Tear gas is fired by police as protesters attempt to escape the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Nov. 18. Riot police swooped on pro-democracy protesters trying to flee the university after setting it ablaze in one of the most violent confrontations seen in nearly six months of unrest in the Chinese territory. (Photo: AFP)
Returning from a month of fieldwork in Hong Kong and mainland China, I witnessed the intense polarization and growing incapacity to talk about and respond to the difficulties of Hong Kong.
In this autonomous territory of southern China, I heard a lot of residents and foreigners putting the entire blame on Beijing. Many consider that young people are now violent because Beijing does not allow the local government to respond to their demands. In short, Hong Kong people are losing their autonomy because of the Chinese Communist Party.
On the other side of the border, in mainland China, I heard many commoners criticizing the influence of the United States over the former colony. For many, the sudden and brutal social unrest of the territory is necessarily linked to the US-China tensions. Behind Hong Kong protesters who seemed to come out of nowhere, there is necessarily the hand of America.
Those two narratives are dangerous.