Imagine a typical Monday morning. Someone waking up early, probably at 7 a.m., getting dressed, vigorously brushing their teeth, eating breakfast and kissing their mother goodbye to start a bright day. That same someone later rushes down the stairs of their apartment complex, meets up with a couple friends and probably an older brother, puts on a black sweater and ski mask, and then finally cupping his or her pink capped gas mask over his or her face.
Gunshots erupt in the street outside of the door. The sound of angry, desperate wails blends in with the smell of burning wood and cardboard from those genuinely discontent with their ruling powers. That same someone knows that there’s thousands of police officers outside waiting to melt people with tear gas, yet he or she still places his or her hand on that cold door knob, while their lungs freeze over in fear.
What does someone do in such a situation? Recently, Todd Phillips’ Joker created an interesting discussion about social protest and discontent. Following the rise of the iconic Batman villain, Joker, the film promotes the idea that individuals overlooked by the government and society will turn to violence to get their ideas across. Yet, if we compare that argument to a real life equivalent, the Hong Kong protests, we can argue that people have a larger capacity for good than most would believe.
Currently, over 75 percent of citizens in Hong Kong are protesting the creation of a bill that would allow their government to extradite (or deport) criminals to Taiwan, which includes China by proxy. Despite the live rounds of ammunition and tear gas fired by police officers and the occasional overly aggressive protester, nearly all of the actual protests have been nonviolent. People around the world have been scratching their heads wondering why Hong Kong hasn’t exploded into full blown urban combat, despite this being the nation’s biggest and most important protest in recent years.
The city has a lot on the line this time, so much so that even business heads are joining the streets. Ever since being released from British rule in 1997, China has been slowly attempting to regain total control over the city and stifle its democratic beliefs.
Pro-democracy activists have been arrested, and numerous booksellers have gone missing. Even as a democracy, its executive leadership is technically chosen by China. Just like the citizens of Joker’s Gotham city, the people of Hong Kong feel stripped of any political representation.
Now what did they do with this pain? They fought back. Yet, instead of defaulting to chaos, the Hong Kong citizens used their skills, talents and creativity to attract the eyes of the rest of the world.
At the moment, the majority of the protest has no dedicated leader, yet its organized by the use of online forums, and artistic movements. The forum LIHKG is one of the primary places where Hong Kong citizens go to discuss tactics to use in the protests. On that forum, individuals express their personal feelings on the events at hand and how they want to go about handling it.
The website HKmap.live was also developed as a means to help protesters avoid the police while carrying out previously discussed tactics. On the international side, Instagram accounts like Resistgirl.diary and Heungshing_hk use artwork and visual storytelling to update the world on current atrocities committed by Hong Kong’s police department and government.
A lot of the works call upon pop culture motifs and symbolism to relate with the emotions of both the protesters, and those witnessing their plight. Many of those motifs come from films like Star Wars: A New Hope and Avengers: Endgame. All of these tactics gained the world’s attention without a single shed of violence.
Thanks to the protester’s efforts, people on our side of the world are watching and cheering them on. Individuals from every part of the globe are now using whatever authority they have (big or small) to express sympathy with Hong Kong’s plight, regardless of the consequences.
Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, publicly expressed his discontent with what’s happening to the citizens of Hong Kong. Due to his actions, all Houston Rockets games have been taken off the air in China, and the NBA had to officially side with the Chinese government.
Similarly, Blizzard banned a Hearthstone champion from Hong Kong, Chung ‘Blitzchung’ Ng Wai, due to his on-air support for the protests in his home city.
The player was stripped of his winnings and banned from the card game for a year. Despite these people receiving punishment for their actions, they did what the protests need, garner attention.
Social media assaulted the NBA as the Internet went crazy about their actions. Blizzard fans protested the company by turning its characters into Pro-Hong Kong propaganda. Slowly but surely, Hong Kong was getting the spotlight it deserved. The people were winning, not by looting and rioting, but by word of mouth.
Now back to that someone, who’s only got a door between them and total war. There is so much more that can be done than he or she may believe. Regardless of the death and chaos in the street, Hong Kong shows everyone that there’s a different way to fight.
Despite the canisters of tear gas bouncing across makeshift wooden shields and police officers bashing masked citizens, peace can still be an option. If someone were to walk out of the film Joker and ask themselves if there was still hope, they should look to Hong Kong. From there, he or she could look at his or her circumstances and realize that order is just as much an option as chaos.