Protests Take Over Hong Kong

Protesters in Hong Kong.

Lam Yik Fei - New York Times

Protesters in Hong Kong.

Nick Sanchez-Zarkos, Writer

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Following three months of undying protest and resentment from the citizens and people of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of the area has at last declared the ultimate withdrawal of the extradition bill responsible for the long unrest in the region.

Hong Kong has experienced over 13 weeks of large protests since early June, often resulting in a series of violent pushback from law enforcement, the detainment of hundreds of protestors, and photos taken shaking the world. While much of the world may know about the protests in Hong Kong, few really understand what the protests are about, what it means for the area, and what has happened thus far.

Hong Kong is currently identified as a “Chinese special administrative region.” What this means is that the area’s future currently depends on its Joint Declaration signed in the 1980’s. Hong Kong has been under British control for much of its history. Beginning with the Opium Wars in 1840, Britain had been in control of the area for most of the next 150 years. In 1997, Britain gave control of Hong Kong to the Chinese government when China guaranteed Hong Kong’s autonomy for fifty years. As 2047 draws closer, Hong Kong’s citizens continue to fight for an agreement to be made that would allow them to keep a form of independence from China’s government. The current protests in the area could be a critical step in making such an agreement. Through these protests, Hong Kong has shown just how many of its’ people are willing to speak up and fight back for their autonomy and rights. 

The protests began in June as a response to the amendments put forward regarding Hong Kong’s extradition law. After a Hong Kong man was accused of strangling his girlfriend to death in Taiwan and fleeing to Hong Kong, he was unable to stand trial due to the extradition laws that Hong Kong had in place. Since then, the Hong Kong government, under Carrie Lam, has sought amendments to the law that would allow “case-by-case” extraditions to countries not yet in the law. While this may seem like a reasonable amendment to some, the Hong Kong people view this change as a way to detain unloyal or anti-Chinese citizens. Thousands of people who may have committed crimes of any sort in Hong Kong would then be extradited to face trial -or worse- punishment. 

Opposition to the extradition bill amendments have been so strong, that in early May, fights broke out within the Hong Kong legislature that led to some lawmakers even being sent out in stretchers. During the 12th week of protests, Carrie Lam decided to delay the passing of the amendments. Despite this, the protestors still haven’t been pleased or halted protests. Many citizens worry that the government is simply delaying the passing of the bill until the opposition dies down. Protestors are now calling for political reforms and changes towards democracy. 

The 13th week of protests was perhaps one of the most critical of the three months . After hundreds of protestors and leaders were arrested prior to the weekend protests, Hong Kong and its’ government could only wait to see what happened next. As protestors of all ages swarmed the streets, throwing petrol bombs and bricks as raging bonfires filled the sky with smoke, Hong Kong police retaliated with tear gas and the firing of water cannons. Police covered in riot gear were even seem storming a train station, attacking protestors filling a train and making arrests. Protestors responded on Sunday by vandalizing the stations and putting transportation through the city in a standstill.

Although the protests have remained massive and hard to contain, the government’s response to the outcry has been relatively minimal and unchanging- until now. Early Wednesday morning, Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong formally announced the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill that had created the three months of protest. This declaration comes after weeks of the Hong Kong leader telling protestors she would not remove the bill, and her recent confession to the world that she would step down if she could, telling businesspeople in a leaked recording, “If I have a choice, the first thing [I would do ] is quit, having made a deep apology… I make a plea to you for your forgiveness.”  The news of the bills’ cancellation is a major victory for both the protestors and the people of Hong Kong. Not only does this mean that the protestor’s critical demand for the country has at last been met, but is also a critical step towards the cooperation between the Hong Kong government and its’ citizens.

With one of the five demands met, Hong Kong can only hope that Lam will also agree to the others, including the investigation of police conduct over the past three months, the granting of amnesty to those arrested during the protests, the agreement to restart political reform for Hong Kong, and for the government to recognize the protests as protests, rather than violent “riots”. 

 

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