The perils of prognostication and lessons of history when it comes to Hong Kong’s protests – Jeffrey Wasserstrom
How long will the large-scale street actions that began to take place regularly in Hong Kong last June continue? And what kind of development is most likely to bring to an end these protests, which were first triggered by an extradition bill but are now in large part calls for the government to rein in and investigate the police?
I was often asked variations on one or both of these questions during the period lasting from early June until early October of 2019 that I spent writing Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink (Columbia Global Reports, February 2020). As the length of the struggle went from days to weeks to months, I grew used to either dodging the questions or providing equivocal answers. I continued to do so during the final weeks of 2019 and the first weeks of 2020 – right up until the main questions people asked me shifted, just before Vigil came out, from being about the protests to about the coronavirus. Whether I refused to make any kind of prediction or made a careful one with all sort of caveats and prevarications, I typically began my response to the two questions by making some or all of the following points: