Inside the Hong Kong Uprising

Published on
October 3rd, 2019
59 minutes

Inside the Hong Kong Uprising

The Interview ·
Featuring Joseph Yu Shek Cheng

Published on: October 3rd, 2019 • Duration: 59 minutes

What's really driving the unrest in Hong Kong? Retired professor Joseph Cheng, a senior figure in the Hong Kong Democracy movement, unpacks the rising tide of frustration behind the headlines. Cheng explains the root causes of the democracy protests — focusing on the economic despair and diminishing political voice in Hong Kong since the Handover in 1997, when China assumed control of the region from the United Kingdom. Cheng then looks ahead to the future to explain the range of likely outcomes in the months and years to come. Filmed on September 15, 2019 in Hong Kong.



  • NA
    N A.
    20 December 2019 @ 04:04
    With all due respect, I don't understand the logic of saying the HK (!) government, at the behest of HK (!) tycoons has limited land supply and caused a housing crisis, and then conclude this is the fault of China. HK has serious problems; education is abysmal, housing is unaffordable, the gap between rich and poor makes America look communist etc etc. But this is a direct result of HK government policies driven by its tycoons not China. Of course China is meddling in HK affairs because for all intents and purposes HK is China (every other conclusion is naive) but they never told HK to stop educating its population and make housing unaffordable for the masses for the benefit of a few families. If I was an HK resident I would lynch the tycoons, ask them to give back to the riches they stole and are now not even reinvesting in HK but abroad. Instead protesters are requesting more independence from China when this has nothing to do with the root cause of their problems (and certainly wouldn't fix them). Then they also want democracy which they've never had and by no geopolitical stretch of the imagination would ever be granted to them. Meanwhile mainlanders keep looking at HK with contempt as spoiled brats that are lazy and entitled, so contrary to Western media they are getting no love from them and certainly no country would ever come to their rescue (UK didn't even give Hong Kongers citizenship when they left). On top of all of this many companies in HK actually prefer to hire mainlanders, they are more driven, often cheaper, work harder, understand the mainland in terms of language and culture which is in the end the only relevant market for any HK enterprise. All this taken together means that Hong Kongers are really a bunch of unlucky souls but they are not helping themselves with their misdirected anger and belief of some fairy tale democratic resolution when in fact it has been their own 1% who has sold them down the river. If they truly would "want to be left alone" then they should leave HK.
  • RD
    Rahul D.
    16 October 2019 @ 23:04
    A big big thumbs down to the interviewer Sunil Beri. - he kept obsessing with numbers in the beginning. Seems to have OCD and wanted to tick all the boxes - Kept interrupting the Prof in the middle of the conversation - Just did not appreciate the colour that the Prof was trying to explain - Did Beri insult the prof at the end saying we have learnt nothing? Pls do not get Beri back. Such a disappointment as an interviewer and completely disregards the experience and perspective of Prof Cheng
  • LH
    Lik H.
    10 October 2019 @ 01:43
    Agree on most of the pointers shared by the Prof Cheng. There are 2 key points that I would like to call out - (1) Post 1997, the first Chief Executive has a plan to build public housing (similar to the Singapore model) in bringing affordable housing to the population, but this was badly received with massive protest. And under the current Chief Executive - there was an independent commission setup led by a credible groups tasked to identify lands that can be acquired to build more public housing or sold to private developers - And again, there is massive objection. Hence, majority of the people endure the pain of high property cost and not able to buy their own home - but they object to these measures, what are the reasons ? (2) Agree that China and the current administration should do a better job in the extradition law - and also be opened on the society needs on universal suffrage. However, it'll be good to provide the background of why the extradition law comes about - which was originated from a HK couple traveled to Taiwan, where the man has murdered his girlfriend but since the crime is not committed in HK, he can't be charged accordingly. Nonetheless, due to the gradually lower trust between HK people and China - the law itself has led to much speculation and massive objection, and specific to that, it is the China gov and the current administration to be blamed.
  • pw
    protima w.
    8 October 2019 @ 21:13
    The monotonous voices of both interviewer and the one being interviewed are soporific. They both need to relax and enjoy the moment.
  • YF
    Yuriy F.
