HONG KONG—As political upheaval here rolls through the summer, the proposed legislation that set months of demonstrations into motion has faded considerably from the prominence and parlance of protesters.
Instead, disquiet over the now shelved bill, which would have allowed for case-by-case extraditions to mainland China, has morphed into something deeper, unearthing grievances and demands far beyond any single piece of legislation, and opening up a wide-ranging conversation over the fundamental question of what it means to be from Hong Kong. Protesters have laid out five demands for the government to bring their demonstrations to an end, but imbued in their fight is a sense that Hong Kong’s very existence and the identity of its people is being deliberately quashed by authorities who want to tie them closer to China.
For more than two months, huge numbers of Hong Kongers have taken to the streets in mostly peaceful rallies demanding that their freedoms be protected. Today, undeterred by a downpour and only limited permission from police, some 1.7 million people again flooded the city’s streets, according to the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized the demonstration.
And as those protests have continued, participants have taken particular aim at symbols of the mainland: When a group stormed Hong Kong’s legislative assembly last month, black spray paint was used to cross out references to the People’s Republic of China; a group of protesters was arrested this week for tossing a prominently displayed Chinese flag into the city’s main harbor. These efforts have also veered into acts of mob violence tinged with paranoia. Demonstrators at Hong Kong’s airport last week held captive two men—one, a suspected police officer from mainland China, was held for hours and mocked as he faded in and out of consciousness; the other (later revealed to be a reporter for the Chinese state-backed newspaper, Global Times) was zip-tied to a baggage cart.