five years change has seemed very far away. People felt stuck. The city was in the grip of a malaise.

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Then came June 9, and an estimated one million Hong Kongers were in the streets — this time to protest the extradition bill. When Mrs. Lam, who was handpicked by Beijing, vowed that the bill would go ahead, a second protest was held on June 12, the day the bill was up for final debate and voting by lawmakers. The debate was postponed for the rest of the week.

But on Saturday, Mrs. Lam seemed to back down: The bill is suspended indefinitely. But protesters know that they need to hear that it will be withdrawn completely, whatever it takes.

The last five years have been hard, but they, and this bill, have served to create a more determined movement. In 2014, the peaceful sit-ins of the Umbrella Movement had support from certain groups but not across the board. They wanted to expand Hong Kong’s freedoms but many people felt that things were O.K., so why rock the boat?

This time around protesters organized quickly, communicated on encrypted messaging applications and wore face masks. They seemed even younger than the Occupy generation. And the opposition to the bill has not been limited to a loose coalition of students and democracy advocates. It encompasses almost every sector of society, including moderate professors, writers, former senior government officials, religious and business leaders. When protesters took to the streets last Sunday under 90-degree summer sun, restaurants and small shop owners offered them water and ice. Students, housewives and professionals of many walks of life signed petitions demanding the bill’s withdrawal.

But the government has also learned. This time it has not allowed public spaces to be occupied, and police are more readily resorting to force. They have normalized the use of tear gas, and on Wednesday police fired 150 rounds of tear gas in one day, almost double that of the entire duration of Occupy Central. The police hit unarmed protesters with batons and fired rubber bullets at individuals or crowds without warning. They aimed at body parts. Hong Kong had never seen such a level of police brutality, and so brazenly, too — the authorities apparently unfazed by being recorded on live video and broadcast around the world.

Until Saturday, Mrs. Lam refused to budge. She seemed determined to ram the bill through the establishment-controlled legislature before its recess in July. Never in the history of the city had a bill of such magnitude been enacted in such a short time without public discussion or review. On Saturday, Mrs. Lam said that she felt sorry that she had failed to convince the public that the bill was needed, and that she’d listen to more views.

So Hong Kong is not dead — not yet. But it is still under serious threat.

The “one country, two systems” arrangement and the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, are marked by uncertainty. They are, of necessity, works-in-progress that require creativity and good faith on the part of the governing powers in Hong Kong and Beijing.

Hong Kong’s people have lived with that uncertainty, struggling to defend their freedoms but sidestepping direct confrontation with Beijing. But they, especially the young, are ready to stand up for their rights.

Maybe, this time, the people of Hong Kong will have the last laugh.

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