12th June 2019 — a day that every Hongkonger would never forget. It was the beginning of Hong Kong anti-extradition movement.
It was the day when thousands of Hongkongers went to the street, protesting about Carrie Lam’s reckless introduction of extradition bill. While everyone was hopeless about the protest, Hongkongers, again, created miracles. The scheduled reading of the bill was delayed, and never put forward to the Legislative Council.
It was also the day when the ‘be-water’ movement began, where Hongkongers believed that there was hope in the city. However, when the government introduced the National Security Law and social gathering restriction COVID, most activities needed to be terminated; many organisers were prosecuted.
Looking back the past three years, things in Hong Kong has changed substantially, including politics, society, economy, law and orders and also the government. Hong Kong is no longer the place that most of us are familiar with.
What if Chan Tong-kai did not kill his girlfriend?
Chan Tong-Kai, or Tony Chan, was the culprit of the extradition bill. He was a murderer of his girlfriend. Although he has claimed himself for being regretful of his wrong-doing, he has never returned to Taiwan. Over the past three years, it is becoming more unlikely that this will happen. Chan has come up with many reasons to delay his return: political sensitivity, COVID-19, and whatsoever.
No one knows where is Chan now. Nobody is willing to discuss about him. In fact, the general publics have already lost hope on him. Some of us have nearly forgotten his case was actually the initiative of the extradition law.
But what if the murder did not happen? Looking back from now, we might question whether the bill really necessary for that particular murder. Back in the days, Beijing never demand for one; it was only Carrie Chan’s idea of trying to please top decision-makers. Therefore, even if Chan did not kill his girlfriend, we would never know when Carrie Chan will find other opportunities to introduce the bill. In fact, one year after the social movement, the Hong Kong government introduced the National Security Law, where extradition to China became more possible. Notably, the Legislative Council did not pass the law; it was introduced by the National People’s Congress.
What if Carrie Lam withdrew the bill in the first place?
On 9th June 2019, one million Hongkongers went on demonstration against the Extradition Bill. However, Carrie Lam refused to withdrew Bill and dedicated to have the second reading at the Legislative Council, which eventually led to the protest on the 12th.
There were so many times that Lam can withdrew the bill, and reduce Hongkongers’ anger. Unfortunately, she did not.
Not until a month later when she spoke to the media in one occasion, she announced ‘the Bill was dead’. She refused to officially ‘withdrew’ the bill, which was done six months after the movement began.
Many analysts, even those from the pro-Beijing camp, have suggested that if withdrew the Bill earlier, there will not be such political upheaval. They were confused of why Lam was so reluctant to withdraw the Bill. Some said it was because of her ego. Some said it was pressure from Beijing. It is almost certain that we will never know the reason behind now, as Lam is about to step down from her role as a Chief Executive. However, it is likely that, even the Bill did not exist, Carrie Lam will still upset Hongkongers. In particular, over the past two years during COVID, the social restriction has caused many troubles to people.
What if the police carried the responsibility in Yuen Long on 21st July?
Another turning point of the anti-extradition law movement was the Yuen Long attack. The police stood idle in the nearby station on that night has seriously damaged the trust of the police force, as well as the government. Frankly, although the police’s use of force has been controversial prior to the incident, the relationship between police force and citizens was not at the lowest point. There was still some discussion of police was only following guidelines from the Lam’s government. There was no way that people could imagine the police having connections with the trains — this only happened in Hong Kong movies.
If the police responded quickly in the Yuen Long incident, law enforcement will not be that difficult, arguably, as people remained some levels of trust to the police. To date, the Hong Kong Police has been giving far too much power to maintain stability of the society. Especially after the National Security Law, it has the most resources and influence among the public services. Now, Hong Kong has become a police state.
There is no ‘what-if’ in history
Three years have passed. While there are so many times that the Hong Kong government can alter the situation, decision makers have chosen the hard line: the National Security Law, the prosecution, the COVID-free policythe COVID-free policy, dealing with social issues etc. Hong Kong has become closer to the Mainland. Perhaps, this is what Beijing would like to see.
But one thing for sure is that, the Anti-extradition Law Movement has happened, and there is no way to change the fact. It is the history, identity and pain of Hongkongers. In every June, there will still be memorial. It will still continue, just as the Tiananmen Square Incident, until the very last bit of Hong Kong of identity has faded out in history.