Hong Kongers are not satisfied. They are fighting a battle for their rights within one nation, two system policy. Around two million people marched demanding the complete withdrawal of the contentious Extradition Bill. The massive demonstrations took place in the Hong Kong immediately after 30th anniversary of China’s crackdown in Tienanmen Square. In last two weeks, Hong Kong witnessed four huge protests. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced suspension of the bill and apologised for her handling of the matter. Not satisfied, opposition wants the bill to be withdrawn entirely.
The citizens of the Hong Kong are opposing the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendment) Bill, 2019. It all began with a Hong Kong resident who allegedly killed his girlfriend in Taiwan last year. Under the existing law, a Hong Kong resident cannot be extradited to Taiwan for a trial as they do not have an agreement. Hong Kong government thus proposed to allow the extradition of suspects to any country with whom they do not have extradition treaty including the mainland China. The residents fear that a proposed law would damage Hong Kong’s economy, progress and undermine freedom of speech. They carry banners declaring ‘This is Hong Kong, not China’. There is an anti-China sentiment in the protests.
Also, they believe if the bill becomes a law, then anyone including dissidents would be at a risk of being detained and extradited to mainland China for the trial. In China, judicial system is not independent and works in such a way that generally accused are convicted. The conviction rate in China is more than 90 per cent. Under the ‘One nation, two systems’ policy worked out in 1980s by the then British PM Margaret Thatcher and the Chinese Supremo Deng Xiaoping, Britain finally handed over Hong Kong to China at midnight of June 30, 1997. Hong Kong has always remained a global westernised city, rather than a restricted, closed Chinese city. The Hong Kongers wish to see their city remain an open, liberal, democrat city. This is the reason that out of a population of 7.9 million, around two million came on the road to protest.
The special status given to Hong Kong, under the agreement, expires in 2047 and nobody really knows what will happen after that. The uncertainty of future is also prompting youths to take to the streets and see that the special status giving them freedom stays even after 2047.
The youths were on the road even in 2014. It was called Umbrella Movement, which was against the proposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system. Joshua Wong, a young activist, got first international attention during the Umbrella Movement. He was convicted for his participation in the movement. He said, “When one million people marched, at least we got a suspension, when two million people marched, all we got is a sorry. How many people does she (Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong) want to drive to the streets?”
Thousands of protesters are from the mainland China but working in Hong Kong. The youths are in the forefront of the struggle. These youths have tested freedom of speech and expression in Hong Kong. The city of Hong Kong has people from across the world. Indians are also present in sizeable numbers. They are prospering and so is Hong Kong. Many of the corporate houses have offices here. The open, liberal economy helps corporates to operate from here and do business in the mainland China, as it has a huge market. Corporates prefer a cosmopolitan and westernised city for hassle free trade. They are worried.
China has backed Lam. But, suspension of the bill and Lam’s apology is not just a small victory for Hong Kongers. It’s a significant victory. They need to see that the freedom of speech and expression continues even post 2047. With the massive involvement of the people, it can be achieved.