Hong Kong has been gripped by protests for over half the year, and with just a few days left before the new year dawns, it’s hard to find any sign that anything is going to change any time soon. Young people and students remain at the forefront of this wave of activism. Early this month Chief Executive Carrie Lam expressed concern about students and teachers taking part in the protests. Around 2,400 students from 300 secondary schools have been arrested. That represents roughly 40% of the total. Teachers also figure prominently among the arrested and the Education Bureau is taking a tough stance. With me is Ip Kin-yuen, the legislator representing the education constituency and Vice-president of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union. We did invite pro-China lawmakers to join our discussion but they declined.
As 2019 comes to close the police have arrested over 6,100 people and remanded over 1,600 in connection with the ongoing protests. Just 17% or so of those arrested have been charged. According to official figures, as of the end of September, Hong Kong’s prisons contained 5,739 inmates. So, given the size of the prison population and the potential for it to swelled as a result of this large number of arrests there’s a very real possibility of a severe strain on Hong Kong's correctional services. More than six months of protests in Hong Kong has had consequences that stretch far beyond the demonstrations themselves. For example, there’s been an upsurge in all kinds of civil society activities, changes in spending behaviour, altered relationships within families and between friends, increasing distrust of law enforcement, and greater pressures on both the judiciary and the notion of “One Country, Two Systems”.