Bilingual Editorial: Protests that spread like wildfire
雙語社評:乾柴烈焰星火燎原 多國示威共同特點


[英語 (足本收聽)] Presented by Mr KWOK, Tony Chun-tung, Lecturer of Hong Kong Community College, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

[普通話 (足本收聽)] Presented by Dr CHOI, Wai-yuk, Lecturer of Hong Kong Community College, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University


The nationwide demonstrations that have lasted over a week in Iraq have caused 110 deaths and more than 6,000 injuries. In Egypt, the protests that have gone on for three Fridays in a row have rendered more than 3,000 people arrested. In Indonesia, protests by university students and racial unrest last month have led to over 30 deaths, over 300 injuries and over 100 arrests. Vigorous protests in Ecuador, South America have forced government departments to evacuate the capital and announce a curfew and a 60-day state of emergency. Hundreds of people have been arrested. All around the globe, it seems that scenes of fire and smoke are everywhere. What is happening in Hong Kong is being replicated in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These struggles and confrontations exhibit characteristics of their respective backgrounds. But they also bear parallels in an era of globalisation. They are lessons that deserve to be learnt by those in government in all countries around the globe.

[ENG audio 1]

The protests in the abovementioned nations were triggered by different matters. In Indonesia, university students are protesting an "evil law" made by the government that criminalises homosexual relationships, extramarital sex, abortions and insults to the president, and an amendment to the law that weakens the power of anti-corruption agencies. The protests in Iraq originated from the dismissal of a general who is regarded as a national hero for his meritorious service in combating ISIS. The Egyptian protests stemmed from a video clip published in social media by a man who calls himself a contractor. In the video, he accused Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and his wife of abusing money earmarked for infrastructural construction and frittering away public money on the president's residence, villa and hotels. That provoked a huge outcry. As for the riots in Ecuador, there is, on the surface, an economic reason for it, as the government is revoking subsidies for fuel prices. But they are also attributable to a rupture in relations between the incumbent president and the former president, who used to be allies. A disagreement between the left and the right ensued. The incumbent president, who inclines to the right, accepted the suggestion of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and went on an austerity drive. Clashes broke out between him and supporters of the former president.

[ENG audio 2]

The unrest in these countries seems to be about politics. But there are deep-seated economic conflicts and external factors as well. Since Saddam Hussein's regime was brought down, Iraq's economy has not been growing much. The difficulty in finding employment is notable among young people, as the official figure for youth unemployment is 25%. The IMF's estimate is even higher. Despite the turbulence, the southern part of Iraq mainly populated by the Shiites has remained relatively stable since the war. But it has become the cradle of the unrest this time, marking the segmentation of the Shiites. The invasion by the US army has failed to bring about economic prosperity to Iraq, but has instead plunged southern Iraq, the last oasis of peace in the region, into turmoil. The facade of democracy is completely shattered.

[ENG audio 3]

The world today is in the throes of momentous change unseen in a hundred years. Illustrious economic statistics are unsustainable unless they are supported by fairness and justice in society. Those in government have to be able to foresee the future when trying to grasp public sentiment, and should seize the golden opportunity to respond to it. This is applicable not only to developing countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Indonesia and Ecuador, but also to France, Hong Kong and other developed regions. This is what the people in power as well as leaders in society should be well aware of and alert to.

[ENG audio 4]

乾柴烈焰星火燎原 多國示威共同特點


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