In this article, I’d like to talk about the environmental impact created by the recently developed political situation and the following protests in Hong Kong. This led to many changes in the everyday lives of the people living in the city. I would also like to turn your attention to a certain group of people who took the initiative to clear the rubbish left on the streets after the demonstrations.
In 1997 when a decision was taken in London to hand back Hong Kong to China, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the PRC. When the government of China decided to force changes in the political environment in Hong Kong, the citizens there decided that they will not leave things happen without expressing their position on the matter. One of the outcomes in the years after was the introduction of the anti-extradition bill.
The anti-extradition bill protests were a series of demonstrations in Hong Kong and other cities around the world against the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 proposed by the Hong Kong government. On April, 28th the movement got bigger and more serious. Around 130,000 protesters were attracted. Police officers used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets against the unarmed protesters, while they were trying to break into the parliament. Around 11 people were arrested and 75 were injured, said a police officer. The citizens of Hong Kong were concerned over the removal of the firewall of the legal systems between Mainland China and Hong Kong. Leading lawyers and opponents of the extradition law say China’s authority system is marked by torture and forced confessions.
The whole situation was caused due to the fact that the citizens felt threatened. Even though this was not the right solution for the problem, this was the only way for them to be heard and noticed by the government. Unfortunately, things got violent – there are videos and images showing equipped police officers with pepper spray, riot shields and cudgels chasing the protesters while they run from the gas clouds.
This is not the first demonstration of its kind that marks Hong Kong’s history – other similar protests occurred between September and December 2014 under the name “Umbrella Movement”, which by the way was headlined as ‘The Politest Protest.’ Nevertheless, the police got involved once again and things got rough… They were forced to use pepper spray against the protesters in order to clear the streets and resume the traffic. In the meantime, 45 arrests were made.
This time, however, once the massive demonstrations came to a halt, young and eco-oriented teens volunteered to clear the rubbish that was spread all over the streets in Hong Kong. Not even the rain could stop them – their ambition to clean the city was absolutely remarkable. They collected helmets, umbrellas, face masks, food packaging, water bottles and other rubbish that was left behind and they even sorted out the trash for recycling. Here is what one of the young demonstrators said:
“We just want to clear the rubbish on the street, we’re not part of any organization. We just want to be responsible. Since we were the ones to create all this rubbish, we have a responsibility to clean it up.”
And another one said:
“I am part of the rally and a part of Hong Kong. I saw so much garbage on the ground and wanted to do something for the city.”
I think that it is also admirable that besides clearing the rubbish from the streets following the series of sit-in protests, demonstrators also left notes apologizing for traffic delays and organized makeshift recycling stations. No matter how negative the preconditions were I do believe that there is a positive side of it all. Namely – getting people conscious about and engaged with preserving an ecologically clean environment for themselves, as well as for future generations.
Written by: Diana Beze