By Olivia Capasso || Junior Editor
Since early April of this year, Hong Kong has been ridden with demonstrations from its inhabitants protesting the threat of greater Chinese influence on the island. The former British colony currently exists under the “one country, two systems” arrangement, granting it a judicial and legal system separate from that of mainland China. After the territory was handed back to the said country in the year 1997, the Hong Kong Basic Law came into effect, a constitution that established for the land a distinct governing body and independence from mainland overreach.
Under the current arrangement, Hong Kong manages the majority of its affairs internally and applies the Basic Law within its autonomy, however, China’s parliament does oversee policies relating to defense and foreign affairs. Hong Kong notably guarantees its citizens freedom of assembly and speech under the law. Although these protections are additionally included in the Chinese constitution of 1982, the mainland often violates these terms by persecuting those who exercise said freedoms in opposition to the government in order to “protect the state.” The Basic Law is set to expire in 2047, leaving the status of the island’s independence at that time uncertain.
According to BBC News, last spring an extradition bill was introduced, proposing that under particular circumstances criminal suspects in Hong Kong be extradited to the mainland. The protestors fear that China would use this bill to punish activists openly speaking out against the nation’s government, subjecting them to unjust trials as well as violent treatments at the hand of the mainland’s authority. Since then, thousands of Hong Kong citizens participated in protests outwardly condemning the bill, which led to it being tabled for further discussion. However, these individuals remain fearful that the bill will soon be revived and allow China to extend its influence into the protected realm of Hong Kong’s dual system of governance. Resultantly, these demonstrations have become more frequent and aggressive to ensure that lawmakers clearly receive their message.
In July, an angry throng stormed Parliament so that their collective outcry might more directly be heard. In August, protests at the Hong Kong International Airport resulted in hundreds of flights being canceled. In response, the extradition bill was retracted in September, followed by 1 October, one of the most violent days in the territory’s history. Most recently, this month, a pro-Beijing lawmaker was stabbed, and another man set on fire by anti-government protesters. These objections have been growing increasingly violent, leading to a growing concern within all parties involved on the subject of the next logical step for Hong Kong and its autonomy.
The protestors have vocalized “five demands, not one less.” These commands are characterized by the following: the individuals calling for change wish not to be referred to as “rioters,” and for their concerns to be taken seriously. They demand amnesty for protestors who have been arrested, universal suffrage, an inquiry into alleged police brutality, and a withdrawal of the extradition bill, which has already been achieved. The effects of the Hong Kong protests have rippled globally, as rallies are now taking place in the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Canada, and the United States. Though many are advocating for the demands of the demonstrators, oftentimes these rallies are confronted by pro-Beijing activists. The future of Hong Kong and its relationship with both the island’s citizens and mainland China appears to be one of increasing conflict with regard to the desires of each party, and will likely take much deliberation to resolve.
First-year Olivia Capasso is a junior editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.