Outside the Bubble 10/9/14

Protests Erupt in Hong Kong of Democracy

In recent weeks, wearing yellow on college campuses has become a sign of support for Hong Kong’s protesting for democracy from mainland China. As protests erupt in Hong Kong over the government system in place, individuals across the world have expressed their solidarity with activists in Hong Kong.

While together they are considered a single country, they are under two very different government systems. Mainland China maintains a heavy reliance on the communist party whereas Hong Kong takes from the western influence of democracy. This has been the relationship between the two regions after Britain released control of Hong Kong in 1997. However, tensions have arisen between the freer Hong Kong citizens and mainland China because of the coming 2017 election for the next chief executive of Hong Kong. In previous elections, citizens living in Hong Kong had the freedom to elect any official, not necessarily a member of the Communist Party, to run in the election. However, on Aug. 21, China announced that the mainland Chinese government would choose elected officials that they approved of to run.

Although citizens in Hong Kong retained their right to vote, they were displeased with any of the officials who were tied to strong communist feelings. Thus, on Oct. 1, the Umbrella Revolution started. Through forms of strikes, sit-ins and protests, practitioners of civil disobedience hope to reverse the government’s decision.

Despite commitment to the cause, the outcome of the protests remains bleak in the minds of political observers. Many protesters are students who have skipped classes in order to sit in and protest for many days. This disrupts the Hong Kong social structure as many businesses such as bookstores, local eateries and clothing shops are losing their cash flow. Demonstrators also end up driving away customers, which makes a part of Hong Kong’s citizens want to end the revolution and part taken in China’s communist government.

While at first this was a peaceful protest, at times the responses from the police, mainland Chinese and opposing Beijing fanatics drove the protesters into riots. One of the increasingly utilized methods by counter-protesters is sexual violence; many students have reported being groped by mainlanders to discourage the students from protesting. Tear gas and pepper spray have also been released with brute police force arresting the protesters.

Despite the use of force, the movement has grown and spawned subdivisions; such groups include Scholarism, Occupy Central and Hong Kong Federation of Students. Although the movement lacks a leader and faces problems of longevity, for now citizens in Hong Kong plan to continue protesting their loss of democratic freedom.

 

Candidates face crises one month before election

Election Day is only a month away, and candidates face a multiplicity of factors that could swing their votes. Climate change, racially-motivated violence particularly by the police force and the recent Ebola outbreak all serve as important areas of society that politicians must address. As former governor of Wisconsin Joe Teasdale said, now is a “perfect storm of not good things” (Shotgun News, “A Perfect Storm of Not Good Things,” 10.06.14).

One of the major issues facing candidates will be economic issues and the need for a faster and more sustainable recovery. While affluent areas in this nation have already recovered, many other areas have not, leading some to wonder if any significant progress has been made in the last four years. Given that the debt level has not been reduced and the nation remains indebted to other nations, new economic policies will be a fundamental component of the upcoming electoral cycle.

The outbreak of Ebola in Texas has spurred serious debates about the federal government’s actions. The decision not to restrict travel to nations in West Africa have left some local officials and citizens concerned about the spread. Others look at the government’s construction of a 25-bed facility in West Africa as a positive step.

Considering the outbreaks of protest in Ferguson and the school shootings across the nation, many citizens do not feel safe anymore in their homes. A poll taken of the nation last month showed that an increasing number of citizens reporting “This is the first time I’ve felt insecure in my own country.” Coupled with the lack of response by officials, confidence may be waning for incumbents.

Another factor is the decreasing levels of trust citizens have in politics. Polls show that 27% of Democrats are confident that the White House can keep citizens safe from terrorist attacks (Live Trading News, “Americans Wonder, Can Government Protect Us,” 10.08.14). Meanwhile, one in five Americans admitted to believing that the government can protect citizens from climate change.

With less than one month before Election Day, there remains time for new crises to emerge and old ones to be solved, but the landscape shows that candidates have a wide variety of issues to address.

 

—Lisa Je, Guest Reporter

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