Could Hong Kong protests end like Tiananmen Square? 'It's possible'
CTVNews.ca’s Josh Dehaas, with files from CTV’s Omar Sachedina in Hong Kong
Published Sunday, June 16, 2019 7:48PM EDT
A Canadian journalist who witnessed China’s deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square says she believes it’s “possible” that Beijing could send in the military to quell democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Jan Wong was working for The Globe and Mail on June 4, 1989 when tanks rolled over hundreds or possibly thousands of protesters in central Beijing. Thousands more were rounded up and jailed. The history of the incident has been hidden by Chinese censors.
Wong said on Sunday, as up to two million people took its streets of the city of 7.4 million, that whether China will send in the People’s Liberation Army remains “the biggest question.”
“Can China do that to a place like Hong Kong which has many more civil liberties than China?” she told CTV News Channel.
“They were able to send out the tanks in Tiananmen Square ... They did it. They got away with it. There has been no accounting for the dead. Is it possible they could do this in Hong Kong? It’s possible.”
Last week, Chinese artist and social activist Ai Weiwei also raised the spectre of a violent crackdown similar to the 1989 massacre.
“We have a clear memory about what happened 30 years ago, what happened when students assembled peacefully in Tiananmen Square," he told CNN. “And the end of it is tanks with a lot of people being harmed and killed so that can also be what happens in Hong Kong.”
Street marches have been roiling the former British colony for weeks in opposition to a bill in the Hong Kong legislature that would have allowed the extradition of those accused of crimes to the Chinese mainland. Hong Kong has a widely-respected legal system and the rule of law. Mainland China does not. Many Hong Kongers see the bill as the latest abrogation of China’s promise to maintain “one country” with “two systems” for at least 50 years after the handover from Britain in 1997.
Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed chief executive Carrie Lam apologized to the people on Saturday and said that the bill had been “suspended.” But that was not enough to stop demonstrators from once again clogging the city’s streets. They demanded that protesters be released from jail, that the bill be permanently scrapped and that Lam resign from office.
Protest organizer Bonnie Leung told CTV News’ Omar Sachedina from the midst of the crowds that Hong Kongers do not want to keep marching.
“But, if the government force(s) us, we will come out again and again and again,” Leung said.
“I just want them to stop intervening in our system and leave us to be free,” protester Karen Lau told CTV News.
One man held a sign apparently quoting American revolutionary Patrick Henry. “Give me liberty or give me death” it read.
Wong said she sees multiple similarities between Hong Kong’s protests and those at Tiananmen Square 30 years ago.
“One is the massive number of people protesting on the street,” she said. “Secondly, it’s very peaceful, very orderly. Thirdly ... just like the people in Beijing (support is from) all across social lines.”
Although a military intervention is possible, it’s unclear how Beijing will react, according to Wong.
“I think China wants to control Hong Kong. This is where dissent is growing so they want to stop it,” she said. “But I don’t know if they can do this because the massive numbers of today’s demonstration are so incredible.”