For Hong Kong, April was really the cruelest month. It was the beginning of months-long protests that are still creating havoc in the region. Till now, a number of rallies have been organised by the people which have met violent confrontation with the police too.
In this article, we have tried to trace back at the events that led to this widespread protests and offered a brief timeline to get a better understanding of how the protests have unfolded in Hong Kong:
Though the protests saw the real launch in June, its seeds were sown in the history of Hong Kong. The region – a former British colony – was handed over to China back in 1997 under a “one country, two system” policy giving special rights to Hong Kong. The region was given the power to maintain “a de facto constitution, known as The Hong Kong Basic Law, which would ‘safeguard the rights and freedoms of the residents’ for 50 years after the handover.”
From the right to protest to freedom of speech and press were given to Hong Kong. Not just this, a Basic Law also gave Hong Kong the authority to develop its own democracy without the interference of central government in Beijing. However, over the years, many residents claimed that mainland China is trying to encroach on these rights.
Now fast forward to 2018…
The 2018 murder of Poon Hiu-wing by her boyfriend Chan Tong-kai came into limelight and became the catalyst for the unrest. Chan Tong-kai, a Hong Kong resident killed his girlfriend when they were visiting Taiwan and fled back. Now, since Hong Kong has no formal extradition treaty with Taiwan, the suspect couldn’t face trial.
This high-profile case was used as a basis for proposing Fugitives Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill April 2019 which would allow case-by-case extraditions to countries; including China who currently doesn’t hold mutual agreements with Hong Kong.
This inclusion raised concern to various sectors of Hong Kong society. Many pro-democracy believers fear that this Bill will be used to target people who voice against mainland China. Further, this Bill will erode the “one country, two systems” policy.
The Beginning of the Unrest
In February, Security Bureau submitted the paper for extradition laws. In response to this, thousands of people launched a protest on 31st March. The Bill was nonetheless passed by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s government. This sparked a bigger row and led to April’s protest.
On 28 April, more tens of thousands of people took to streets demanding the scrapping of the proposed amendments to the extradition laws. The government stayed firm to its decision but offered concessions to the extradition bill, including limiting the scope of extraditable offenses.
This was not acceptable to the protestors who then launched one of the biggest protests in which more than half a million came out on the streets in June. The peaceful protests turned into clashes. Rubber bullets and tear gas were used at the people during the terrible unrest.
Guns and Violence
In July, the protesters marched into parliament, breaking furniture, defacing the Hong Kong emblem. They also presented a new manifesto. Soon the protests reached other parts of Hong Kong leading to bigger chaos.
The revolution also reached Hong Kong International Airport in August which led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights. After all the violence and rallies, the government finally withdrew the Bill. However, the unrest didn’t stop.
On October 1 when China was celebrating 70 years of Communist Party rule, Hong Kong was gripped in violence and chaos. An 18-year-old protestor died when police used live bullets to dodge off protestors with rods and pipes. More than 250 people were also arrested the same day. In November, a 70-year-old cleaner died after he was hit in the head during a protest in the border town of Sheung Shui.
This followed with various other violent protests with hundreds being injured.
The protests that began against the extradition bill turned into a fight for big changes. With a motto “Five demands, not one less!”, protesters are acing ahead. Here are the main demands of the Hong Kong protesters:
- For the protests not to be characterised as a “riot”
- Amnesty for arrested protesters
- An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality
- Implementation of complete universal suffrage – “the ability to choose Hong Kong’s leaders themselves – as set under the city’s mini-Constitution, the Basic Law”
The fifth demand, the withdrawal of the bill, has already been met.
The protests are still unabated paralyzed most of the region. Amidst all this, Hong Kong’s economy has faced the lashes of recession for the first time in the decade. The economy shrunk 3.2% in the July-to-September period as tourists stay away from the region.
Also Read: What Is Happening In JNU?