1. THREAD: Dear world, I want to say a few words about what happened in #HongKong yesterday.
2. An estimated 550,000 Hong Kongers made yesterday’s annual July 1 protest the highest ever in turnout. It marked 22nd anniversary of the 1997 Hong Kong handover to China, now only 28 years before ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is set to expire due to the ‘50-year no change’ policy.
3. Simultaneously as the peaceful demonstrations were taking place, other young protesters attempted to enter the Legislative Council complex. To understand WHY it happened, we must examine what happened over the past month.
4. Hong Kongers’ strong resistance against proposed extradition arrangements with China was heard loud and clear around the world. Solidarity rallies took place in over 30 cities, and the international community spoke up.
5. We tried EVERYTHING available to us. On June 9, one million Hong Kongers took to the streets peacefully. But before the night had even ended, Chief Executive Carrie Lam released a statement saying she would press ahead with the bill in three days.
6. That’s why, in the morning of June 12, when the Legislative Council debate was set to take place, Hong Kongers were bracing for our last fight. We knew there would be no turning back. Beijing had enough votes because only 40 out of 70 seats are directly elected by the people.
7. And then there was miracle. Protesters managed to blockade the complex completely. Well-documented evidence published by the international media show excessive force used by the police. Many injuries ensued, but in any case lawmakers could not convene.
8. It was only after this escalation that Lam made a small compromise to pause the bill’s reading. Even she acknowledged events on June 12, NOT June 9, that changed her mind. Months of Hong Kongers and the world expressing concern did not matter to her at all until she saw blood.
9. But Lam called protesters ‘rioters’. She would not agree to an independent investigation on police brutality. She stopped short of withdrawing the bill, let alone stepping down. Combined with the first death of a protester, TWO MILLION people marched on June 16.
10. Hong Kong has 7.5 million people, so an equivalent of ONE IN FOUR out of the entire population protested in a single occasion. I am not aware of anything comparable to this level of discontent against a government in modern history.
11. Lam finally apologized two days later, but for what? For failing to “properly communicate” to Hong Kongers what the extradition bill was all about. Even up until that point, then, the subtext was that she was still right and we were too stupid.
12. Commentators around the world thought the movement was over by then, because the bill had supposedly been ‘suspended’ and Lam had said sorry. But actually none of our demands were met. Lam refused dialogue with opposition lawmakers and continued to praise the police.
13. Since my release on June 17 from prison, I took part in a number of smaller-scale rallies, sit-ins and occasional skirmishes. We wanted to let Beijing and the world know the fight was far from over. The G-20 summit in Osaka was then fast approaching.
14. Hong Kongers’ determination was on full display again when, within 11 hours, we crowdfunded over HK$6.7 million for newspaper ads ahead of the G-20 summit calling for the world not to neglect us.
15. We were grateful for world leaders, including Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and President Donald Trump, for raising the issue of Hong Kong human rights in their respective meetings with Xi Jinping. Yet by June 29, our demands were still ignored. It appeared we were really losing.
16. Devastating news followed. Two additional young fellow protesters jumped to their deaths over this past weekend. The Hong Kong government was pushing us to the point of despair and desperation. We tried every possible way imaginable to make our voices heard.
17. In a democracy, this extradition bill would long ago have been terminated. Polls consistently show some 70% of Hong Kongers in favor of a full withdrawal. The political career of any other leader would also have been over with this level of resistance over such a long period.
18. Alas, Hong Kong is not a democracy. Lam, a puppet of BeijingC is also unlike any leader. The source of her power comes not from Hong Kongers but from the Chinese Communist Party. This brings me back to events yesterday.
19. The protesters who broke into the Legislative Council complex were NOT rioters. They were NOT violent. Their objective was never to harm any individuals. They wanted to make the regime hear Hong Kongers’ voice, and they had no other option. WE ALREADY TRIED EVERYTHING ELSE.
20. Perhaps not all of you will agree with every single action they took yesterday. But what are a few pieces of glass worth in comparison to the deaths of three young men and women? What are a few portraits worth in comparison to the very survival of Hong Kong as a place?
21. The moment they stepped into the building, they knew what awaited them. They would face almost certain prosecution and probable imprisonment over rioting charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. They have a whole life ahead of them.
22. Some well-intentioned opposition lawmakers tried to persuade protesters out of it. But they replied that since others had already perished, whatever physical and legal consequences they would face immediately paled in comparison. Watching this exchange put tears in my eyes.
23. Even after the break-in, protesters behaved with unimaginable discipline. They left cash at the counter before taking drinks from the cafeteria. They sealed the library off to preserve historical documents stored inside. Not a second did they lose their cool.
24. What kind of young people does Hong Kong produce? Smart, efficient, attentive and freedom-loving. I am proud of them, although I confess I do not have the courage to do what they did yesterday. I have been jailed three times, so I know full well what now lies ahead of them.
25. Sometimes in life we are forced to make split-second decisions that will forever alter us as individuals, and perhaps even alter the course of history. It is of course too soon to tell, but I can only hope that years later when we look back to 2019, we will have no regrets.
26. Hong Kongers remain as united as we ever are. I am proud of what our friends did last night. For the first time I was also tear gassed, right outside the complex when cops tried to clear our defense line. Moving forward, we will continue find our own place and fight on.
27. The ongoing protests have already defied the expectations of not just every commentators# and scholar but also myself as an activist. I would be foolish to try to predict what is next.
28. If there is just one takeaway for the world: Events in Hong Kong are about so much more than the bill, more than Lam, more even than democracy. They all matter of course. But in the end it is about the future of Hong Kong beyond 2047, a future that belongs to our generation.
29. Please continue to keep an eye on us, and keep supporting us. On behalf of Hong Kongers I thank everyone for taking the time to learn about this unique place we call home. THREAD ENDS.
You can follow @joshuawongcf.
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