What are the Hong Kong protests all about?
It all began with the introduction of the Extradition Bill in April, which would have allowed for criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. This risked exposing Hong Kongers to unfair trials and violence. It was argued that this would put China in a More dominating position and facilitate targetting activists and journalists. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people took to streets. Weeks later, Carrie Lam, declared that the bill would be suspended indefinitely till it’s expiry. However, the measure seemed inadequate and dissatisfaction among masses escalated. Over the weeks, clashes between the police and protesters have become more frequent. Tear gas attacks, runner bullets, bricks and firebombs are now common.
Various incidents have taken place, intensifying the gravity of the situation. In July, protesters stormed the parliament and a masked mob attacked a group of innocent protesters. In August, one protester was injured in the eye, leading to demonstrators wearing red eye coloured patches to show their solidarity.
What is it that the protesters want?
Their demands have evolved over the last one month and they are now calling for: Complete withdrawal of the Extradition Bill and the use of the word ‘riots’ for people’s demonstratios, amnesty for arrested protesters, an inquiry into police brutality and universal suffrage for Hong Kong’s parliament. Some are even demanding the resignation of Carrie Lam who is seen as a puppet of Beijing. Protests have now become international with rallies taking place in the UK, US, France and Canada.
What is the issue with the status of Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is a former British Colony but was handed back to China in 1997. It is run under a “one country, two systems” agreement that guarantees it a level of autonomy. It has its own judiciary and a separate legal system from mainland China. Rights including freedom of speech and assembly are protected but other freedoms and the basic law expire in 2047, making it’s future a mystery.
With their future at stake, the situation isn’t easy and it’s not going to be a cakewalk. But the fact that people are already in the twelfth week of their protests, differentiates them from others. The hardcore display of solidarity makes them one. It is evident that the usual ways of calming down the mob using meaningless suggestions and declarations will not be effective anymore. Hong Kongers have an undying zeal which will certainly go a long way in executing their demands. With the increasing duration and breadth of the protests, it is fair to envision the existence of an autonomous Hong Kong, free from the rule of China.
This write-up has been prepared by Aishwarya Sethi (IIIrd Year).