Like many Hong Kongers, Candy Kwok is anxious, and it is not just because she fears the government might use more force against her and other protesters who have flooded the financial hub’s streets in the past few weeks.
A single mom, Kwok worries about her 12-year-old daughter’s future in a territory where home prices have surged 170 percent in a decade and the wealth gap keeps widening.
She thinks living standards are dropping and that migrants from mainland China are siphoning resources from long-time residents.
Her concerns underscore the challenges facing Hong Kong’s government and its backers in Beijing as they try to quell the former British colony’s worst political crisis since the 1997 handover. While the demonstrations began as a fight over a proposed extradition bill, they have morphed into an expression of deeper anxieties that have might linger indefinitely.
Below are profiles of Kwok and two other Hong Kong residents: K.T. Li, an unemployed 23-year-old, and Andrew Au, a 66-year-old retiree. While they have different views on the protests, they are united in feelings of despair over Hong Kong’s long-term future.
On a recent Sunday morning, Kwok rode a bike to church on Lantau Island. Dressed in a white polka-dot dress and a straw hat, the Web designer cheerfully greeted fellow worshippers but steered clear of politics.
Her congregation includes people who have been protesting and members of the police force, so it is important to be considerate, she said.
After church came the most important part of the day: marching with her daughter and thousands of other people in the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district to protest the bill, which would allow extraditions to jurisdictions including China.
HER CHILD’S FUTURE
The demonstrators’ ire intensified after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) said the bill was “dead,” but not formally withdrawn.
Kwok’s daughter marched quietly, looking at her cellphone only a few times and asking to go home near the end because she was tired.
The 12-year-old can knowledgeably debate the implications of allowing extraditions to China and says the protests are intended to ensure that her generation has a future.
Kwok, meanwhile, has become an active member of a group called “Housewives from Hong Kong, Kowloon, New Territories and the Outlying Islands who oppose extradition to China.”
The group collected more than 6,000 petitions against the bill last month, and members march together and share information on Facebook.
“Mostly it’s for my daughter. I don’t want to leave behind a worse society for the children,” she said.
Kwok worries that young people could struggle to buy their own homes because of skyrocketing prices, and she fears that an influx of people moving in from the mainland takes vital resources away from Hong Kong natives.
More than 1 million people from China migrated to Hong Kong between 1997 and last year, and these new immigrants now represent about 14 percent of the territory’s population, government data showed.
“There is a lot of unfairness in society, that’s why the protests can sustain. This anti-extradition law protest is just a trigger point,” Kwok, 40, said in her apartment in a public housing estate.
Kwok has memories of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing, when the Chinese army retaliated against student protesters.