In March 2019 the government of Hong Kong proposed a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. In response, the people of Hong Kong took to the streets in record-breaking numbers. On one day, 16 June, up to 2 million people marched peacefully in the streets of Hong Kong.
Protesters are marching through the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong. Many people in Hong Kong feel deep contempt toward the Chinese government, and hope to preserve their freedoms for as long as possible.
The first time I heard about the Hong Kong protest was when my cousin sent a photo of the rally into our family group chat wherein you’ll see a large number of people occupying the road. That time I didn’t give too much attention about it but our relatives keep us posted into what was happening and what their status are. Then they started saying that they can’t go out of their employers house because there have been a lot chaos caused by the protesters and the police.
These rally has been going on for about six months now and while I dive deep into what causes it and why are they risking their lives, I’ve come to understand that they are doing this because they want their freedom back. Seeing these protesters on the street are astonishing. Their dedication to walk right out the comfort of their home to fight for their freedom simply shows that they really care about the future of their motherland. I think these people, most especially the youth are making a great impact on the world since they are showing those people who try to oppress them that they won’t stay silent unless they were given the democracy that they rightfully deserve.
The Conflict between Hong-Kong and Mainland China. Relations between people in Hong-Kong and mainland China have been relatively tense since the early 2000s. Various factors have contributed, including different interpretations of the one country, two systems principle; policies of the Hong Kong and central governments to encourage mainland visitors to Hong Kong; and the changing economic environment. More broadly, there exists resentment toward mainland-Hong Kong convergence or assimilation, and toward perceived interference from mainland China in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China. It’s located on the southern coast and borders the Chinese province of Guangdong.
The British took over Hong Kong in the 1840s during the Opium Wars, and ruled the territory — with the exception of a brief occupation by the Japanese during World War II — for the next century and a half.
The British government, in 1898, signed what was basically a 99-year lease for the territory, set to expire in 1997. As that date started to move closer, both governments tried to work out a deal.
In 1984, after lengthy negotiations, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping signed a Joint Declaration on the future of Hong Kong. Britain agreed to return the territory to China on July 1, 1997, on the promise that China would give Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy for 50 years, until 2047.
Formally, Hong Kong became a “special administration region” of the People’s Republic of China. The deal: China wouldn’t impose its government on Hong Kong, and Hong Kong’s “previous capitalist system and life-styles” would remain unchanged for that 50-year period. The setup became known as the “one country, two systems” rule.
Under this arrangement, Hong Kong could maintain its economic and trade policies, designed to protect Hong Kong’s status as an international financial capital. It gave Hong Kong its own judicial, executive, and legislative powers. And, as Thatcher put it at the time, it “preserves Hong Kong’s familiar legal system and the rights and freedoms enjoyed there.” That included freedom of the press, assembly, and religious beliefs, among other rights.
Despite the Joint Declaration’s guarantee of autonomy, which is also codified in Hong Kong’s Basic Law (the closest thing it has to a constitution), in practice, the line between the two systems has become blurrier, with the Chinese government in Beijing attempting to exert more control.
The autonomy and freedoms that Hong Kong is supposed to enjoy have come under attack in recent years. In 2017, President Xi Jinping warned that any attempt in Hong Kong to endanger China’s “national sovereignty and security” or to challenge the power of the Central Government crossed a “red line” and should be dealt with harshly.
Chinese authorities have a very broad interpretation of what constitutes a threat to sovereignty and national security. Peaceful criticism, journalism and activism are regularly punished harshly in mainland China.
Hong Kong’s Basic Law. The “one country, two systems” principle is enshrined in a document called the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini constitution. That came into effect on 1 July 1997, the day British rule ended and the territory was returned to China. That agreement is only valid for 50 years.
Basic Law protects rights such as freedom of assembly and freedom of speech – neither of which exist in mainland China – and also sets out the structure of governance for the territory. Hong Kong is ruled by a chief executive with support from a formal body of advisors, called the Executive Council.
The chief executive is responsible for implementing the Basic Law, signing bills and budgets, promulgating laws – declaring them as in effect – and issuing executive orders. It also has a two-tiered semi-representative system of government: the law-making Legislative Council and district councils, as well as an independent judiciary.
The chief executive is elected by an Election Committee of 1,200 people, who are in turn chosen by representatives of various sectors in Hong Kong – who only make up 6% of the electorate. The chief executive must be formally appointed to the role by the central Chinese government. The Basic Law states that the “ultimate aim” is for the chief executive to be selected by “universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee”. This means that many in Hong Kong feel they were promised a level of democracy that has not been delivered.
Hong-Kong protest. The 2019 Hong Kong protests, also known as the Anti–Extradition Law Amendment Bill (Anti-ELAB) movement, are an ongoing series of demonstrations in Hong Kong triggered by the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill by the Hong Kong government. If enacted, the bill would have allowed the extradition of criminal fugitives who are wanted in territories with which Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements, including Taiwan and mainland China. This led to concerns that the bill would subject Hong Kong residents and visitors to the jurisdiction and legal system of mainland China, which would undermine the region’s autonomy and Hong Kong people’s civil liberties. As the protests progressed, the protesters laid out five key demands, which were the withdrawal of the bill, investigation into alleged police brutality and misconduct, the release of arrested protesters, a complete retraction of the official characterization of the protests as “riots”, and Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s resignation along with the introduction of universal suffrage for election of the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive.
