Protesters are angry that the Chinese government is reneging on a de facto agreement guaranteeing democratic voting for Hong Kong for 50 years since the UK handed over its sovereignty to China in 1997. Last month, Beijing officials announced that Hong Kongers would be voting on new candidates that would be hand selected by the Chinese government.Residents’ anger at the announcement has led to masses of people flooding the streets of downtown Hong Kong.
Many are drawing a comparison between the current protests in Hong Kong and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. But with the advent of social media and the internet, protesters are able to organize and broadcast better than ever before, leaving them in a much stronger position to unite than before. Like the Arab Spring protests in the Middle East in 2011, social media has played a crucial role in alerting the world of the civil unrest in Hong Kong. Pictures, videos, and live streaming of the event are allowing people from all over the world to stay involved and informed about what is really happening.
Beijing officials are in a position where a harsh response to the protests could further disrupt investor confidence in Hong Kong, but relenting to the protests could potentially embolden other cities in the mainland to protest as well. Taiwan, a China owned province, is keeping a close eye on developments. Like Hong Kong, Taiwan operates an independent democracy free of Chinese government interference. With a lot of Taiwanese already opposed to Chinese rule, disruption in Taiwan could prove to be a larger headache for the Chinese government than the Hong Kong protesters. The Taiwanese are concerned that today’s Hong Kong could become tomorrow’s Taiwan, and that their own democracy could be what the Chinese government challenges next.