Why Are Almost 2 Million People Protesting in Hong Kong?

Update: Sunday June 16

On June 15, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, agreed to suspend the extradition bill in order to “restore peace and calm” to Hong Kong. Lam apologized for the government’s handling of the draft bill, but she did not withdraw the bill altogether, raising suspicions that it will return soon.

As a result, protestors filled the streets of Hong Kong again on June 16. Organizers estimated the numbers to be nearly two million people — far more than those demonstrating on June 9.

Demonstrators rejected Lam’s move and demanded that she withdraw the bill entirely and step down. They also called for the police to be held accountable for their brutality on June 12. Meanwhile, the protests continue.

Protests in Hong Kong

Pro-democracy demonstrations are no stranger to Hong Kong Island. In 2014, thousands of protestors took over central Hong Kong for 79 days.

But the number of people on the streets of Hong Kong Island on June 9 has been estimated at one million, or about one-seventh of the country’s population. Why are so many people so angry?

Today’s protestors in Hong Kong are demanding the cancellation of a proposed bill that would allow Beijing to extradite alleged criminals from Hong Kong, even though Hong Kong has its own legal and judicial system, unfettered internet and a free press. Additionally, Hong Kong is supposed to operate with “a high degree of autonomy.”

China has stated that the idea is to combat crime, claiming that it will not use the bill for political ends.

Who Supports and Opposes the Extradition Bill?

In support of the bill, we find Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who claims that the bill is necessary to prevent Hong Kong from becoming a haven for mainland fugitives. It should be noted that she was elected by a mostly pro-Beijing election committee chosen by just 6 percent of eligible voters. And it’s no surprise that China’s Foreign Ministry is supporting the Hong Kong government in its attempt to table the bill in Parliament.

Against the bill is almost everyone else, including businesses, trade unions and civil rights activists who believe the bill will allow Chinese authorities to grab anyone for political reasons. The Hong Kong Journalists Association released a statement that the bill would “not only threaten the safety of journalists but also have a chilling effect on the freedom of expression in Hong Kong.” Taiwanese, European and U.S. agencies have also expressed their concern about the bill.

And then, of course, there are those million protestors.

Hong Kong Is Special

Some brief background: Hong Kong is quite different from other Chinese territories. It was a British colony for over 150 years. Part of it, Hong Kong Island, was ceded to the British in 1842 when they defeated China in an Opium War; following this, China leased the rest of Hong Kong, known as the New Territories, to the British for 99 years.

In 1997, Hong Kong was returned to China — but it was under the principle of “one country, two systems,” giving Hong Kong “a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs” for 50 years.

This has meant that the territory has enjoyed freedoms not seen on mainland China; Hong Kong has its own legal system and rights such as freedom of assembly and free speech are protected.

But critics say that these rights are slowly being stripped away.

And although Hong Kongers have some autonomy, that doesn’t extend to the polls, so protests are an important channel for residents to make their voices heard. Also, while most people in Hong Kong are ethnic Chinese, they mostly identify themselves as “Hong Kongers” and not as Chinese. They are separate, and they want to stay that way.

The Current Protests

The mass demonstrations began on June 9 with a march that drew a crowd estimated by organizers to top one million. At that time, the protests were mostly non-violent.

But that changed on June 12. CNN reports:

Violent clashes erupted: Rubber bullets, pepper spray and hand-thrown tear gas were used to push back protesters who had occupied the city’s main thoroughfare near the government headquarters, as well as the roads around it, Hong Kong Police Commissioner Steven Lo Wai-chung confirmed.

According to Lo, the police had “no choice but to start to use force,” and up to 5,000 police in riot gear were in place to guard the building.

As of June 12, at least 72 people have been injured in the Hong Kong protests; 22 are female and 50 are male.

Amnesty International issued this statement:

The ugly scenes of police using tear gas and pepper spray against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters is a violation of international law. Police have a duty to maintain public order, but in doing so they may use force only when strictly necessary. Hong Kong’s police have today failed to live up to this standard.”

Take Action!

If you agree, please sign my Care2 petition, urging Police Commissioner Steven Lo Wai-chung not to repeat such abuses against peaceful protesters and instead ensure that people can exercise their rights.

Creating a Care2 petition is easy. If you have an issue you care deeply about, why not start your own petition? Here are some guidelines to help you get started and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.

 

Photo Credit: etan liam/Flickr

78 comments

Alea C
Alea C4 hours ago

Back again for butterfly points.

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Alea C
Alea C4 hours ago

Back again for butterfly points.

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Alea C
Alea C2 days ago

Care2 is still giving commenting points. (I said earlier that Care2 wasn't but I was wrong.

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Alea C
Alea C2 days ago

Care2 is still giving commenting points. (I said earlier that Care2 wasn't but I was wrong.

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Diane E
Diane E3 days ago

Signed previously.

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Hannah A
Hannah A3 days ago

thank you

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Alea C
Alea C4 days ago

Posting for butterfly credits.

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Alea C
Alea C4 days ago

Posting for butterfly credits.

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Alea C
Alea C5 days ago

Still no new causes I see. Very disappointing.

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Alea C
Alea C5 days ago

Still no new causes I see. Very disappointing.

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