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The protests in Hong Kong, Explained

By Ishita Gupta

How one man's attempt to murder his pregnant girlfriend sparked a national movement.

One Country, Two Systems

A British colony until 1997, Hong Kong was handed back to China under a unique set of rules. Although it was technically a part of China, its citizens retained a lot of liberties not available to those living in Mainland China. These included free speech, unrestricted internet access, and the right to free assembly. Hong Kong would enjoy "a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs" for 50 years.

The protests were triggered when the citizens of Hong Kong felt that Beijing threatened this autonomy.

The murder and the no extradition treaty

On 8th February 2018 a young couple from Hong Kong went to Taiwan for a Vacation. During their stay Chan Tong Kai murdered his pregnant Girlfriend, a crime he confessed to a month later upon returning to Hong Kong.

The problem arose when Hong Kong authorities could not charge him as the murder took place in Taiwan.

Extradition is a process by which someone who has committed a crime or is suspected to have committed a crime, is handed from one jurisdiction to another.

Because Hong Kong and Taiwan do not have an Extradition agreement, the HK government proposed an extradition treaty with Taiwan so suspects like Chan could be transferred and tried for their crimes.

The catch, however, was that they [the suspects] could also be extradited to Mainland China, a place with a very different set of rules and level of political freedom.

This proposal was widely unpopular as the citizens of Hong Kong felt that the bill afforded China more power over Hong Kong and was one of the factors that triggered the massive protests

From Peaceful to violent

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets and after weeks of protest, it was decided that the extradition bill would be suspended indefinitely. But this was not enough for the protestors: they wanted it to be withdrawn completely. As clashes between police and protesters became more frequent, the parliament was stormed and defaced, and a protester was injured in the eye. Even as the bill was withdrawn the protesters said it was "too late" and demonstrations continued, getting increasingly violent

What do the protesters want?

"Five Demands no Less"

  • The protests should not be characterized as a riot

  • Amnesty, or official pardon for arrested protestors

  • An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality

  • The implementation of complete, universal suffrage: the right to vote of all adult citizens, regardless of wealth, income, gender, social status, race, or ethnicity

  • The withdrawal of the extradition bill (has already been met