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HONG KONG PROTESTS AGAINST CHINA’S EXTRADITION BILL

Anatomy of the issue

A sea of humanity consisting of more than 1 million decided to march on the streets of Hong Kong on 9th Jun 2019 to protest against a government bill that would open the door to criminal extraditions to mainland China.

A total of 1.03 million people participated in the protests.  These amounts to roughly one-seventh of the total population of the autonomous city-state took to the streets.  According to official sources, 240,000 were present at the “peak.”

Statistically speaking, the turnout was the largest since the successful protest against a 2003 plan to amend national security law.  500,000 people attended that rally.  People from all walks of life came together, to register their protest.  The gathering against extradition included teachers, businesspeople, drivers, students, and even young children.

The protestors feel very strongly that the proposed law is dangerous, and not just for activists, They envision China eroding away their freedom through this law.  They have a strong conviction that this is the last fight for Hong Kong. The proposal is the most dangerous threat to their freedoms and way of life since the handover. 

Although protestors know that it would not be easy to change the mind of the Hong Kong government, yet they are hoping against all odds that the protest would attract international attention about it through the power of mass media.

Hong Kong is the abode to many of Asia’s biggest media players.  It has a significant film industry.  It is also a fulcrum for broadcasting and publishing.  The territory has hitherto been successful in keeping its media free, unlike the rest of China.

There are no indications of widespread online censorship.  Local news websites are an important source of independent information.  Of late voices of conscience have been expressing concerns about the increasing influence of mainland China.  To understand appreciate in its totality it is necessary to be acquainted with the background of the issue and vital details of Hong Kong.

Fact Sheet of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is Semi-autonomous, special administrative region of China

Geographical Disposition of Hong Kong

Population 7.2 million
Area  1,098 sq km (424 sq miles)
Major languages Chinese (mainly Cantonese), English (both official)
Major religions Buddhism, Taoism
Life expectancy 81 (men), 87 (women)
Currency Hong Kong dollar (1 Hong Kong Dollar= 0.88 Chinese Yuan

Chief executive of Hong Kong is Ms. Carrie Lam

Carrie Lam was sworn in as Hong Kong’s first female chief executive on 1 July 2017 on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China.  Widely seen as Beijing’s preferred candidate, Lam secured 777 votes from the 1,194-member Election Committee which picks the city’s next chief and is believed to be dominated by Beijing loyalists.  This was Hong Kong’s first leadership election since the 2014 pro-democracy protests.

Lam served as the city’s secretary for development before being appointed the chief secretary for administration in 2012, Hong Kong’s number two official.  She is said to have been a student activist and has earned herself sobriquets such as  “Iron Lady” and “the fighter”.

Hong Kong was once a British colony; following 150 years of British rule, the United Kingdom handed off control to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. Until 2047, Hong Kong is supposed to be able to govern itself under a policy known as “one country, two systems,” meaning the while Hong Kong is under Chinese sovereignty, it is supposed to be able to retain its own political and legal systems.

Important key dates in Hong Kong’s history in the chronological border are appended below in tabular format.

1842 China cedes Hong Kong island to Britain after the First Opium War.
1898 China leases the New Territories together with 235 islands to Britain for 99 years.
1941-45  Japan occupies Hong Kong during the Second World War.
1970s Hong Kong is established as an “Asian Tiger” – one of the region’s economic powerhouses – with a thriving economy based on high-technology industries
1997 Hong Kong is handed back to the Chinese authorities after more than 150 years of British control.
2014  Pro-democracy demonstrators occupy the city centre for weeks in protest at the Chinese government’s decision to limit voters’ choices in the 2017 Hong Kong leadership election. More than 100,000 people took to the streets at the height of the Occupy Central protests.

Calculus of the extradition proposal

There is a widespread feeling that Chinese government has slowly, gradually but surely taken concrete measures to limit Hong Kong’s independence:  At China’s direction, the Hong Kong government in recent years has quashed the city’s democratic movement.  Opposition candidates were blocked from running for elected office over one pretext or the other. 

The coercion Beijing has placed on Hong Kong’s leaders to pass new extradition legislation is the latest development in this continuing trend.  The legislation, sponsored by Hong Kong’s current pro-Beijing government, would empower officials to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether to extradite wanted criminal suspects to stand trial in China itself.

Viewpoint

The extradition bill would require Hong Kong to repatriate suspects to jurisdictions of mainland China.  Although Government officials have promised that the new law would not be used against people facing religious or political persecution, still residents of Hong Kong have their own apprehensions.

People of Hong Kong have strong reservations regarding the bill.  There is a strong possibility that citizens will suffer from arbitrary detention and would be subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques by Chinese officials.  Businesspeople further have concerns that should the proposal become law, foreign interest in investment in Hong Kong will veer off.  Some of the existing companies in Hong Kong may also contemplate leaving.

Hong Kong government has partially answered these concerns by raising the threshold for potential extradition to crimes that carry penalties of seven years imprisonment or more.  Also, they have stated that anyone facing the death penalty would not be extradited.

In a separate statement, a government spokesperson emphasized that despite the protests, the bill will continue its path to becoming law on 12th June 2019.  Whether people of Hong Kong would surrender meekly or would resist in a staunch manner only time will tell.

10 Jun 19/Monday                                                            Written by Naphisa

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