Demeaning comments and threats of violence have grown disturbingly commonplace for female demonstrators.
The internet has always been a breeding ground for sexual harassment, and in Hong Kong, this is being utilized to silence democracy.
For the past 40 days, Hong Kong has been in turmoil. What began as an outcry against the controversial extradition bill has turned into a wider pro-democracy demonstration against the Beijing government’s authoritarian presence in the semi-autonomous region. The protesters have faced rubber bullets, brutal beatings by police, and recently, a wave of sexist attacks have come to the fore.
Women of the pro-democracy movement are coming forward with stories of how they’re targeted and harassed online, from doctored photos to rape threats. Female journalists covering the conflict, from both inside and outside of the country, have also come forward, detailing threatening and profane messages sent to their personal accounts. The Australian based journalist and stand-up comic Vicky Xiuzhong Xu Agence France-Presse her Twitter account had been swamped with abuse. “The insults that were towards me they were a really weird combination of nasty nationalism, sexism, and racism,” she said. “I felt physically sick.”
Another woman told AFP they’ve stopped posting content online because of the harassment, while others have noted that the intensifying online abuse has coincided with an increase of “hardline rhetoric” against the protests from Beijing.
Demeaning and threatening women have been silencing tactics throughout the demonstrations. On August 28, over 30,000 people joined the #ProtestToo rally, against the alleged abuse by Hong Kong’s police force on the protesters. In a press statement, the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women condemned police’s “unnecessary force and deprived the parties of their physical autonomy” after an alleged incident where officers outside the in Shui Wai Police Station violently pulled off female activists’ clothes and assaulted them. The campaign group called for more female police officers to be present during arrests, as a way to halt the rise in sexist threats and violence.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced on Wednesday that the extradition bill is to be scrapped, admitting the only way to mend the tear left in the city’s social fabric is through addressing the issues the month-long conflict has surfaced. Let’s hope the treatment of women is one of them.