China is currently facing one of its largest political protests since the Tiananmen Square incident nearly 25 years ago.
Pro-democratic protesters in the tens of thousands have crowded Hong Kong streets. The protests began with students opposing China’s decision to audit candidates for the 2017 Hong Kong election, according to Reuters.
“From what I’ve read and seen so far I would say Hong Kong’s protests have been calm/peaceful, yet likewise resolute in what is a clear demand for the ability to choose who represents Hong Kong within the Chinese system. (Hong Kong isn’t demanding separation from China),” said Caleb Brown, a Southern Miss alumnus with a degree in international relations.
The protesters are insisting on a full democracy and have ordered the city’s leader Leung Chun-ying to resign after Beijing announced a proposal in September to limit elections in 2017 for Hong Kong’s leader to only a few contestants loyal to Beijing.
Tensions eased in Hong Kong and drained protesters slept on the side of the road as the tunes of slogans and songs were chanted and sung in monotony. According to Reuters, one exhausted police officer relaxed in a chair and filled time by playing on his mobile phone as thousands of demonstrators spilled in the streets nearby, some singing and dancing.
When asked why there were so few police, he said, “Actually, I don’t have a reason for you. But we are tired. We are all human beings so we need a rest.”
Brown urges Americans to exercise their rights, such as voting, that they would not have in other countries
“The U.S. is an incredibly well-functioning republic that guarantees its citizens the best chance for representation of their beliefs and ideals, and this is done by voting,” Brown said. “Protect your rights by picking those that share your values.
The republic belongs to its citizens. I think the best way USM students to show thanks for the ability to choose our leaders on almost all levels of government is to simply vote.”
Democracy gives Americans the ability to demonstrate in public and make changes when needed. In Communist countries such as China, the price for change is a large and difficult one to pay.
“I have been in the human rights field for a long time now,” said Tyler Meader, a Southern Miss alumnus.
“Our country was based on the freedom of speech. Too often I see people not speaking out about about the injustice in this world. Getting a degree is more than just getting good grades in class. It’s also serving your fellow men with your higher education.”
As of today, China rules Hong Kong under a “one country, two systems” blueprint that “accords the former British colony a degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, with universal suffrage set as an eventual goal,” according to Reuters.
In America, as opposed to some foreign countries, citizens have freedom and equal rights and opportunities.
“I think students today really take their freedoms for granted,” Meader said.