What Sparked the Hong Kong Protests?

The resistance in Hong-Kong has put the tiny administrative Island again in the spotlight. On Sunday, about a million people took to the streets of Hong-Kong in an unprecedented mass protest. So what is it that the people are protesting about?

The tensions between the former British Colony and mainland China escalated again when hundreds and thousands of people participated in a candlelight vigil on the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square massacre. The protests then got more intense on Sunday after which it caught the global attention (given the reputation of Chinese Policies in the Media worldwide).

source: Getty Images

In the territory’s worst incident of unrest in decades, the Riot Police responded with a baton charge followed by pepper sprays and tear gas near government offices. Tear gas hasn’t been used since a protest during the World Trade Organization meeting in 2005. At least 38 people were injured and hospitalized on Sunday, while 78 were arrested including some leaders.

Why are the people protesting?

People got agitated over the Semi-autonomous government, which is pushing a bill through the legislature in Hong-Kong that would allow extraditions to any jurisdiction with which it does not already have a treaty including mainland China.

People protesting against the Executive Officer, source: AP

Speaking after the demonstration, Chief Executive of the city Carrie Lam pledged to continue with the bill, asserting that it would improve the legal system. However, describing a bill that would permit renditions to China, a country which has categorically rejected judicial independence. She also argued that the law meets international standards for human rights and that only serious crimes that carry sentences above seven years will be considered.

Wasn’t Hong Kong part of China?

Hong Kong was a former British colony, which was returned to China in 1997 under a policy known as “one country, two systems,” which promised the territory a high degree of autonomy. The policy has kept anonymity to Hong Kong’s civil service, independent courts, Press Freedom, open internet and other features that distinguish it from the Chinese mainland.

source: AP

The autonomy given to Hong Kong is known as the Basic Law, which will expire in 2047.  Basic Law, however, has been weakened as China’s Communist Party and its security apparatus increasingly interfering with Hong Kong. Recent case being a Businessmen in Hong Kong being abducted by the Chinese Authority and kept in mainland China. The arrested person Xiao Jianhua, was a Billionaire and had ties with some of the most influential business families.

Hong Kong has a vocal community of pro-democracy activists and lawmakers. Umbrella Revolution was based on the demand of free elections that seized control of downtown streets for 11 weeks in late 2014, and large crowds attend an annual vigil that commemorates Beijing’s 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square.

The Chinese authorities under President Xi Jinping don’t appreciate the voices demanding free and liberal government. The Basic Law guarantees that Chinese authorities cannot stifle dissent in Hong Kong, as they do across the mainland and in the autonomous regions like Tibet and Xinjiang.

Why is Hong Kong Fearsome?

People are apprehensive that the law would allow virtually anyone in the city to be picked up and detained in mainland China, a country in which judges must follow the orders of the Communist Party. They fear the new law would not just target criminals but political activists as well, especially those who are demanding Democracy and advocating human rights.

The extradition plan, however, applies to 37 crimes excluding political protests and resistance but many fear the legislation would essentially legalize the sort of abductions from the mainland that have taken place in Hong Kong in recent years.

Source: AP

The chief executive would need to approve an extradition request before an arrest warrant is issued. A Hong Kong court would also be empowered to check that there is a basic case against a suspect. But the subordinate status of Hong Kong to the mainland would make it extremely difficult for a local leader to reject an extradition request from her superiors.

Multiple rounds of protests have been called again and again, as Hong Kong’s legislature resumes consideration of the bill. A vote on the measure is expected on June 20. The pro-Beijing lawmakers hold 43 of 70 seats in the Hong Kong legislature. Hence the bill is likely to pass unless the government backs down. The Executive Officer who herself is Pro-Beijing has refused to back down the bill.

Source: AP

The Hong Kong Federation of Students announced plans to indefinitely extend the class boycott that began last week, while the Hong Kong Professional Teachers Union announced a strike to protest police brutality for the next few days.

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