    4 October 2019 @ 12:48
    I am risking to express super unpopular take on situation in HG, but... Resemblance between HG social unrest taking place now and 2014 "revolution" in Ukraine is amaizing. Particularly: 1. Both these revolutions, were started with minor clashes between "young students" and police. 2. In a matter of weeks, number of protesters has grown exponentially. 3. Western pro-democratic media went ballistic on Russia ...pardon China. 4. Soon enough law enforcement forces were portraied as "brutal animals". I cannot comment on situation in HG as my only source of information is media and I haven't been there. But as opposed to widespread opinion about so called rights movement in Ukraine, reality their was very much different: 1. Protesters looked as if they were representing entire Ukraine population. In fact, however, many people, that were against, that revolution, have never received any attention from media. 2. Overthrow of legitimate government, that followed 4 months of turmoil was orchestrated end-to-end. I acknowledge the fact, that Ukraine and HG situations are very different. However, after whitnessing so called "freedom movement" driven by complete ignorence of politically uneducated people, I tend to look at all massive protests with a huge grain of salt. At the very least, I don't belive, that it's true driving factor is human rights only.
    • SB
      Stephen B.
      5 October 2019 @ 01:42
      You are not alone in that view. Tom Luongo has been suggesting that since the beginning. Looks distinctly plausible to me. Having said that, they were successful in creating trouble in the Ukraine and they may succeed in HK too.
    • DR
      David R.
      5 October 2019 @ 20:38
      Of course. It's a 100% CIA-sponsored, organized and paid Color Revolution. This is completely proven beyond a shred of doubt across Asian media with photographic evidence and so on.
    • GW
      Geoff W.
      6 October 2019 @ 10:18
      The vast majority of the Hong Kong people support the demands of the protestors - in particular withdraw the bill and an independent inquiry into police brutality. So there is representation of the people in HK's case
  • RK
    Roger K.
    4 October 2019 @ 19:18
    Wonder how could he give an independent account of the events while he is still living in Hong Kong ?
    • GW
      Geoff W.
      6 October 2019 @ 10:15
      Being on the ground often helps give you an independent account of the events. That's why we have foreign correspondents!
  • WS
    William S.
    6 October 2019 @ 03:48
    Great interview detailing the under the hood issues. Immensely better than the shallow news coverage to date.
  • PB
    Pieter B.
    5 October 2019 @ 08:42
    This was a very thorough explanation on the Hong Kong situation. Great conversation! Thanks for your input!
  • PD
    Pat D.
    3 October 2019 @ 23:40
    I always read the comments before viewing, and look at the ratings after viewing. I loved the comments and the interview. However, I cannot understand how this piece got 20 percent "Thumbs Down". I have tried to rationalise by conjuring up opposing (accommodating) viewpoints, but I still can only come up with the 'whack' idea that the CCP have purchased a whole lot of RV subscriptions
    • RB
      Rushil B.
      4 October 2019 @ 00:12
      You're right its the CCP. And now you're on their shitlist!
    • RB
      Rushil B.
      4 October 2019 @ 00:13
      I'm joking about the last post. In case you're curious about China, see the new book
    • NP
      Nick P.
      4 October 2019 @ 00:40
      I enjoyed the video; however, as I've lived in HK and done business there for decades, there was nothing incredibly insightful or new. In fact if you listen carefully, Joseph continually contradicts himself. I'm sure he is suffering from cognitive dissonance. Joseph says: "For the vast, vast majority of Hong Kong people and even the young protesters, they do not desire the overthrow of the Chinese Communist regime in Beijing nor the Hong Kong government in Hong Kong. They just want democratization. They want their right to protest. To put it in very simple terms, the bulk of the Hong Kong population simply want to be left alone." Bizarre comment considering there will be no democracy in HK without overthrowing the local HK government (CCP) puppets. In the end, Joseph wants the status quo because he will personally benefit from it. Any revolution will not be beneficial to him. The young HK protestors aren't just fighting the CCP, but also the older local HKer's just like Joseph who wish to be "left alone".
    • WC
      Wilson C.
      4 October 2019 @ 08:57
      Tokyo T, agree with you Joseph's put some of his democracy beliefs/views into the interview but overall I think it's a good interview. There is dissonance in HK society, we're not against China, then trampling on China's flag and Xi Jinping's photos. HK has always been about making money, I don't think that mentality has changed (since I've been here). What's changed is young people's belief that they can make it, and right or wrong they blame the govt and vent on China.
    • DS
      David S.
      4 October 2019 @ 17:42
      In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort experienced by a person who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. This discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a person's belief clashes with new evidence perceived by the person.... I believe Mr. Cheng knows what he would like to see happen. DLS
    • DS
      David S.
