Deaf people in Hong Kong
[Transcript] CALLIE: There were recent demonstrations in Hong Kong.
[Image of massive protests on a Hong Kong city street]
This was about a bill called extradition law that would have allowed China to order extraditions of suspected lawbreakers or for those who challenged the Chinese government.
People are angry because this bill would enable China to assert greater control over Hong Kong.
Hong Kong folks fear it would expose anyone in Hong Kong who challenged or insulted China’s government. China has a flawed justice system. China also has poor legal protections for defendants.
The protests have forced the Hong Kong government to suspend consideration of the bill.
[Image of a bustling Hong Kong skyline against a backdrop of a bay and mountains]
Isn’t Hong Kong part of China? Yes, but it is a semi-autonomous region.
What happened? Hong Kong was under the control of the British Empire for more than 150 years until 1984, when there was a joint declaration between UK and China. Britain agreed to give Hong Kong to China.
[Image of a handover ceremony with text: The agreement between Britain and China was in 1984. The actual handover was in 1997.]
China promised to allow a “high degree of autonomy” to Hong Kong, including guarantees of free speech that was not available in China. Examples are freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom to protest against the government without reprisals.
During the British colony period, Hong Kong was popular with migrants who treasured its freedoms. Many who were politically against China or those who committed crimes and were fugitives found refuge. China also had economic and political instability that caused poverty and suffering, causing more migrants to move to Hong Kong. They have enjoyed the freedoms.
[Image of Chinese President Xi Jinping]
In 2017, Chinese president Xi Jinping warned during his visit to Hong Kong that challenges to Beijing’s rule wouldn’t be tolerated or permitted. It was a chilling message.
[Image of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam]
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive’s name is Carrie Lam. She has pushed the bill, but after the demonstrations and protests, she has apologized and suspended the bill. But protesters said this was not good enough, as it meant she was for China rather than for Hong Kong, and asked for her resignation. Protesters want the bill to be completely withdrawn.
[Image of a crowd of protesters holding identical signs that read, “NO EXTRADITION!” There is one sign that shows Lam’s face with the words, “LIAR” on it.]
I wonder what Deaf Hong Kong people’s perspectives are on this situation and what impact the bill would have on their lives.
Hi, my name’s Connie Lo. This is my sign name. I’m from Hong Kong and I’ve lived there for a while now.
Hi, my name’s Jason Wong. I’m from Hong Kong and I’m deaf.
CALLIE: How have rights been eroded in Hong Kong and what about Deaf people’s rights?
It doesn’t matter if you’re deaf or hearing, you’ll lose some extent of rights. For example, their freedom of speech and expression would be eroded. Also, in whatever you print, in the news, any freedom of speech would be restricted. Three, our voting rights would be restricted as well. So that’s what caused us all, many of us, to have deep concerns so consequently we decided to march. That’s the reason.
CALLIE: What are your concerns on the bill? How will it impact Deaf people’s lives if it passes?
Here in Hong Kong, their government system is set up with two systems for one country. I mean Hong Kong controls its own while the Chinese has their own separate system. The Chinese government controls their own country, but Hong Kong is considered a part of China. With that recent bill, if they convene and pass this bill then it would affect everyone regardless if they’re deaf or hearing. Their quality of life and rights will be diminished. Like, for example, if a hearing person wanted to speak their native language Cantonese, they might have to change their spoken language to Mandarin. They’ll have to change their traditional writing to simplified writing? What about the deaf people? Would that mean deaf people in Hong Kong would have to learn Chinese sign language? They’d need to change their written language too. Also, the march itself is a freedom of expression and would there be less of that? If someone who was either hearing or deaf, doesn’t matter, for example, a deaf person is arrested and put into jail then who would interpret for that person? Would that person be a Chinese interpreter? It’s our lives and we’re worried about that bill.
CALLIE: How have the hearing and Deaf communities in Hong Kong collaborated in the protests?
Hearing and deaf people have been working together when many deaf people watching the news, or any TV wouldn’t know what’s happening. Hearing people could help by keeping us informed like with the march, the reason behind it and everything. It’s been helpful for Deaf people and they get be more involved in the action, in the march.
CALLIE: How are you dealing with police violence? Do you mind explaining that?
Some deaf people have hearing allies and they stick together. The police, whew, many of them just wanted to throw these tear gases that really irritate your face. About 150 of them. Then they fired about 20 lead beads too. And three, they had these purple sprays they used on people who were reporters or workers. Pretty intense. Some, actually all of these people were pretty scared, and they just wanted to be safe, but they knew they had to stay and fight this war. Then after a while, at around 8pm, when it was getting dark, it got crazy when they threw these explosives. All these people were so scared, and they just ran. The deaf people were watching and following the crowd’s lead. But I also saw this, and it’s important that deaf people to be watchful for these things, there were some Hong Kong people who used their own gestures like these.
We all helped each other and worked together. It was a really great feeling. All these people of Hong Kong wanted to fight for their rights. We must change Hong Kong’s system. We don’t want China taking over. We want to prevent that from happening.
CALLIE: What meaningful action are you asking for from the global community?
We need to get the word out, we want the G20 countries to check in on the situation. Because there would be economic implications in Asia and Hong Kong plays an important part. If that bill were to pass, then our economy and trading would fail. That’s why we’re marching.
CALLIE: Thank you for sharing your stories. I am in solidarity with you.
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