David MacCumber

Mr. Greer

November 13, 2014

Modern Asia

                                      Hong Kong Protests: A Student Revolution

The CCP seeks individual power, continuing to limit pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The protesters, primarily students of the new generation, desire an alteration to the corrupt education system—in order to have an equal chance in future economic success—and a more sovereign country constructed under the premise of universal suffrage. With time, and as long as the people remain in protest, Hong Kong should expect new management.

China’s education system carries a central role in the lives of almost 9.5 million students across China (“China Education”), so it’s paramount that the CCP maintain a fair, uncorrupt structure. However, an aspect of the system that aggravates many students across Hong Kong is how their future is contingent on a single college entrance exam: the Gaokao. Most colleges use an applicant’s total score on this test as the sole criterion in admission (China Since 1644 346). This presents a significant issue since many students simply cannot attend college because their scores are too low. Another reason Hong Kong students seek change in their education is that there are many biases present with the test; an applicant can add up to twenty extra points to their total score if they have proven talent in the arts or sports and if they are son or daughter of a non-Han minority family (China Since 1644 347). Recently, there have been changes to the Gaokao with now twenty versions of the test and some provinces are experimenting with administering more than one test for a subject, and allowing students to submit their best results (China Since 1644 347). Although these alterations relieve students of some pressure of having to study all subjects with the same intensity, there is still inequity between rural and urban students, where on farms, there is less time to study because of responsibilities of agricultural. Thus, one can predict there will be even more changes to the Gaokao, possibly replacing it all together with a system that considers the different lifestyles in cities and of rural life.

The debate over Hong Kong’s political future has become an obsession for the younger generation already nervous about growing up in a city with a polarized economy. In a recent study conducted by the annual Demographia housing affordability index, they ranked Hong Kong as having “the world’s least affordable housing market, with median home prices 15 times that of the median annual salary” (Chang). The economy is dominated, similarly to an oligarchy, “by a few tycoons closely affiliated with the aristocratic families of the mainland regime” (Barber). This a primary reason for the protests; Hong Kongers strive to replace these political figures with whom they desire and instead of choosing from a list of candidates screened by Beijing, in other words, they desire universal suffrage. To carry out this goal, Hong Kong needs to depart from the socialist views of Beijing. Hong Kong citizens are feeling increasingly uncomfortable with Beijing’s growing influence on the city for it stunts democratic development and the influx of wealthy mainland Chinese increase the wealth divide, driving up property prices (“Hong Kong fears…”). In the near future, one can foresee Hong Kong breaking away from Mainland China—even more than it already has—and commencing an augmented form of government with democratic values. With the ability to freely elect candidates, Hong Kong could finally vote for a leader who is “in touch with the majority of the people” (Barber), and one who carries more faith in his or her people in solving social economic injustices.

There are numerous differences between the protests on Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the current, Hong Kong demonstrations that make alterations much more plausible in the latter. For the majority of China, Tiananmen Square still casts a large shadow on individuals, especially for the older generation who carry a personal account with it. They are frightened by the past events and thus do not participate in the current protests. Some feel more optimistic that the Hong Kong protests will not play out as similar, though (Law). Not because China's Communist Party leaders are any more willing to embrace democracy, but because there is a broad base of support in Hong Kong for the protesters' aspirations (Law). For the first time since 1842, when Hong Kong was Founded, there is a mass movement entirely of students (Chang). Young people are more united than in 1989 and for example, the movement’s iconic yellow ribbon is present on many school uniform lapels and in Facebook profile (Chang). Social media is far more elaborate nowadays which makes CCP retaliation against the protesters much less plausible. It has never been easier to share news with the rest of the world, especially with a generation so technically savvy. Photos of police confronting young pro-democracy protesters are sensitive in China, because it's a reminder of Tiananmen Square (Park, Madison, Dayu). If the CCP intervenes with the same intensity as in 1989 with the Hong Kong protests they could risk looking sinful in front of the world.

Hong Kong is on the road to a new government. With such a resilient and united population, the Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying has no choice but to submit to the people’s democratic desires. One could also safely predict that other cities in China would follow, beginning with Shanghai, for example, and ultimately, Beijing, the heart of CCP rule.

Works Cited

Barber, Elizabeth. "Hong Kong's Beleagured Bourgeoisie." Time. Time, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

Chang, Jack. "Hong Kong Protests Promise Political Game Change." Fox News. FOX News Network, 01 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

"China Education." Overview of Education in China - China Education Center. China Education Center Ltd., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.

Law, Violet. "For Some Hong Kong Protesters, Tiananmen Still Casts a Shadow." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

Park, Madison, Dayu Zhang Contributed from Beijing, and China. "China's Internet Firewall Censors Hong Kong Protest News." CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.

Press, The Associated. "Hong Kong Fears Pro-China Brainwashing in Education." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 07 Sept. 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

Comment Stream

2 years ago
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First Photo: Students hold a sit-in protest outside government headquarters in Hong Kong against the government's plan to introduce a new subject Moral and National Education into a new curriculum. (Relates to ideas in 1st Paragraph where students are unhappy with their current education system)

Second Photo: Thousands of people block a main road in Hong Kong as activists hold a civil disobedience protest to challenge Beijing over voting reforms. (Relates to ideas in 2nd Paragraph highlighting how people want to disassociate themselves with Mainland China, condemning Beijing values)

Third Photo: Hong Kong commemorates the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. (Relates to ideas in 3rd Paragraph where the events of 1989 are still present in people's minds)