The last few days, social media has been abuzz with photos and videos of Hong Kong residents, taking to the streets.
The streets were filled with protesters demanding democracy and autonomy from China.
Their symbol of protest is an umbrella, a symbol of passive resistance, which protesters have used against police since 2014 when forces used pepper spray on them.
But what has caused similar protests, 5 years later in 2019?
The seeds to the current protests were sown earlier in February when the Government of Hong Kong, proposed a bill. The bill in question is the Fugitive Offenders & Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters aka the ‘extradition bill’.
Features of the bill
There are several contentious features of the bill. However what sparked public fury was the Chinese connect to the bill
- Several online reports suggest the bill aims to expand the list of countries to which a suspected offender could be sent.
- This list went beyond the countries Hong Kong had mutual extradition treaties with
- Hong Kong could now extradite suspects to other countries on case by case basis
- This bill could possibly allow extradition of suspect to China and Taiwan.
The Hong Kong government claims this bill was proposed because a Hong Kong resident accused of murdering a Taiwanese resident could not be extradited to Taiwan to face his crimes.
However critics claim this bill is a trap that legalises governmental ‘kidnapping’. They fear this will ensure political dissidents are extradited to China under false charges.
History of Hong Kong
Hong Kong was previously the territory of British following the first Opium War in 1841. It was also briefly ruled by the Japanese for 4 years from 1941 to 1945. But once World War two ended,Britain regained control over it. In 1997 however, the colony was handed over to China through Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Hong Kong became a special administration. It has different laws from that of China (called the Basic Laws), separate Head of Government called ‘Chief Executive’ , their Judicial system is also separate from that of China. However, interpretation of laws by Standing Committee of National People’s of Congress China is final.
Where the bill stands now
The Chief Executive of China Carrie Lam has suspended the bill. She even apologised to the residents of Hong Kong for ineffective communication and explanation served by the government.
But protesters are not convinced,while the bill has been suspended, it has not been withdrawn yet and protesters feel it could be drawn back into life once things slow down a bit.
Carrie reportedly forged a strong bond with China in 2014, when anti-mainland protests broke for the first time. In 2014, she was second in line, but was soon elevated to top post in 2017.
While government is allegedly using police to crush the protest, groups such as Civil Human Rights Front, who are leading the movement, are refusing to drop the momentum. Several protests across Kowloon have drawn millions of people.
China, in the meanwhile, is refusing to legitimise this protest, even calling it a ‘serious violation of law’.
While China has refused to comment on whether they will crack the whip on these protests through the use of their forces, this situation will certainly act as a litmus test for a country which just a few days back delivered sermons of democracy to India on behest of its ally Pakistan over Kashmir.