      4 October 2019 @ 18:04
      If I lived and/or worked in Hong Kong I would want to keep the status quo also. I believe that Mr. Cheng is being honest and certainly do not believe that he is self serving. The probability is high that Hong Kong will be reabsorbed fully into mainland China at some point. Even under British rule it was still part of mainland China. A citizen of Hong Kong should look to the future. Either they emigrate or try to reestablish Hong Kong greatness within mainland China. It is not a matter of being fair or unfair, it just is. The more Hong Kong is destroyed now the harder it will be to rebuild. The wealthiest citizens in Hong Kong have the most to lose. Of course they all have their bolt hole ready. I say this merely as a student of history. DLS
  • VL
    Vincent L.
    4 October 2019 @ 11:23
    The Civic Party, Joseph's party, is a now spent force in Hong Kong politics that only got 200,000 votes in the last election, versus the pro-Beijing DAB party (360,000 votes) in 2015. Their general incompetence, along with the other pro-democracy parties, is one of the main reasons for ordinary Hong Konger's plight. I used to always vote for the Democratic party, the party of Martin Lee, the father of HK democracy, but even they have lost their way. It's conveniently ignored that the first chief executive (Tung Chee-hwa), who was brought down by the article 23 security law saga, was, with hindsight, a wise technocrat. He pledged to build 80,000 govt flats, diversify HK away from finance to tech (i.e. turn the city into Shenzhen) and solve the old-age poverty problem. Adjusted for population size, that's like building 600-700,000 houses in Britain, where I currently reside because life in my old hometown (HK) sucks as a middle-class office worker. The pro-democracy parties, with the backing of the HK real-estate oligarchs and USA's NED, just stifled any progress. Housing, dependence on finance and poverty problems have only gotten worse. People will say Tung was a tad corrupt, yeah, but so are Trump, Boris Johnson, May, Sarkozy, etc. The pro-democracy camp, who have proven to be corrupt, like their pro-Beijing counterparts, and intransigent, preferred to just confront the local govt and Beijing over widening the electoral franchise for the sake it, whilst ignoring ordinary livelihood issues. There were even Civic and Democratic party members encouraging violence over the past few months. Their incompetence allowed the emergence of basically Hong Kong's very own fascist localist parties. Aside from imbeciles like Joshua Wong, who truly are unpopular in HK, you have people like Edward Leung, born in mainland China to a mainland Chinese mother, behaving like France's Jean Le-Pen (the fascist Front National). I mean what the hell? The majority of HK's population are second/ third generation mainland Chinese. I'm so glad I left HK 4 years ago; I fear it's going to be like Argentina, which too was once a very successful country, before it succumb to continuous poor policy decisions. I genuinely fear 1960s style martial law, like under the British, where a lot of civil liberties were suspended in Hong Kong, and it loses its status as a money-laundering/ hot money centre of Asia, its remaining comparative advantage.
    • WC
      Wilson C.
      4 October 2019 @ 17:10
      Vincent, For someone who no longer lives in HK, you pretty much hit the nail on the head. only media like to cover joshua wong, edward leung, claudia mo etc, most HK'ers ignore them as publicity wh*res. Pan-dems are a lost cause, always the opposition but no solution. HK could have step by step moved towards electing our CE, but they keep blocking it on principe of BJ vetting the candidate list. How is this different from Dems and Reps choosing one candidate for presidency? There must be certain criteria for candidates. Yeah, Tung Chee Hwa was (in hindsight) the best CE to date. It's all been downhill since.
  • SS
    Simeon S.
    4 October 2019 @ 16:45
    The problems described are not proper to HK young generation. HK physical and dense demographics are exacerbating the problems potentially. But really, in 2019 you cannot expect to spend your life where you were born/educated... you have to be ready to go to other cities and countries. I think Europe managed this somewhat well with the Erasmus program. Americans are anyway used to moving to follow the jobs.
  • DS
    David S.
    3 October 2019 @ 18:59
    Many of the Hong Kong elite have emigrated or are prepared to emigrate to other countries. Are any of the regular citizens of Hong Kong, who cannot afford to emigrate to other countries, emigrating to China for economic reasons? Or will they fight with the strong probability that Hong Kong will become part of China within their lifetimes. It seems like an impossible choice. DLS
    • WC
      Wilson C.
