Patrick Blennerhassett has had a first-hand view of the chaos that has erupted in Hong Kong.
The sports reporter for the South China Morning Post is a former Kamloops resident who moved to the region last year. He shared his first-hand observations of the protests in the city with KTW while in the Tournament Capital for a holiday.
“It’s a really complicated situation,” he said. “Having been there, and having seen them, and having gone to some of these marches and rallies, and seeing them up close, they’re all incredibly young kids.”
The protests started in response to proposed amendments to Hong Kong’s extradition laws, which would have allowed for extraditions to China, a country with stricter laws and harsher penalties.
But there are fears the amended law would be the first step toward China taking stronger control of Hong Kong, which is a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, but which has its own government and its own de facto constitution — the Hong Kong Basic Laws.
But those Basic Laws only guarantee residents’ rights and freedoms for 50 years following Hong Kong’s return to China from the British in 1997.
“They feel as if they don’t have a future,” Blennerhassett said of the protesters.
“You grow up in a city that feels democratic, feels as if you have your own personal rights and human rights. But the job market is incredibly difficult, school is cutthroat, you’re never going to get into the property market,” he said.
“Now, somebody is telling you that basically, by 2047, you’re just going to be another part of China. So a lot of them say, ‘We don’t have anything to live for.’”
The protests reached a new level on June 9, with as many as one-million people — about one-seventh of Hong Kong’s population — in the streets.
At one point, protests shut down Hong Kong’s airport.
In spite of such numbers, Blennerhassett said it can be easy to go about your day in Hong Kong without ever encountering protesters.
He said while the protests have led to certain streets being shut down, the movement has not crippled the city.
“And I think a lot of the expats that I work with, that aren’t necessarily in journalism, they are just sort of avoiding it,” he said.
Blennerhassett said the experience has given him a new perspective on issues around the world.
“Being in Hong Kong, and watching these protesters, who feel as if they have no future whatsoever, it really makes my problems feel insignificant,” he said.
“That’s probably the biggest thing that I’ve taken from it, that we have it pretty good here in Canada.”