By SO Cissy Lok Sze (蘇鍩楒) (Department of English Language and Literature)
Back in the old days, people spread information by letters or conversations where one passed a message to another. If anything happened, it would take them a long period of time before the information was passed to them. Later in 1830s, telegraph was invented which had enhanced the time of passing information, especially news, more people from other countries got to know what was happening on the other side of the world. In late 20th century, satellites and internet were used for long distance transmission which helped news to be more instant.
With the development of technology, information is passed efficiently around the world just by clicking a couple of buttons, or even just a few taps on the phone. There are so many choices provided online where it could be as instant as a live broadcast. Time used to control our reception of news due to the underdevelopment of technology in which the internet did not exist, but now the internet has become the dominant in almost everything, including the society. A society is shaped by politics where political leaders make moves and impacts in each and across the country, and to communicate not only with citizens but also leaders around the world is by the use of the internet.
Taking the recent social unrest in Hong Kong as an example, there have been quite a number of protests happened in the past months, while the biggest one by far is to have almost two million people marching on streets. The only way to call out such big amount of people to attend a public march was through the internet where people spread information online in which mostly would be sharing information on all kinds of social media. However, the movement has escalated in all kinds of ways, from the streets to restaurants, and even to universities, while the government has been neglecting the public’s demands and protecting the police from excessive use of force; such arrogance has aroused the anger and hatred from the general public.
The members of the public have been holding onto what they believe in where some of them support the government and the police, and some support democracy which is known to be the protestors; they are recognized as “blue” and “yellow” respectively. Both sides have been using their own ways to support what they believe, mostly using the method of sharing information on the internet. They usually share photos and videos to capture not just Hongkongers’ attention but also the attention of other countries, as to let people around the world know what is going on in Hong Kong and what they are fighting for. However, those who fight for democracy, the protestors, seem to be more active and familiar with how the internet works where their information have reached what they want them to be.
Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, HKGolden, and Lihkg.com (LIHKG) are commonly used throughout this movement as a way to communicate with each other, as well as spreading the news about what happened in the previous protests during this period of time and announcing the information of the next march and protest. These platforms have brought all those information to almost every corner of the world in just a moment of instant. Protestors are fighting for democracy and freedom which they originally had but being taken away by China, therefore, they need a helping hand from other countries to reach their goals and to protect their home while being oppressed by China.
Even though Hong Kong is part of China, the city itself follows the “one country, two systems” principle which gives the city its own governmental system, including all kinds of financial affair with other countries, which are all independent from those of the Mainland. Undoubtedly, Hong Kong government is under the China government, and that they work for China, the Mainland specifically, of course, chief executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has to comply with China’s orders and requests, along with the help of pro-Beijing camp. However, they are supporting China on one hand, and holding a United States, British, or Canadian citizenship on the other hand, which has already contradicted their positions. They seek democracy in other countries while supporting a communist capitalized country that does not have any democracy traits, all because of the sake of money. They use Hongkongers’ lives as bets to China while they have made back-up plans for themselves just in case they lose the battle eventually.
The contradictory situation of those lawmakers has triggered protestors who call Hong Kong as their home and are trying their best to protect it at all cost. To have them fear of losing what they have is to take away their foreign citizenships, so that they cannot escape to anywhere but fully support China as they say. Therefore, there are so many online posters, surveys, and petition to the White House on the internet these days, in which one of them was related to the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. The petition had been spreading around on the internet for a while before the president of the United States Donald Trump signed and passed the bill. To wonder how did protestors get him sign it, the credits go to the internet. Protestors have been paying a lot of effort on spreading information online, mainly on Facebook and Twitter which are two of the biggest social platforms in the US, politicians in the US also use Twitter to communicate with citizens, as well as to tweet about their projects. From the two platforms, they get to see the situation in Hong Kong from videos where protestors’ voices were being shut by the police using violence, and they were being arrested for no reason sometimes and being treated in an inhumane way. And that, having the bill passed has become one of the motivations for protestors to keep fighting what they believe and it has brought them light and hope.
Besides from spreading information out of Hong Kong, what is passed online within Hong Kong can be quite dangerous, too. The reason why people who were not at the scene knew about what happened at a specific protest or area is because the photos and videos uploaded on social media, from different news agencies, protestors themselves or just passerby. Even though it is one of the ways to let more people know about what is truly going on in the city, there is no way we can tell if that is the truth or it is all an act, either way, it has upset and provoked so many people after seeing those violent graphics, and that has led the situation more and more extreme in which causing more violence from both the police and the protestors. Let alone the rumours and incidents that have not been revealed or some have been trying to hide them, either it is the police or the protestors; the internet gets to show everything, yet, to confuse everything.
If the internet did not exist, all of the recent social movements might not have turned to how it ended up, where a lot of information would have been kept confidential, photos and videos would not have been spread so efficiently, meaning that citizens would not have known so much about the political world. Even though there were wars ages ago, things would not escalate as quick as now, as people needed way more time to communicate with others, especially with people across the world where they needed to go in person or to send a letter. However, it is inevitable to the existence of the internet these days where all countries keep improving and developing in all kinds of ways in which technology is one of the most important conditions.
All in all, the internet has played a huge role in today’s political movements. The internet leads the direction of people to where to go and what to do, and most importantly – what to see. It has dominated people’s mind in the society. It is like the leader of a group of masterminds. To gather many people in the same place, the internet is the only way to make it happen so efficiently. Other than a leader, it is also a helping hand for people to help achieve goals, as far as to reaching the White House to make a change of the current situation in Hong Kong. It gives people power to handle issues in their own hands instead of just relaying on the government. Without the internet, none of the mentioned issues could have been done; and that, the internet more or less decides where to take people to in the society.