      4 October 2019 @ 08:50
      IMHO, HK had the ear and (some) trust with China's leadership. We could have lead the way in showing how people's voice/some form of democracy would work within the 1 country, 2 system (1C2S). In some sense, it is no different than today where China's government is Communist, yet the people/business is mercantilist (chinese have been traders/business for centuries). This is what I see/experience when traveling around China. Unfortunately the path we are now on, of holding status quo, likely means China will look towards Macau or Shenzhen to lead. And no, the wave of HK'ers who emigrate to China happened years ago, now it's still happening but the local HK education system (not international schools) still don't teach mandarin and english languages well, which limits most HK'ers job mobility. International school kids speak perfect english and passable mandarin incl. reading/writing simplified chinese, local school is cantonese/traditional chinese writing.
    • DR
      David R.
      4 October 2019 @ 16:04
      @Wilson C .... If I may expand on your response, having lived in HK in the 90's before & after the handover, I found langauge to be a major grievance, that rarely gets reported in western MSM (to them it's all about demanding democracy, lol). Ironically, about forty years ago, Carrie Lam was a young protesting activist (which was much more dangerous under the UK dictatorship of HK than it is today), who was demanding HK schools replace English with Cantonese instruction. They were crushed and beaten, but eventually got their way - probably not for the best as you explained. Maybe history will repeat?
  • ZY
    ZHENG Y.
    4 October 2019 @ 01:14
    I have a bit confused, HK knew they can’t have independent, but they want left alone? And compare to Singapore which is even worst, Singapore have democracy image, but not in reality yet. It is the man-in-power make better choices along the way. I believe democracy did apply to some culture and country, but not all. Chinese is mostly incentive driven culture since last 20-30yrs, ideology driven just don’t feed the belly. There is no doubt the protest is not a protest now, both side started to act differently. The point suggest no guard on the building is purposely doing so but not agree the other side suggest there is West influence? In the end, people are bias, I am bias, you are too.
    • IZ
      Ignacio Z.
      4 October 2019 @ 01:23
      Sir, it's a lot simpler than what you propose; it's about economic freedom..... Please take a look at: - it will help you to understand that economic freedom = prosperity.
    • ZY
      Zheng Y.
      4 October 2019 @ 09:17
    • ZY
      Zheng Y.
      4 October 2019 @ 09:26
      Fundamentally, it is duel of differnt elit group of communist party, while HK is just a platfrom mixed with Young Man's hope for freedom.
  • ZY
    Zheng Y.
    4 October 2019 @ 09:23
    It is Xi vs the other communist elite group, HK people as third party find the way to release and express
  • SB
    Sean B.
    3 October 2019 @ 23:08
    That was outstanding. Very informative
  • TS
    Taranvir S.
    3 October 2019 @ 12:35
    Watch this to get a better understanding about the wealth and income inequality situation in HK:
    • PD
      Pat D.
      3 October 2019 @ 22:13
      @Tranvir S - Thanks for sharing that link. Enlightening!
  • WC
    Wilson C.
    3 October 2019 @ 17:23
    this is the most balanced and pretty spot on analysis of the situation (speaking as a person living here since mid-90's). The 1st video of the series "Tiananmen to HK: Fight for Democracy" was IMHO, a fluffy propaganda piece, this one has real substance.
    • DR
      David R.
      3 October 2019 @ 17:39
      Wilson, good comment. I also worked & lived in HK in the 90s before & after the handover, and I agree that the first video in this RV series was a pure propaganda piece. So I was going to pass on this one, but based on your comment, I've decided to give it a chance and watch despite the interviewee being an academic from the tainted HKU. Thanks for commenting.
    • DS
      David S.
      3 October 2019 @ 18:49
      A well developed, rationally presentation. Unfortunately, China's need to include Hong Kong as a regular part of China is emotional. I do not think that the real problems discussed in the presentation have any effect on the Chinese government's plans. DLS
  • VS
    Victor S. | Contributor
    3 October 2019 @ 18:07
    Great interview -thank you -very educational indeed.
  • PM
    Paul M.
    3 October 2019 @ 16:05
    Very helpful. Balanced. Kudos to the interviewer. Thank you,
  • TB
    Tim B.
    3 October 2019 @ 16:04
    I knew RV could do it! That was a top class interviewee. Just outstanding. Kudos!
  • Nv
    Nick v.
    3 October 2019 @ 13:00
    Brilliant. Thanks for a high caliber interview