UCLA faculty comment on Hong Kong demonstrations
Hong Kong, June 9, 2019. Public domain.

UCLA faculty comment on Hong Kong demonstrations

The demonstrations mark a turning point in Hong Kong residents' relations with mainland China.

UCLA International Institute, July 11, 2019 — Recent enormous demonstrations in Hong Kong against a proposed law that would allow residents to be extradited to face judicial charges in mainland China have generated extensive news coverage and commentary worldwide. Among the published commentary are opinion pieces written by UCLA faculty members and lecturers.

Ching Kwan Lee, UCLA professor of sociology, wrote in the Los Angeles Times (July 8): “Never in my lifetime has existential ‘desperation’ been the talk of the town…. For young and old, there is a common belief that our future is all but doomed by the extradition bill, the last straw in a long list of legislation and policies chipping away Hong Kong’s freedom, civil liberty and rule of law, and with these, its identity and essence.”

Lee, who is co-editor of the forthcoming book, “Take Back Our Future: An Eventful Sociology of the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement,” argues that the recent demonstrations mark an historic development in relations between Hong Kong and the government of mainland China. “Protesters have vowed to dig in, bracing for a long battle,” she writes. “June 2019 will go down in history as a turning point, because the actions of Hong Kong’s people have opened up new territories in their hearts and minds, something Beijing has tried in vain to capture for 22 years.”

Christine Loh — chief development strategist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, lecturer at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, former Hong Kong legislator and former Hong undersecretary for the environment (2012–17) — penned two opinion pieces published in Time Magazine (July 5) and the South China Morning Post (July 8), respectively.

In the first piece she notes, “[T]he protests over the extradition bill showed that deep fault lines still exist between the two systems, especially among youth. They have become highly politicized, and along with them, their parents too.”

Loh argues that a reconciliation process between Hong Kong residents and its government is the optimal path, but concludes in her second piece that such a dialogue risks deepening existing polarization. A first potential step, she says, might be to bring expert international mediators to share their experiences of conflict dialogue. Reflects Loh, “Through learning, it may just allow us to reconnect with each other and learn new skills at a time of deep division. It’s one way to prepare the community to reflect.”