With the UK Government inviting thousands of Hong Kong residents to bid for UK Citizenship amid growing concerns over China’s planned national security law, the Chinese Government has responded threatening countermeasures against the UK and the US, describing Washington’s efforts to raise issue at the UN Security Council as “pointless”. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned countries that Hong Kong is “purely an internal Chinese matter…No other country has the right to interfere,”
A joint statement issued the UK, Australia, Canada, and the United States on Hong Kong read,
Signatories to this statement reiterate our deep concern regarding Beijing’s decision to impose a national security law in Hong Kong…
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the country would roughly allow 3,00,000 people in Hong Kong who hold British National Overseas Passports to stay in the country for 12 months (instead of current 6) unless China scraps the proposed law. The BNO passport holders can also apply to work and study for an extendable period of 12 months, leading to the pathway to future citizenship.
Why are people protesting in Hong Kong?
Thousands of people have been protesting on the streets of Hong Kong for months. This year’s protest has been termed to be the worst in the history of protests in Hong Kong. The protest began as an outcry against the Extradition Bill, which was later reunited with the pro-democracy movement. The bill which was introduced in April 2019 allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China under certain circumstances.
Hongkongers protested as they feared the bill would lead to unfair trials and violent treatment, especially targeting activists and journalists. Also the bill would give China greater influence over Hong Kong. Citing continuous protests, the bill was withdrawn in September 2019. But protestors continued with demonstrations marking this step as “too little, too late” and fearing the revival of the bill. Hong Kong citizens do not believe in the legal system of China, as there are many instances when people from Hong Kong have disappeared and landed in the mainland. Also China being well known to crush its political opponents justify the fears of Hongkongers.
History behind Hong Kong protests
Though a lot of historical background surrounds the protests in Hong Kong, the trigger was a murder case that exposed legal loopholes. In 2018, a couple from Hong Kong went for a holiday to Taiwan. The 20 year old female was murdered her 19 year old boyfriend Chan and carried her dead body in a suitcase. Chan was arrested in Hong Kong, but the courts couldn’t prosecute him as he committed the crime in Taiwan. The courts in Taiwan could neither prosecute him as there was no extradition agreement between the two countries. So, the Hong Kong judiciary charged Chan with money laundering as he used his girlfriend’s credit cards after her death. Chan ended up serving 19 months of prison imprisonment out of 29 months in Hong Kong.
What happened to do of the murder case in Taiwan?
To deal with the murder case, the lawmakers of Hong Kong proposed a new extradition bill to allow suspects accused of serious crimes to face trial in Hong Kong or Taiwan or China.
From a British Colony to a Dependent City
With Hong Kong becoming free from Britain’s clutches in 1997, the responsibility was handed over to China agreeing to give some autonomy to Hong Kong for next 50 years until it fully reunites with China in 2047. Thus they came up with a principle called “One Country, Two Systems”. It means Hong Kong belongs to China but gets to run its own economy, police force, justice system, and some democratic reforms, while China controls military, foreign affairs, and to some extent Hong Kong’s political system. Over the years Hong Kong has witnessed many movements whenever they have felt that China is trying to step over their rights.
What are the demands of the protestors?
In 2014, the student led “Umbrella Movement” shut the city for three months. However, demonstrations this year are different. This is the largest pro-democracy movement witnessed Hong Kong which has spread for more than 6 months, and has been largely supported many groups including teachers and financial sector workers.
(The Umbrella Movement; Image Source: Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The protestors have adopted the motto “Five demands, not one less!” These are:
- For the protests not to be characterised as a “riot”
- Amnesty for arrested protesters
- An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality
- Implementation of complete universal suffrage
The fifth demand, the withdrawal of the bill, has already been met.
The form of violence adopted the police too (including tear gas, live bullets) has given a different cult to the movement. Massive damage has occurred till now and there is no sight of either side backing down.