Protest is an expression or declaration of objection or disapproval, often in opposition to something a person is powerless to prevent or avoid. Yet after the zealous civil disobedience movement, commonly known as the Umbrella movement of 2014, the public of Hong Kong is back to street for mass demonstration against their dissent over the proposed extradition bill of Hong Kong with mainland China and Taiwan.
Long Before 2047
Britain took over Hong Kong after the victory in 1800’s. Later it was returned to China with important stipulation, in 1997. The city would partly govern itself for 50 years before fully falling under Beijing’s control. So until 2047, the expectation was that the city, also known as Hong Kong Special Administration Region (HKSAR) and the mainland would operate under the principle known as “one country, two systems.”
Under the rule of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, pro-democracy leaders have been already arrested in Hong Kong and mysterious abduction of booksellers has created a threat to free speech. Hong Kong has been pushing back for long now. In 2003, half a million people successfully fought legislation that would have punished speaking out against China. Again in 2014, tens of thousands of protesters occupied the city for weeks to protest China’s influence over Hong Kong’s elections. This year the step again seems like China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy.
The public of Hong Kong doesn’t vote for their leader. Chief Executive, the head, is selected by a small committee and approved by China. Even though they are the head of the government, they don’t make laws. This is because of the complex structure of the Legislative Council. Like many democracies, Hong Kong has a legislature with democratically elected representatives called the ‘LegCo’. Out of total 70 seats in the LegCo, pro-democratic or anti-establishment China parties have won the popular vote. But the public vote for only 40 out of the 70 seats. Other 30 seats are voted in by various business communities of Hong Kong. These are eventually dominated by pro-China parties because businesses have high incentives to be friendly with China. This leads to control of Pro-China on LegCo.
Extradition in international law is the removal of one fugitive from one state or country to another under a prearranged agreement. Amendments in Hong Kong’s current extradition treaty dates back to last year. A 19-year-old Hong Kong man had allegedly murdered his 20-year-old pregnant girlfriend while they were holidaying in Taiwan, in February 2018. The man fled Taiwan and returned to Hong Kong in the same year. Taiwanese officials had sought help from Hong Kong authorities to extradite the man, but Hong Kong officials couldn’t comply because of the lack of an extradition agreement with Taiwan. Currently, Hong Kong has extradition treaties with only 20 countries which do not include agreement with Taiwan, Macau and Mainland China. Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, cited this case among two reasons she wants the amendments passed. “One is of course to provide a legal basis for us to deal with the Taiwan case; the other is to plug a loophole in the existing arrangements for the return or the surrender of fugitive offenders.”
First introduced in April, the proposed extradition law seeks to update existing laws that govern extradition processes and legal assistance between Hong Kong and other jurisdictions. It explicitly allows extraditions from Hong Kong to greater China – including the mainland, Taiwan and Macau. The bill also would apply retroactively, meaning thousands of people who may have angered mainland China with a supposed past crime could be at risk of facing trial in mainland China.
The Hong Kong government said the legal loophole needs to be closed to uphold justice and align the city’s laws with international standards. But the law would also pave the way for fugitives to be sent to mainland China, where many legal experts believe suspects will not receive a fair trial given the Communist Party’s control over the courts and prosecutions. The Hong Kong government now wants to amend the law to allow for extradition on a case-by-case basis with countries not already covered by mutual agreements and doing away with the geographical restrictions on the PRC in the current rules.
In running battles between riot police and protesters, with successive rounds of tear gas and rubber bullet firing, protest turns to be violent and outrageous. Residents who initially supported the movement are now worried it has turned too violent. Protesters believe that the movement will continue as long as the government does not respond. They are calling for a formal withdrawal of the bill. Youth is at the forefront as they have the most to lose. They are the first generation born under the ‘one country, two systems’. Within 28 years before the arrangement ends, they will be the professional class. Claudia Mo, a pro-democratic legislator says. “It’s their Hong Kong. It’s their future. They have every right to fight it”.
Written by Aashi for The Connectere.