Why We Protest

Why We Protest

Hong Kong — Hong Kong has seen its biggest street demonstrations in a decade in a potential prelude to an Occupy protest in the former British colony's city centre. Huck asks the protesters why they are taking to the streets.

Tens of thousands protested on July 1 as Hong Kong faces its biggest political challenge since the UK handed the city back China in 1997.

At the time of the handover, Beijing agreed Hongkongers would be allowed to choose their leader based on universal suffrage. (Currently only 1,200 in the city of 7.2 million have the right to vote. The incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was elected in 2012 with only 689 votes. The protesters held “689” placards to emphasise this fact.)

Many in Hong Kong have doubts about how free and fair the election will be. Beijing wants all candidates to be approved by a government-appointed nominating committee, but democracy movement Occupy Central with Love and Peace, or OCLP, has threatened a non-violent sit-in protest in the central business district unless the Chinese government agrees to the free nomination of candidates.

Nearly 800,000 people participated in an unofficial referendum last month to gauge support for free and fair elections. Tuesday’s handover anniversary protest was the next volley in what is likely to be a long summer of democracy demos in Hong Kong.

Huck headed out into the humid streets of Central HK to ask the protesters to share their message.

Cherry, 22, recent grad


Cherry, 22

There are many things happening in Hong Kong. The leader of the government is not doing very well and the system for choosing the leader is not fair. We need freedom and fairness for the Hong Kong people so we can choose the leader of a new government. I think this day cannot change much, but it is important to come out to let the leaders know that we need change; we need freedom.

I think we have the power when we have so many people together. We can change things slowly. Some people say that the referendum is a lie to the people and making them think they have a chance for democracy. But it is important to let the leaders know that many people want a fair system of voting.

James, 31, animal welfare worker


James, 31

I came out today to show my grievances and discontent towards the government. Our Chief Executive does not keep his election pledges, he only pays lip service to them. People have come out to vent their frustration because they can. Today will make a difference – there are protests every year but this year is the biggest due to Occupy Central. It is a ‘red letter day’ for them. If you don’t come out, there is no future for Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government often colludes with the Chinese government and is only interested in the interests of rich people, and they neglect the poor and underprivileged people.

Rachel, 50, translator

Rachel, 50

Rachel, 50

I am protesting for the sake of my conscience. Maybe we are not going to change anything politically today, but with my conscience I have to face up to myself and protest. I want an independent Hong Kong for my children. Hopefully we can appeal to the conscience of the Chinese government today. My message to the Chinese government is that if you want to be a strong nation, you have to be open be confident, and believe in your people.

Marcus, 21, student


Marcus, 21

We have the right to protest in a situation where we believe the government is corrupt or in some cases unethical. Today will not make a difference in the short-term, but in the long-term it will demonstrate that we are a democratic society and that we can exercise our right to protest rather than just hiding at home and waiting for the worst. I don’t think it’s going to get better and I think everyone else here believes that too. Nothing will change if we just stay at home and do nothing. My message to the Chinese government is simple: Stop messing with us.