Hong Kong, a global city that holds a significant influence in the global market is currently facing a widespread protest in response to the controversial extradition bill. This on-going protest has lasted more than four months is jeopardizing the Chinese government’s hegemony over its people.
About Hong Kong
- Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China located on the eastern side of the Pearl River estuary in southern China.
- It is one of the most densely populated places in the world.
- It became a part of China in the year 1997 when Britain’s 99-year-old lease came to an end.
- Hong Kong is governed under the principle of “one country, two systems”.
- Under the agreement between China and Great Britain, the Chinese government has granted this region a high degree of autonomy for 50 years from the year of handover.
- Today, Hong Kong is the world’s tenth-largest exporter, the ninth-largest importer, and the seventh-largest trading entity.
- Also, Hong Kong’s legal tender (the Hong Kong Dollar) is the world’s 13th most traded currency.
- Despite all these advantages, Hong Kong’s Liberty Indicators – the one that measures the extent of the constitutional protection from Hong Kong’s mini-constitution to safeguard the rights of the citizens and the extent of political participation by the people, is currently under question.
- Hong Kong’s Chief Executive was elected by a 1, 200 member committee that was chosen by only 6% of the eligible voters. The majority of the lawmakers are pro-Beijing.
- Despite Hong Kong’s democratic governance, it is evident that Beijing controls the outcome of the election and not the citizens.
Why are the people of Hong Kong protesting?
- Thousands of Hongkongers took to the street to protest against an extradition bill that allowed the Hong Kong residents to be heard in mainland China.
- Hong Kong has its own legal system and governance.
- This bill came as the result of a murder case.
- On February 8, 2018, a couple from Hong Kong went on a vacation to Taiwan.
- Chan, one of the couple confessed murdering the other in Taiwan after he returned to Hong Kong.
- However, the Hong Kong law enforcers cannot convict him because the murder was committed in Taiwan.
- Also, the authorities cannot send him back to Taiwan either as there is no extradition agreement between Hong Kong and Taiwan.
- So, in 2019 the Legislative Council of Hong Kong proposed a bill that allowed extradition to Taiwan.
- However, this bill also allows extradition to mainland China.
- Initially, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam was determined to pass the bill by arguing that Hong Kong was becoming a safe haven to the fugitives.
- Many fear that if this bill is passed in the parliament, it will expose Hong Kong residents to the unfair judicial practices of mainland China.
- Due to this, numerous Hong Kong residents protested against the bill which led to the indefinite suspension of the bill.
- Not everyone was convinced of this move.
- They wanted the complete withdrawal of this bill and also the resignation of Carrie Lam.
- The protesters also now demand the retraction of the word “riot” to classify the present protest.
- This is because the rioting is punishable offence up to 10 years in jail.
- The protesters reject this term as it was mostly a peaceful protest before the Hong Kong police responded to it with violence.
- Also, the protesters demand the release of all the demonstrators who were arrested and drop all charges against them.
- Furthermore, the protesters demand an independent inquiry of the Hong Kong police and their violent tactics against the demonstrators.
- Now, the protesters also demand the universal suffrage – that allows legitimate democracy, unlike the current system where the majority of the representatives are pro-Beijing.
What are the techniques used by the protesters to counter the government?
- Both the protesters and the authorities are making use of various innovative technologies and techniques for their advantage.
- Laser Pointers: the protesters are making use of the laser pointers to disorient the police and counter China’s mass surveillance systems that include the facial recognition system. This is necessary because if anyone is caught by the authorities, they will face 10 years imprisonment.
- Countering tear gas: Protesters are covering their faces with masks and using umbrellas to protect themselves from tear gas.
- Social Media: Social media like Twitter is used by the protesters to spread their influence in the overseas. Beijing is also making use of these platforms to spread misinformation against the protesters. Furthermore, the Chinese government has blocked Twitter and Facebook in mainland China.
- Prying into the travellers’ phones: It was reported that anyone who travels to mainland China from Hong Kong is forced to unlock their phones and share their personal information.
What does this mean to China?
- To China, it is a threat to its influence in Hong Kong.
- When China agreed to the “One State, Two Systems”, it was because a large portion of China’s GDP was from Hong Kong in the 1990s.
- Currently, only 3% of China’s GDP is from Hong Kong.
- Therefore, Beijing wants Hong Kong to embrace the Communist Party of mainland China.
- It doesn’t want the Hong Kong residents to commemorate the Tiananmen massacre – the tragic event that involved China’s brutal crackdown of the peaceful democratic protesters in Beijing.
- China does not want this protest to extend and pose as a precedent that may spread across the rest of China.
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What is China’s response?
- Currently, the Chinese government is on a misinformation campaign.
- The Chinese media termed these protesters to be rioters and paid-provocateurs and their actions to be “near terrorism”.
- China is also making use of social media like Facebook and Twitter to spread false information against the Hong Kong protesters.
- The Chinese government is also accusing the US of promoting violent protests in China.
- Now, China has stationed paramilitary forces in the city of Shenzen near the border of Hong Kong.
- This is seen as a direct warning from the Communist Party of China.
What are the past incidents of protests in Hong Kong?
- Hong Kong is a place in China where freedom of speech and assembly is protected.
- It is the only place in China where the people can commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
- This is in contrast to mainland China where people have little to no rights and freedom.
- However, many observe that Hong Kong’s freedom of expression is currently declining.
- In 2003, Hong Kong successfully fought against the bill that allowed punishment for speaking against China.
- In 2014, the Chinese government had stated that it would select a list of candidates from which the voters can elect their leaders.
- This was termed to be a sham as it is not the people’s choice.
- This plan was vetoed in the Hong Kong legislature.
- Now, the current protest is said to be the largest in the history of Hong Kong. People from all walks of life are involved in this protest.
- After the next 28 years, the Basic Law, the mini-constitution of Hong Kong will expire. This will be in the year 2047.
- Most Hong Kong residents don’t see themselves to be the citizens of China.
- According to the survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong, the majority of the Hong Kong Residents don’t identify themselves as Chinese. About 71% of these people are not proud of being a part of China.
- China already has an abysmal human rights record for its treatment of the Uyghur Muslim community.
- The military response to the Hong Kong protest would mean worldwide condemnation and worsening of China’s track record of human rights violation.
- China’s direct intervention may shatter Hong Kong’s economy.
- This will become a liability to China as its economy is currently not doing well because of the trade war and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Article by: K.G.Karishma
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