Protesters who say pro-democracy efforts by Hong Kong residents are too violent gathered outside NYU School of Law’s D’Agostino Hall on Monday night, shouting and chanting for their cause. Across from them was an equally loud group of counterprotesters in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
“We want to end police brutality and accountability for human rights violations [in Hong Kong],” counterprotester and CAS senior Valerie Woo said.
The heated protests took place before an NYU Law panel discussion about human rights in Hong Kong, although it never escalated beyond back-and-forth yelling by the two groups. The panel, perceived to be for those in Hong Kong organizing against China and the current government, sparked protests by pro-China groups. This led to a counterprotest by those in support of the movement in Hong Kong.
“A lot of [the protesters] have been very kind to open a mutually understanding conversation, so we had pretty productive conversations together,” Woo said.
The pro-Hong Kong counterprotesters came out in support of the “five demands” of protesters leading the larger movement in Hong Kong. The first of which, a total reversal of the law that allowed the Chinese government to extradite those accused of crimes in Hong Kong to China, has been fulfilled. Although it was the extradition law that sparked the initial movement, with Hong Kong residents fearing it would lead to authoritarian rule over the democratic region by China, the remaining four are a result of reactions to initial protests. They include an independent investigation of police brutality, the release of imprisoned protesters, for protesters to stop being classified as rioters and universal suffrage.
“We are promised universal suffrage for our executive and our [legislature], but it has [not been granted],” said Anna Yeung-Cheung, who sits on the board of directors for the non-profit Hong Kong Democracy Council.
Cheung said she helped NYU’s Hong Kong Student Advocacy Group organize leading up to the protest. On Monday, HKSAG co-signed a letter prior to the protest calling for the end of police brutality against protesters in Hong Kong and the fulfillment of the remaining four demands.
“Chief Executive Carrie Lam must reverse the blanket ordinance on lethal force and facilitate a de-escalation,” the letter reads.
Chants from pro-China protesters included “No violent protest!” while pro-Hong Kong protesters repeated “Free Hong Kong!”
CAS first-year and pro-China protest organizer Steven Mao said violence was the reason students organized against the Hong Kong protests.
“This protest is to condemn violence in student demonstrations in Hong Kong,” Mao said. “This fact has not been adequately reported in many media sources, both in the U.S. and other countries. Demonstrations are not an excuse for violence.”
SPS master’s student Bojun Shu said she decided to protest outside of D’Agostino Hall for the same reason.
“After I watched all of those videos from our media, I don’t think it’s right to exercise violence,” Shu said. “You should respect the rule of law, no matter what you do.”
While the protests erupted outside, the law school panel discussed the current situation in Hong Kong and the complexities of supporting a grassroots movement in Hong Kong from overseas.
Sharon Hom, an adjunct professor at the law school and one of the evening’s panelists, also teaches the Intensive Law Program at the University of Hong Kong. Hom said the current issue of Hong Kong is more complex than saying there are two sides to the debate.
“All of us have limited knowledge of these events,” Hom said. “While we may think we know what’s going on because of the video footage we see, the fact is that it’s changing as we’re talking about it.”
Additional reporting by Ronni Husmann.
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