By KEITH LESLIE
Anti-government protests continue to spread in Hong Kong, despite violent attacks on demonstrators by police and right-wing thugs. A number of protests are planned on the weekend of July 26-28, including at the airport (with the support of some airline unions) and in rural areas. An earlier article follows, which will be updated and expanded in the next few days.
Dramatic protests are ongoing against an effort by the Hong Kong government, backed by the Chinese state, to allow extradition of people in Hong Kong to mainland China, widely seen as a crackdown on democratic rights. Demonstrations began in March and have since grown, with more than a million people going to the streets on June 9 and 12. They have been met with police repression, tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray.
The government suspended the bill on June 15, but has not fully withdrawn it. Protests have continued since, with demands including a full withdrawal, the resignation of HK chief executive Carrie Lam, and an end to police brutality. On July 1, amid mass marches, a section of the movement stormed the legislative assembly, temporarily occupying it.
The protests have brought together a wide mix of social and class forces. The protests have drawn many workers and students, but also support from many capitalists, who typically are key supporters of the CCP-aligned government. Work stoppages on June 12 exemplified this, with a strike call supported by some trade unions but with capitalists also participating by closing their businesses. Liberals, right-wing particularists, and socialists have all sought to intervene. Widespread opposition to the involvement of organized groups and a fetishization of spontaneity have further muddled the waters.
While the June 9 and 12 protests were initially called by the Civil Human Rights Front, a group comprised of NGOs, trade unions, and liberal political parties, neither the CHRF nor any other group has had control over the movement. The 2014 Umbrella Movement, in which liberal political parties were very hesitant to participate, soured many activists towards organization generally. The weaknesses of this attitude have been shown in light of debate over the July 1 actions. A movement dedicated to being “spontaneous” is particularly vulnerable to provocateurs, informal cliques, and splintered control.
Hong Kong’s protests have inspired many with their mass character and resolute spirit, bringing out millions and winning at least a temporary reprieve. To win deeper and long-lasting victories, however, working-class forces in Hong Kong will need to organize and build connections between their struggles and democratic demands as well as with struggles throughout China. They must show that democratic rights are not a bourgeois luxury amidst poverty and inequality in Hong Kong and China but a vital tool for advancing workers’ interests.