Protests have erupted in Hong Kong after an extradition law was proposed. These protests are in response to growing interference from mainland China. The protests started in March 2019 and are anti-Extradition Bill protests.
The reason for the protests is that Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China and has its own constitution. It had been under the control of the United Kingdom since the 1840s. When it was transferred back to China, negotiations led to the economic and political system of “one country, two systems”, meaning that while Hong Kong would be a part of China, it would have its own economic and political systems. Hong Kong has its own constitutional document called the ‘Basic Law”. The second article of this document states that Hong Kong will have “independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication.” It is this right that is threatened by the proposed plan, with fears also spreading that people simply passing through Hong Kong could be extradited to mainland China to face trial. The people of Hong Kong have enjoyed limited interference and their own laws, which are not as burdensome as those in mainland China, where heavy control and censorship over things exposed to the public is a norm.
The protests are a result of longtime interference from the mainland, as it tries to dominate. It has gained ‘soft power’ through control of publishing houses and growing influence over media, even though Hong Kong media has long been known to be self-censored. Assimilation of culture is taking place as well, with schools teaching Mandarin instead of Cantonese, the local dialect. The people of Hong Kong are against this dictation of how to live their lives. But these protests are specifically against an extradition bill that will allow China to extradite people in Hong Kong to the mainland to face trial. It is seen as another in a series of more and more frequent infringements of rights.
Due to heavy censorship on the matter, protesters have taken to flooding tourist spots to raise awareness to those from the outside. They hope to extend the awareness to the mainland Chinese people as they gather in black in public places. This is just a small part of the ongoing fight for their rights, as mentioned in the basic law. They want freedom and autonomy and are willing to suffer for it. Even though the protests remain peaceful for the most part, they are met with aggression and over-policing. People gather in more and more numbers to voice their discontent against the current administration, headed by Carrie Lam- hey have called for her resignation and an apology for the extradition bill. They got none, however. Police continue to use tear gas and rubber bullets against peaceful crowds, but this has in effect only spurred the protesters on. They have urged supporters to “add oil” to the movement. The movement, however, has its negatives. There have been four suicides till date, with the victims pleading the protesters to keep moving forward while citing the actions of the police as the reason for the suicides.
In spite of the disturbance to everyday life, there is no sign of dropping the proposed bill. Lam has refused to scrap it and intends to go ahead with it. Meanwhile, the people gather for what is, in effect, a constitutional right.
BY: Wendell D'Souza