Despite the demonstration with hundreds of thousands of people – perhaps even more than 1 million on 9 June, the government proceeded with the bill. Protesters gathered outside the Legislative Council Complex to stall the bill’s second reading on 12 June, which resulted in an intense standoff between the protesters and the police, who have deployed tear gas and rubber bullets. An even bigger march took place on 16 June, just one day after the suspension of the bill, as protesters insisted on the complete withdrawal of the bill and reacted to alleged excessive use of force by the police on 12 June. The anniversary of the handover on 1 July marked the storming of the LegCo Complex which was largely viewed as a watershed moment for the protest. Subsequent protests throughout the summer spread to different districts, and there were confrontations involving the police, activists on both sides, suspected triad gangs, and local residents. The police’s inaction when suspected triad members assaulted protesters and commuters in Yuen Long on 21 July and the storming of Prince Edward station on 31 August further escalated the protests.
Lam suspended the extradition bill on 15 June and declared the bill “dead” on 9 July, but refused to withdraw it until 4 September. The bill was finally withdrawn on 23 October, but the government refused to concede on the other four demands. Large-scale demonstrations occurred on 1 October (National Day), the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, when an 18-year-old student protester was shot whilst attempting to hit a police officer with a rod. Claiming to curb further protests, Lam invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance on 4 October to implement an anti-mask law, to counterproductive effect. As the protests dragged on, confrontations escalated as both sides became increasingly violent. The number of police brutality and misconduct allegations increased, with Amnesty International accusing the Force of torturing some detainees. Some protesters have escalated their use of radical methods such as throwing petrol bombs to confront the police. Rifts within the society widened as activists from both sides have assaulted each other. Hardcore protesters conducted vigilante attacks against perceived opponents, including supposed pro-Beijing entities being vandalized, and a man set on fire after arguing with protesters. The deaths of students Chan Yin-lam and Alex Chow, as well as a policeman shooting an unarmed 21-year-old student protester, further intensified the protests. The protesters have also occupied university campuses and blocked the nearby traffic. The police reacted by besieging the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) which resulted in a large number of injuries and arrests.
The government and the police have received the lowest approval ratings since the 1997 handover in public opinion polls. Their performance partly resulted in the unprecedented landslide victory of the pro-democratic bloc in the District Council election, which was widely viewed as a de facto referendum on the protest movement. The Central People’s Government has charcterised the protests as the “worst crisis in Hong Kong” since the handover in 1997. The protests have been largely described as “leaderless”, though the government in Beijing alleged that foreign powers were instigating the conflict. Counter-protesters have held several pro-police rallies. The United States passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on 27 November to support the protest movement. Solidarity rallies were held in dozens of cities abroad. Since the protest movement began in June, it has resulted in two deaths — a man struck in the head by a brick allegedly thrown at him by a protester during a civil confrontation in Sheung Shui, and a student protester falling inside a parking lot and several suicide cases.
Christian groups in Hong-Kong protest. Officials in mainland China have long linked Christian churches and nongovernmental organizations to foreign influence, and they remain wary of any possibility of “color revolution,” a term that refers to a number of movements that developed in several countries of the former Soviet Union and in the Balkans during the early 2000s, fomenting regime change. In recent weeks, the Chinese government has intensified rhetoric against Christian churches in Hong Kong, portraying them as part of the “foreign hostile forces” that seek to create political unrest aimed at bringing down China’s one-party rule.
It makes sense that many Christians would be sympathetic to the protesters, given the Chinese Communist Party’s history. Mao Zedong wanted to eradicate religion. Christians got some respite from Deng Xiaoping, who ruled from 1978-92 and allowed religious practice, albeit under heavy control. But a new crackdown began when Xi Jinping assumed office in 2013. The government has imprisoned pastors, torn down churches, and in some cases replaced images of Jesus with portraits of Mr. Xi.
I feel sorry for those Chinese Christians that were taken their church away from them. As a person who is born in a Christian nation, I can’t imagine life without the church. And so does many Christians who is participating in the protest. I understand that the people of Hong-Kong are afraid that one day their faith will be taken away from them and thus as early as now they are fighting for their freedom to remain in their church. Although this might be a great challenge for the pastors since they are getting criticisms from Christians who are pro-china and pro-democracy, I hope that they would handle it well.
These people are risking their lives in order to defend the city as they want it to continue to be, they simply cannot see a bright future in communism, what they want is democracy. Going back to the five demands, first, is withdrawal of the extradition bill, since China do not have a rule of law, no fair trial and no due process, the people of Hong-Kong opposed this which was already met since Carrie Lam said that the bill is dead. Second, investigation into alleged police brutality and misconduct. The police are abusing their right and power, attacking and arresting people randomly on the subway, buses and on the streets thus this needs to be investigated. Third is the amnesty for arrested protestors. Fourth a complete retraction of the official characterization of the protests as “riots”. It was a peaceful protest until the police started throwing teargas and became violent. And fifth is universal suffrage. They want to elect their own leader to represent them to guarantee their freedom.
As a youth I understand why more teenagers are participating in the protest, Hong-Kong is not just another China’s city, they are autonomous, and they appreciate their freedom to search the web which they can’t do in China because there a lot of blocked websites there. I hope that China would honor their promises to Hong-Kong and adhere to the basic law. I hope that more leader will support the freedom of the Hong-Kong people. The desperation of the people for democracy is obvious and I hope more people will pay attention.
“I AM OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE FUTURE FOR HONG KONG. THE GOVERNMENT MAY CHIP AWAY AT OUR FREEDOMS, BUT CHANGE WILL COME. THERE WILL BE DARKER TIMES AHEAD FOR HONG KONG BUT THE SUN WILL RISE AGAIN. WE NEED TO KEEP STRONG.”
– Benny Tai, professor and pro-democracy activist