Dharamshala: - Since September thousands of pro-democracy activists have called for a full democracy in Hong Kong and Tibetans and Tibet supporters across the world have shown support by attending many rallies, including in New York, London and Dharamshala.
Following failed talks with government officials on October21, student leader Alex Chow said, "The Hong Kong government can now decide whether to be democratic heroes or historical villains, I believe every Hong Kong citizen is waiting to see."
The campaigns manager for the non-governmental organisation Free Tibet said in October, "Tibet supporters stand in solidarity with pro-democracy campaigners everywhere and hope that events in Hong Kong will help the Chinese government to learn that protest is an opportunity for change rather than a threat."
When asked whether the Chinese government's policy of assimilation may have strengthened local identities in places like Tibet and Hong Kong, Truda Chow, a local resident in Hong Kong told TPI, "I believe wherever people are, there is generally a sense of local identity that is strong regardless of political situation. With that said,any time there is an attempt by government to exert powers or enforce ideas that people are unfamiliar or unaccustomed to, there will be a level of discomfort that will cause them to retreat to what they know best. This will be their local identity. This appears to be the case in both Tibet and Hong Kong so far."
Hong Kong has been granted far more political freedom than regions elsewhere in China and it has been governed with a different political system, under the principle of "one country, two systems", but they remain under the power of the Chinese Communist Party government in Beijing.
Although there are few similarities between the situation in Hong Kong and the struggle faced by Tibet there is a risk that if Beijing continues to strengthen it's control over Hong Kong it could lead to a situation similar to Tibet's in the future. "I think there has always been a risk with the 1997 return of Hong Kong to China that China would take full control of Hong Kong. I'm personally finding it hard to predict which way China will go. I can see why they would take more complete control and I could see why they would leave Hong Kong more autonomous. There is more than 30 years remaining before Hong Kong loses it's "Special Administrative Region" status so much can happen from now until then," said Ms Chow.
Protests began at the end of September in response to Beijing's proposal that the 2017 elections for the leader of the city's government, the Chief Executive, would allow residents a direct vote but involve a screening process that removes candidates deemed unsuitable for the position by Beijing.
The pro-democracy movement earned the name "Umbrella Revolution" after activists used umbrellas to protect themselves from police tear gas and pepper spray.Ms Chow told TPI that protests have been "extremely peaceful" with only "minor incidents" caused by "large crowds gathering".
Since protests began there has been speculation that Chinese authorities will not be willing to accept student demands due to fear that it would create a domino effect, leading to regions such as Tibet to demand autonomy and democracy in its domestic affairs.
Ms Chow had doubts that a domino effect would be the result and feels that change to one region will not lead to change in another, "The strategic value to China of each region is so different that I think China could take different approaches in each. Hong Kong is a financial centre for Asia and often considered by the West as a gateway to the region. Tibet and Xinjiang offer different economic benefits to China including land and natural resources. While people in Tibet and Xinjiang can argue that giving democracy to one requires democracy for all, China can choose to exert its powers however it wishes."
In a statement on their website, the Tibetan Youth Association of Europe marked the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China by expressing their "solidarity" with the people of Hong Kong, "The futures of Tibetans, Uighurs, and Taiwanese are inextricably linked to Hong Kong. We stand in solidarity with Hong Kong alongside with other Tibetan Support Groups all over the world and call the international community to support the implementation of real freedom, human rights and democracy for all those currently living under the Chinese Communist Party's regime."