Talking Points: Do public protests have any effect on what actions a government then takes?

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Protesters march from Causeway Bay to the Central Government Offices in Tamar against the extradition bill on June 16, 2019.

Yes, I think so. Although protests can be quite dangerous at times and may not always be successful in the end, it is a way for citizens to let their voices be heard. Even if protesters don’t get the results they want, they are at least able to tell the government their thoughts and help them see issues from the citizen’s point of view.

Yoonjung Choi, 14, Hong Kong International School

Yes, they do. If the majority of Hong Kong’s citizens protest against a decision the government has made, that means they are unhappy. I think in this situation the government would at least stop to reconsider the action they planned to take.

Otherwise, the Hong Kong people will just continue to protest until the government changes their mind. I think the government should allow citizens to voice their opinions and respect their freedom of expression.

Tiffany Li, 13, Stamford American International School

It depends on the level of the protest’s power. If the protest is strong and a lot of people join in, this could cause the government to rethink their decision or change their course of action. However, if the protest is weak, and their demands are unreasonable, the government is unlikely to be affected. But it is possible for public protests to influence government action.

Wilson Yin, 16, Fung Kai No 1 Secondary School

The effect public protests have on government action depends on the current government’s level of tolerance and open-mindedness.

The US Suffrage Parade in 1913, when 5,000 marched in the streets of Washington to push for women’s right to vote, is an example of how the courage of people can influence the actions of a nation. News of the movement spread throughout the country, and finally, under constant pressure from the people, the US government passed the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote.

On the other hand, some governments give little regard to the opinion of the people, such as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and suppressed the protest with force.

Over the past couple of weeks, more than a million Hongkongers banded together on the streets of Central which led to the Chief Executive suspending the Extradition Bill, and she even issued an official apology to the people, which was never heard of before in her career.

Kiley Chen, 14, Chinese International School

Public protests have a huge effect on what action a government takes. I believe the government should do all it can to satisfy its people, well, the majority. Otherwise people will lose their faith in their government, and that would be a huge problem. If a government and its people don’t get along, this would be terrible for a country.

Marco Ng, 16, Fung Kai No 1 Secondary School

Of course, they have some effect to a certain extent. Public protests raise concern over government action, which means a lot of eyes are on them to do the best for their people. The government may need to change their plans to carry out certain actions in order to appease their people and prevent them from rioting.

Lily Tsang, 17, Fung Kai No 1 Secondary School

No, once the government announces a new policy, there is little chance of them scrapping it. I believe the government really considers whether a policy is good for their people. Many people said the extradition bill is going to be bad for Hongkongers, and a lot of them have marched to protest the new law. However, I do not think it will do much. It’s Hong Kong government’s job to do what’s best for the city and its people, so I don’t think we need to worry. When a policy is set, I think it is useless for people to protest.

Eric Leung 17, Fung Kai No 1 Secondary School

Sometimes yes. A public protest is a kind of way for people to express their own feelings.

The reason they protest is usually because they want the government to change their actions. If the people protesting have reasonable demands and concrete ideas, I believe the government will consider their suggestions, and possibly make some changes based on the people’s opinion. I believe the government would happily accept constructive suggestions. The government exists to address the needs of its people, which is why I think public protests would have an effect on what actions the government takes.

Burt Zheng, 17, Fung Kai No 1 Secondary School

Of course. Public protests can affect cities and people in many ways. Not only do they affect people living in the city, but tourists might also choose not travel to Hong Kong for safety reasons, which is bad for our tourism development. It might also affects the appearance and reputation of Hong Kong for outsiders. Moreover, recent protests in Hong Kong have occupied roads on a large scale, hindered traffic, hindered the commuting of citizens, so the strike affects Hong Kong’s operation to a great extent. For these reasons, I think public protests would have the power to influence government actions.

Nicole Sze, 16, Fung Kai No 1 Secondary School

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

In our next Talking Points, we’ll discuss:

Is facial recognition technology an invasion of privacy or not?

We are now accepting your answers for this topic. To take part, email your answer with your name, age, and school, along with a nice, clear selfie (make sure it’s not blurry), to [email protected] by lunchtime on Monday. Don’t forget to include “Talking Points” in the subject line.

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