Could we imagine some years ago that something we post in Sweden will reach the audience in, let’s say, Latin America in a few seconds? Things that were not possible a decade ago, are absolutely normal today. Now, can we imagine for a minute that it will be possible to take to the streets and express your opinion freely and fearlessly in the future? Or is it just my fantasy of the utopian world?
Hopefully, not. I have been reading about the situation in Hong Kong, and I see a little bit of light in the end of the tunnel. I think you know what has been happening there, so I will just remind shortly how everything began.
The protests started in June, and they were triggered by the extradition bill which was introduced earlier in April this year. If it had been approved, it would have allowed for criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China under certain circumstances. Thousands of people took part in the protests, fighting against the emerging possibility of future unfair trials. The bill could be a real chance for mainland China to get more control over the citizens of Hong Kong, especially journalists, bloggers and activists being the main target of the Chinese government. After the long weeks of demonstrations, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced that the bill was temporally suspended. But it meant that the bill would most probably come back to life when the situation became more stable, so the protests escalated. The clashes between protesters and government forces turned to be more frequent and violent. The bill was finally withdrawn in September (victory, hurahh!), but activists said that it was “too little, too late”.
During those violent clashes, there were a lot of innocent victims, who were only willing to exercise their right to justice and free expression. This week could have been described as relatively calm, with protesters staying off the streets, until the prominent human rights activist Jimmy Sham was brutally attacked on Wednesday, October 16th. This has been most probably done to intimidate other activists and incite violence. A similar strategy is used in Russia, and you could see the example of Pavel Ustinov in one of the previous posts. The actor, who was previously convicted to 3,5 years in a penal colony for allegedly dislocating a police officer’s shoulder at an anti-government rally and for resisting arrest, is now facing a one-year suspended sentence. According to the latest news, Ustinov has already been released pending next appeal hearing verdict.
Though these cases show a significant improvement in exercising human rights thanks to public outcry and social media involvement, our world is still very far away from the utopian scenario. Some steps are taken little by little, some victories are celebrated by activists, some political opponents are at large, so the wheel of justice seems to be moving. However, how many more opponents are still in jail, how many more people are made silent by intimidation and force? Countless. The government (in other words, the dark side) still overweighs in such countries as Russia and China. I believe that freedom of self-expression is possible, but it is not an on/off switch: the system we have now has been built up for centuries, so it will surely take quite some time to burn it to ashes and create the global society of justice from scratch.