Five months after Hong Kong citizens first took to the streets to protest an extradition bill proposed by the government of mainland China, they show little sign of giving up. If anything, what began as a peaceful movement in support of civil liberties has transformed into a larger, sustained campaign against Chinese oppression. Accordingly, clashes between protestors and law enforcement have grown more frequent and more violent, as demonstrators try to defend themselves against tear gas, rubber bullets, and live rounds. Hundreds of activists trapped inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University found themselves under siege by police using water cannons loaded with skin-burning chemicals. CNN’s James Griffiths has observed that, in contrast to the optimism of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, this year’s protests seem marked by desperation, the sense that this may be Hong Kong’s last chance to freely chart its own future.
Judging from the wave of mass popular protests around the world in 2019, desperation seems to have set in among the people of many countries, including some that have not made international news. In Chile, a hike in public-transit fees sparked demonstrations that forced the government to cancel two major international summits. In Lebanon, a tax on internet calls through services like WhatsApp unleashed the largest anti-government protests in fifteen years. In Ecuador, the elimination of fuel subsidies spurred indigenous-led protests that forced the government to flee the capital city of Quito. In Sudan, women protesting a rise in the price of bread helped ignite a revolution that brought down the government of Omar al-Bashir. The list goes on: Albania, Algeria, Bolivia, Catalonia, Egypt, France, Gaza, Georgia, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Montenegro, the Papua provinces of Indonesia, Puerto Rico, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Russia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe have all seen sustained mass protests this year.