The scenes of the ongoing Hong Kong protests are reminiscent of the 1989 Tiananmen Sqaure protests. 25 years later, will history repeat itself?

The scenes of the ongoing Hong Kong protests are reminiscent of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protestations. These protests against the proposed electoral reforms suggested by the Standing Committee of the National Peoples’s Congress are largely spearheaded by the  Hong Kong Federation of Students and the Student Pressure Group ‘Scholarism‘.

Unlike The Tiananmen Square Protests, which took place in an authoritarian Communist China, protests in Hong Kong is taking place in a semi democratic polity, it being a special autonomous region of People’s Republic of China.

hong kong prtests Tiananmen Sqaure 1 Are The Hong Kong Protests Inching Towards The Tiananmen Square Massacre

The Background

Hong Kong was the the first Special autonomous Region of China. It was granted the status after United Kingdom, (which ruled Hong Kong for more than 100 years since 1842), transferred the sovereignty of Hong Kong to China on 1st july 1997.

Hong Kong had been enjoying democracy under the British Rule. At the time of its transfer to China, it was promised both, internal autonomy  as well as democratic privileges by China.

Deng Xiaoping , the legendary Chinese Leader , was instrumental in forwarding and implementing the idea of “one Nation Two System” , which enabled the successful integration of democratic and capitalist Hong Kong and later Macao into China. 

one country two system Are The Hong Kong Protests Inching Towards The Tiananmen Square Massacre

But the recent electoral reforms proposed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s congress has undermined the “one nation two systems” policy of China and it has in turn threatens the internal autonomy and democratic traditions of Hong Kong.

The Reason Behind The Protests

The key features of the autonomy and democratic rights that were assured by the Chinese State to the people of Hong Kong at the time of its transfer are both, modified and eroded to the advantage of the power wielders in Beijing. The electoral reforms proposed on 31st august 2014 now wishes to make it compulsory for the candidates standing for chief executive position (the highest elected leader of Hong Kong), to be nominated and first approved by Beijing.

It threatens the principles of universal suffrage, a basic feature of any strong democracy. The idea that all the candidates will be screened and approved by Beijing undermines the regional autonomy of Hong Kong. Moreover it makes it difficult if not impossible for the persons deemed “unsuitable” by Beijing to even contest the election.

It will leave the people of Hong Kong without any choice other than to vote for pro-Beijing candidates. The “reforms” suggested will degenerate Hong Kong’s democracy to the levels of Iran’s or North Korea’s “democracy”.

hong kong protests symbol Are The Hong Kong Protests Inching Towards The Tiananmen Square Massacre

It is against these so called “reforms” that the people of Hong Kong , particularly students and democrats have flooded the forecourt of Central Government Assembly in protest. The students and the protesters demands full universal suffrage, the resignation of the current chief executive C.Y Leung and the Withdrawal of the decision by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. The movement has already grabbed the attention of the world media and has unsettled the Leadership in Beijing.

The Three Possibilities

As things stands now there are three possibilities that may end the deadlock between the student protesters and Beijing.

The best possible way to solve the issue is a negotiated agreement where democracy is protected from further deterioration and universal suffrage remains assured, but C.Y Leung may stay till the next election.

The other possibility is that – The protests will spread to other regions , where people have long been complaining about the one party authoritarian rule of Communist party of China. It may threaten the stability of the region and may result in violent repression and chaos.

The third and the most horrific possibility is that Beijing will try to subdue or counter plot the protests with its own staged protests by gangs of pro-Beijing workers and supporters. And if that doesn’t help, then probably launching brutal reprisals on the protesters.

The world has changed much since the days of Tiananmen Square and it looks very unlikely if not impossible for the Chinese government to launch a vicious retaliation. But it can be a case of too much wishful thinking and history might afterall tragically repeat itself.  The Protests has revived the ghosts of Tiananmen Square  and subtly challenges the authoritarian rule of the Communist party of China.

The stakes are high and if the deadlock between the protesters and the Chinese government doesn’t end then it may signal a resurgent democratic surge in China and threaten the supreme power that the Communist Party of China wields or it may provoke an insecure and overly suspicious communist leadership to unleash a violent repression of the student movement.

Twenty five years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, will history repeat itself? Only time will tell. 

 By: Avinandan Choudhury

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