Hong Kong and that boat-ramming
Awesome indeed are the scenes fresh from the streets of Hong Kong. Humongous crowds (estimated at one time at 2 million out of a total population of 7 million) have been gathering to protest a now temporarily shelved bill which would allow the extradition of an accused criminal in Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland.
Hard to believe, but the now potentially explosive issue has its roots in a lovers’ quarrel that resulted in the murder of a pregnant young woman by her boyfriend. They happened to be in Taiwan on vacation when the killing took place, but the boyfriend was already in Hong Kong when his guilt was confirmed. Hong Kong doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Taiwan, which China considers a mere “province.”
Seeking to ride on public sympathy for the murdered woman and her family, Hong Kong authorities led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam rushed the passage of the proposed extradition measure, which Lam was forced some days later to “shelve” given the massive protests.
Their gambit failed. The people of Hong Kong, known for being savvy shopkeepers and sharp business folk but led by a mainly millennial force, streamed out of their homes and workplaces to gather on the streets in protest. They rightly saw the proposed legislation as yet another move by the mainland authorities to assert even more control over the supposedly autonomous territory.
As reports go, Filipinos following the Hong Kong protests have been struck by a sense of déjà vu, remembering how Edsa and other thoroughfares in the city and elsewhere in the country filled with folk in the historic show of “people power” in 1986.
But the nostalgia brings with it a tinge of melancholy. There is, along with the sense of pride and vindication, a cloud of hopelessness given the current government’s submissiveness to China today. Sen. Ping Lacson tweeted: “Hong Kong millennials: from inspiration to motivation. They showed the world how spontaneous, unorganized but determined dissent can achieve victory over a powerful regime.”
Indeed, the Hong Kong protesters know what they are up against. Already, the street protests have seen their first fatality, although the student died after falling off a building as he was putting up a streamer. Hong Kong police have also admitted trying to arrest injured protesters who had been rushed to hospitals when their gathering was violently dispersed.
May the “woke” people of Hong Kong keep safe despite the escalating response of their authorities. China may be frustrated this time in its cynical exploitation of an intimate tragedy to push an authoritarian agenda. But even more attempts at even more control will be made in the future. In the spirit of democratic solidarity, I wish the democratic forces success!
Much has already been written about the “ramming” (“allision” is the DDS’ preferred term) by a Chinese vessel of a Filipino fishing boat and the subsequent abandonment of its 22 occupants in the high seas—at midnight.
Adding to the gravity of the situation is that the ramming took place in Philippine waters which China is claiming as part of its extended territory. Whether the collision was frontal, deliberate or by accident is of no import. In the first place, the Chinese vessel should not have been there at all. That the Chinese then fled the scene, leaving the Filipino fisherfolk to the tender mercies of the sea and rescue by a Vietnamese vessel—five hours later—make the “incident” all the more heinous.
The ramming, as even Navy personnel term it, has been described as an “ordinary” event by both the Chinese and Philippine governments. From the point of view of the Chinese, it may indeed be “ordinary” in the sense of taking place frequently. Numerous Vietnamese vessels, an analyst asserts, have reported similar previous encounters with Chinese vessels. Since Vietnam and the Philippines are contesting control of the South China Sea by China, the collisions are no doubt a form of intimidation, a warning of further escalation in the struggle for control of our contested waters.
President Duterte’s mealymouthed excuse for inaction over the confrontation, if not collusion with China, makes us a laughingstock in the region. And it furthers Chinese officialdom’s contempt for our assertion of independence.
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