Large protests have broken out across Hong Kong over a proposed law that would benefit China while also putting the people of Hong Kong at a disadvantage.
The controversial legislation would give China the power to extradite criminals from Hong Kong for trial and sentencing in Chinese courts. The fear of the protestors is that China will abuse the law and use it as a tool to punish political opponents.
The relationship between Hong Kong and China has always been a rocky one. Hong Kong was under British control for 150 years until, in 1997, it was handed over to China. Since then, the two countries have frequently been in conflict. Technically, Hong Kong is part of China and is subject to the Chinese government. However, Hong Kong also has its own semi-autonomous government that is frequently at odds with China’s.
Hong Kong has had multiple pro-democracy protests over the years, but this most recent one may prove to be one of the most violent in recent memory.
Protests Break Out in Hong Kong
An estimated 1.3 million protesters have taken to the streets to protest the Chinese extradition bill.
Many local businesses have allowed their employees to leave work to join the mass protest, and hotel owners have allowed protestors to use their rooms to rest or freshen up.
The New York Times has reported that “riot police turned downtown Hong Kong into a tear-gas covered battlefield as they pushed back against protesters who tried to storm Hong Kong’s
Legislative Council. The protesters, angry at an extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial, hurled bricks, bottles, and umbrellas as they clashed with the police, as the demonstrations intensified on Wednesday afternoon.”
“At least 20 people were injured, local news media reported, based on data from the city’s hospitals.”
The Hong Kong police chief didn’t help matters when he said, “if they are peaceful protesters, please leave. If they are violent protesters, then please think twice because you might regret your decision for your entire life.”
Way to defuse the situation, chief.
If anything, this will only embolden the protesters further.
The U.S. State Department has expressed support for the protestors out of fear that, if the bill is passed, it will encourage the Chinese to begin using the judicial process as a political weapon. The State Department is also worried that the legislation could harm the business climate in Hong Kong.
U.S. State Department spokeswomen Morgan Ortagus said the proposed legislation “could damage Hong Kong’s business environment and subject our citizens residing in or visiting Hong Kong to China’s capricious judicial system.”
China continues to silence dissent and violate human rights on a grand scale. The Communist Party has oppressed Christians, Muslims, and other religious groups, and has tried to erase atrocities like the Tiananmen Massacre from the history books.
Human rights activists in Chinese jurisdictions are subjected to inhumane treatment, including arbitrary detention and unfair imprisonment, and many simply disappear under mysterious circumstances. The government maintains tight control over the internet, mass media, and academia.
Now the government of Hong Kong is playing right into the hands of the authoritarian regime in Beijing.
The protestors, rightfully, don’t trust the Chinese government and are taking to the streets to make this known to their legislature.
If the violence continues, this could be a disaster for the Asian markets. Hong Kong is a giant financial center, and any disruptions to the daily operations of the financial institutions could destabilize the market in that region.
While this is still a developing story, it’s definitely worth following closely. It could have widespread international ramifications.