The People’s Republic of China will celebrate National Day on 1 October, marking the seventieth year since the establishment of the PRC and its government. With less than two days remaining until the holiday, demonstrators in Hong Kong have commenced the 17th straight week of pro-democracy protests and rallies. Sunday’s protests turned into running battles between demonstrators and police, resulting in destruction, and street fires in parts of the city. The violence was a marked contrast Saturday’s peaceful demonstrations honoring the fifth anniversary of the Umbrella Movement, a pro-democracy campaign that has served as an inspiration to the massive street demonstrations that have gripped Hong Kong since early summer.
With National Day coming, the protesters are obviously hoping their activities will overshadow Beijing’s official events and celebrations commemorating the holiday. A sense of disconnect from the PRC remains for most of the millennial-aged protesters. For example, when one protester was asked over the weekend what National Day meant to him, he answered with, “Nothing, because we lack the sense of belonging to China.”
For months, Hong Kong’s demonstrations have centered around the perceived erosion of the city’s freedoms by Beijing. Some of the demands made by the protesters include direct democratic elections, and investigations into alleged brutality by Hong Kong’s police department. Neither the city government, or the central government in Beijing have signaled a willingness to move on these demands.
Of course, the present turmoil was set in motion by an extradition bill which would’ve allowed suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to the mainland in order to stand trial. This bill was eventually shelved, yet it did not satisfy the protesters. If anything, it motivated them to expand their demands, and the scope of their demonstrations, essentially daring the PRC government to stop them in a manner similar to Tiananmen Square in 1989.