The false equivalency between the stormings of Hong Kong’s LegCo and the US Capitol

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Why pairing the 2019 incident at Hong Kong’s Legislative Council with Wednesday’s attack on the US Capitol is a misguided comparison.

Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash.

Some clarification is in order in light of commentators from the English and Chinese media drawing parallels between the 2019 storming of HK’s Legislative Council and Wednesday’s insurrection at the US Capitol.

While these incidents may seem strikingly similar at face value, equating what happened in LegCo to the actions of the Trump supporters who broke into the Capitol undermines the underlying complexities of each situation.

There are many differences worth discussing that set the protests in HK and the US apart, but to tackle one major conflation:

Protesting against the US’ political system vs. HK’s

To describe the scenarios at LegCo and the Capitol, as CNN correspondent Will Ripley has done, as both “marginalised” groups standing up to a government that they feel has failed them misses a fundamental difference between the two systems the groups rebelled against.

The havoc at the US Capitol was caused by a group of people who objected to decisions ultimately made through a democratic system (although not perfect, the US is a democracy). In contrast, the perpetrators of the Legislative Council’s breach were pro-democracy advocates acting in dissent against a system controlled by an authoritarian regime.

Wednesday’s event at the US Capitol, in which four people have died, came after President Donald Trump’s repeated false statements regarding the results of the 2020 presidential election, claiming that he had won and was a victim of election fraud. A large number of his supporters organised a protest at the US Capitol in response, which escalated into a riot and breach of the premises in an attempt to delay the affirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win.

On the other hand, the 2019 LegCo raid was a climactic moment that occurred nearly a month after the million-person march that demanded the removal of the anti-extradition law. This peaceful mass protest, along with several other demonstrations that occurred before July, received a response from the government that essentially dismissed their demands. The result of their response was an increase in the wide-spread negative sentiment towards the government, which arguably led to the events of 1 July. The storming of LegCo was violent and controversial, even amongst prominent opposition figures such as Martin Lee, but was part of a pro-democracy movement that stood in defiance of a non-democratic regime.

In response to Ripley’s tweet, Yuen Chan, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Journalism at the City University of London, said his take “doesn’t help those of [his] colleagues in Hong Kong who are trying to cover the city with understanding and nuance.”

Jerome Taylor, Hong Kong/Taiwan/Macau bureau chief for AFP, added that another “big difference is Hong Kong’s protesters stormed the legislature to halt a piece of legislation that was drawn up by their unelected leadership … The Capitol Hill storming was to try and overturn the results of a free and fair election.”

This article has been edited for tone and clarity.

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