For those who don’t know, the Hong Kong protests started nine weeks ago when a controversial amendment to the Basic Law (HK’s mini-constitution) was put forth that would allow for China to extradite suspects wanted for criminal prosecutions in China. Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed back to China in 1997.
Many viewed this bill as an over-reach by China considering that one of the binding elements of the Basic Law was that the laws in Hong Kong would not change for 50 years. China has steadily increased its presence in the city since the handover but never anything as overt as this bill. Gen-Xers and gen-Yers took to the streets.
The relationship with China in HK is complicated with an abject distrust of the mainland being prevalent among large sections of society. In spite of this, Hong Kong is a peaceful and pragmatic city with a low crime rate compared to other cities with large populations. Which would explain why, despite the distrust, China still remains the number one tourist destination for HK tourists. This distrust is further compounded by the reality that Chinese firms have extensive partnerships with HK businesses and that, from a business perspective — China is mostly communist in name only. For the past 22 years though, the thought among HK locals isthat they are definitely “Hong-Kongers” and not Chinese and most certainly, not communist.
When the protests started there was a noble feel to motivations. As the weeks have drawn on, violent clashes with Police have erupted with many a bystander caught in the cross-fire. A divide between gen-Xers and gen-Yers is showing signs of emerging. Gen-Xers, having lived under British colonization and cognizant that independence from China is logistically impossible, are willing to open dialogue to find solutions. Gen-Yers are a different story.
Watching the HK protests take a violent turn over the last few weeks, I’ve had a recurring thought. Today, I started seeing examples that possibly confirm it. Namely, that aside from noble beginnings, an element of human nature is now also fueling the protests.
Today, on my morning bus ride out to work, I saw a young couple sat in front of me looking as if they had spent the night at a rave. In front of them were two other youths, equally dressed and looking equally knackered.The girl slept with her head on the guy’s shoulder while he watched over her protectively.
From their age, attire and mostly because that was me circa 1997 actually coming home from a rave, I guessed that they had spent the night trying to avoid the police at one of the protest events around HK.
The guy might have stood his ground against North Point triads the night before but right now, nothing was going to harm the sleeping girl on his shoulder, not on his watch. Taken without the context of our current environment, it was a beautiful scene.
This bus ride observation is juxtaposed to a conversation I had with my wife where we both noticed that during the weekends, there seemed to be a noticeable increase in numbers and intensity to the protests. As if some of the youngsters see the protests as like a concert, music festival or any event where the currency of admission is emotion and adrenaline.
Human nature tells us that when you mix young adults; a noble cause; the specter of violent reprisal and adrenaline; an intoxicating effect then subverts normal reason and baser instincts take over. Passions then rise and connections are formed that feel stronger yet remain ever-tenuous with the possibility of police capture and arrest looming in the air. Under normal circumstances, this is the plot for a WWII film or falling in love.
We know that in those circumstances, stronger males tend to take on more protective traits and form mini-tribes, which data suggests women find attractive. Weaker males then notice and attempt to mimic the protective traits but without a history of behaving that way, the weaker males often end up trying to out do each other for the attention of females. Leading to the examples of wanton violence towards innocent members of the public we’ve seen lately.
The stronger males then have to contend with protecting their ad-hoc tribes while also keeping weaker males from punching random strangers. The tone of the protests will turn completely violent when the weaker males outnumber the stronger ones.
On the bus, I wanted to think the guy in front of me was of the stronger variety. I don’t even know if my theory is right but if nine months from now, we start seeing an increase in births or marriages, then the protests were definitely love in a dangerous place for some of them.
[Sergio Monteiro lives in Asia with his wife and is the author of two books. His first book, Other American Dreams, dealt with the migrant crisis of North Africa and Europe and was compared to the writing of Portuguese novelist, Jose Saramango. His latest work, Enoch’sMuse, follows the life of Enoch, a biblical figure, and is available on Amazon and select bookstores. Enoch’sMuse was selected as a finalist in the 2017 Proverse Prize for Unpublished Fiction, Non-Fiction or Poetry and has been compared to Mary Renault’s, The King Must Die.]
- Silvio Borges Graciano — Administrator, Macau Literary Festival.