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Following almost 5 months of street protests, the economy in one particular of China’s most crucial small business hubs is slowing down. Retail sales are plunging. And the US-China trade war is taking a monetary toll.

The demonstrations in Hong Kong have been led largely by young people protesting the way China governs the territory. It really is effortless to make a historical comparison to 1989 when young individuals in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square also protested.

Han Dongfang was amongst these in Tiananmen Square 30 years ago. 

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Following the bloody crackdown, he spent a couple of years in prison. He later fled to Hong Kong.

Dongfang spoke to The World’s Marco Werman about his view of the protests that have taken more than Hong Kong.

Now, he’s a labor organizer primarily based there. And he’s watching and supporting this young generation of protesters. Their movement is unique from Tiananmen in one particular essential way, he says. 

“In Beijing, 30 years ago, we had been begging for anything named freedom that we under no circumstances tasted, but when we had been smashed and we just gave up — mainly because we under no circumstances tasted it,” Dongfang mentioned. “These days, the Hong Kong young individuals — what they are performing is not begging and asking for freedom, as they have been living in freedom. Now, a person is attempting to take it away. So, that is the basic distinction. That is what I think — these individuals will under no circumstances give up.”

Marco Werman: How substantially have you been speaking with protesters in Hong Kong in current weeks, and what have you been hearing?

Han Dongfang: I am not genuinely speaking to them. I am participating in each important protest. I am in the streets. I observe them, and I discover from them. Due to the fact if I nicely try to remember in 2014, I saw these young individuals break into the highway and I ran to them and I mentioned, “Appear, you have got to get out from the highway, you are providing them excuses to shoot you.” And I came from 1989, Tiananmen Square, that is what happened at that time. They get excuses, and they begin shooting individuals. And individuals never want to listen to me, and I really feel sort of sad about, you know, they are genuinely not taking their lives cautiously and they are genuinely taking good danger.

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But Dongfang, are not the protesters currently also providing the authorities lots of motives to sort of stage reprisals? I imply, subway stations have been set alight, they’ve occupied the airport. I imply, they are providing, it appears, the police a lot of motives to crack down on them.

Yes. You can say currently, even much more than 2014, even much more than 30 years ago in Tiananmen Square, that is what the protesters are performing. But the basic distinction is the protesters, the mentality and the courage. Thirty years ago, we had been fighting for anything in our dream. We under no circumstances knew it — we under no circumstances tasted it. If we didn’t get it, then we didn’t really drop something. But today, these individuals, from my observation in the streets, each important protest, I can see a determination from their face, from their physique language, and specifically, this is joined by man and lady, young man and lady and lady are not following the man and females are on their personal. So, all more than and in the street, they — in their face, in their physique language — you can study, they are prepared to burn with each other if it burns.

“So all more than and [in the] street, they in their face, in their physique language, you can study they are prepared to burn with each other if it burns.”

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So, Dongfang, what is your suggestions to the Hong Kong protesters at this moment, and exactly where really should they steer that courage?

I am afraid I never have any strategic ideas for them mainly because I never have it. I am busy studying from them about the creativity of organizing unique activities and protests each day for the duration of the week and evening and day. So, this is extremely new to me.

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US Vice President Mike Pence says America stands with Hong Kong, and he criticized China for curtailing the rights and liberties of Hong Kongers. Does that assistance the protesters or does it just add to the Chinese government’s claim that this entire protest movement is a Western-inspired, separatist movement?

Oh, it definitely assists the movement at the protest in Hong Kong and to make the Chinese government consider twice about what to do. But I have a extremely severe query right here. Mr. Pence or Mr. Trump, are they taking this position as a strategic move to make themselves in a superior position for the duration of the trade deal, trade talks, as a chip or are they are taking it as principle — that no matter what, even if there is no trade war, they will take this human rights and democracy matter seriously? What about if the US-China trade deal goes nicely? Will they pull back? There will be no stress, there is no concern and what will the Hong Kong individuals do with that?

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So, assistance us with this one particular final query. In spite of some of the police crackdown and protesters disrupting small business and mass transit in Hong Kong, it appears numerous Hong Kongers have not abandoned or provided up on the protesters and their actions. Why do you consider that is? What does it inform us?

You know, Hong Kong individuals have enjoyed the freedom. There is not substantially democracy in the previous up to this point. But love the freedom freedom indicates you never have to understand that each day and morning when you wake up, you say, “I am in freedom!” No, the beauty of freedom is you never understand that each day. You never have to spend interest. But when a person attempts to take it, no matter if you are a businessperson, huge small business, smaller small business, huge like Mr. Li Ka-shing (mega-investor believed to be the richest man in Hong Kong) or smaller like the corner street, you open a smaller restaurant. These individuals, they all abruptly really feel their freedom is possibly facing a danger. And this is what brings people with each other. You drop the exact same issues that you love. You did not genuinely have to really feel it each day. Now, you really feel the exact same danger. Even the individuals walking in the street to protest for the exact same issues are fearful of losing freedom, and they are not necessarily all left or suitable or in the middle or what. But they are gathered with each other on this one same interest and worry, which is fearful of losing freedom. So, that is my explanation about why Hong Kong individuals, even the businesspeople, they drop some small business, they are not content. But they will nevertheless tolerate this mainly because they know that ahead of them, there will be larger issues to drop.

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This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. 

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