The protest which has taken over Hong Kong started with massive demonstrations in early June against a bill which is not favored by many. Since then the movement against Beijing’s power has been increasing in Hong Kong.
As weeks pass by there has been a frequent violent conflict between the police and the young protestors. Furthermore, the demands of the demonstrators have become more diverse and determined. Demonstrators have ceased public transportation, stormed the government offices, and defaced symbols of China’s authority. It has become a central issue since the police’s use of force against the protestor and failure to stop a mob attack on train passengers.
Here’s how the protest started, the development and why is the protest important.
Hong Kong and China’s relationship
Until 1997 the international finance center, Hong Kong was a British Colony when it was given back to China under the “one country, two systems” policy. The policy allowed Hong Kong to be part of China and let it preserved many rights which the mainland citizens are deprived of. Such liberties include the use of free speech, the right to free assembly, and unrestricted internet access. Hong Kong has its own laws, police force, and system of government according to the constitution termed as the ‘Basic Law’. This system was to be active until 2047, as China promised. However, many Hong Kongers believe that Beijing is slowly taking away its independence, and the local government does enforce it. The pro-Beijing committee is responsible to appoint the territory’s top leader and chief executive. Additionally, China’s security devices have caused issues at vicinities in Hong Kong, such as kidnapping booksellers, and a native billionaire.
Why did the protest start?
In February, the bill was introduced by the local government in Hong Kong’s legislature, which is dominated by pro-China lawmakers, that would grant people accused of a crime to be sent to areas which Hong Kong had no extradition treaty such as mainland China. These places have courts which are handled by the Communist Party.
According to the chief executive Mrs. Carrie Lam the bill was required to allow justice for victims. She further states that the bill was encouraged by the case of a man who was suspected to murder his girlfriend in Taiwan, then escaping trial by fleeing to Hong Kong. There are people who believe that the bill will grant Beijing to target protestors in Hong Kong with fake charges.
On June 9, thousands of people consisting of elder citizens and families along with children joined the march against the bill.
The reason for the demonstration to continue
On June 12 the discussion and demands were changed because of the use of pepper spray, baton and over 150 canisters of tear gas by the police against protestors, a small number of a protestor who threw projectiles at the police. On June 15 Mrs. Lam suspended the banishment bill, but she did not completely withdraw it. Protestor demand a formal withdrawal of the bill, along with the resignation of Mrs. Lam, and an investigation of the police measures used.
On June 16 the biggest peace march in the history of Hong Kong was displayed. The march consisted of almost 2 million people. However, the situation between the police and young demonstrators wearing black T-shirts, masks, and hard hats have become worst. In July, hundreds of protestors broke into the Legislative Council building occupying for hours and vandalizing it. The same month demonstrators defaced China’s national symbol on the mainland government’s central office in Hong Kong. On the same night, a mass of more than a hundred individuals armed with rods attacked the demonstrators and bystanders at a train station, leaving many injured. The police did not make it on time and no arrests were made. However, it has been noted that some of the people arrested afterward had a connection to the criminal nexus called ‘triads’. This was a shock for the civilians and fueled the protestors’ anger towards the police, who are blamed for letting the attack happen.
“Be Water” has become the rallying cry of the protestor, a line said by Bruce Lee who was a Hong Kong actor. Protestors have surrounded police stations, lighting fires, throwing bricks, and the police have increased their use of tear gas.
On 5th August, protestors have held a demonstration in different parts of Hong Kong and blocked roads and trains. Furthermore, they had requested citizens to stay at home and not go to work, many followed their request.
The response of China and the Hong Kong government
Mrs. Lam has support from Beijing and gradually intensified the warnings to the demonstrators. Chinese officials have left it to Mrs. Lam to handle the situation. She has refused to make further settlements and she is sure that her government will control the increasing protest. On 5th August, she commented about the movement saying “they want to topple Hong Kong, to thoroughly destroy the livelihoods that seven million people cherish.”
An official in Beijing’s office for Hong Kong affairs, yang Guang, gave China’s strongest warning yet: “I want to warn all the criminals to not wrongly judge the situation and take restraint for weakness.” He said, “blow from the sword of law is waiting for them in the future,” but he did not mention how the situation could be resolved. There is no end to the protest, as police make hundreds of arrests.