Hong Kong fighting for democracy
An historic fight for freedom continues today in Hong Kong. Anti-government protests have been occurring there for months.
Hong Kong’s protests started in June against proposals to allow extradition to mainland communist China. That bill would have allowed for criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China, under certain circumstances.
Opponents of the extradition bill said this risked exposing Hong Kongers to unfair trials and violent treatment. They also argued the bill would give China greater influence over Hong Kong and could be used to target activists and journalists.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Hong Kong took to the streets. After weeks of protests, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam eventually said the bill would be suspended indefinitely. Lam agreed to suspend the bill, but demonstrations continued and developed to include demands for full democracy and an inquiry into police actions. The bill was finally withdrawn in September.
Hong Kong is a former British colony handed back to China in 1997. It has its own judiciary and a separate legal system from mainland China. Those rights including freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are protected. But those freedoms - the Basic Law - expire in 2047 and it is not clear what Hong Kong’s status will then be.
Police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets while some activists have thrown bricks, firebombs and other objects – reminiscent of civil unrest in this country in the 1960s regarding racial discrimination and the division over the Vietnam war. Recently, Hong Kong police shot a protester, putting him in the hospital.
The protesters’ demands have changed over the weeks. They include - withdrawal of the “riot’’ description used about the protests, amnesty for all arrested protesters, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality and the right for all adult citizens (regardless of class) to vote in the elections of the chief executive and Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s parliament. Some also want the resignation of Lam, whom they view as Beijing’s puppet.
After initially staying quiet on the unrest, Chinese government leaders have condemned the Hong Kong protests as “behavior that is close to terrorism’’ - a sign its approach is hardening. There have also been reports of Chinese police and military massing across the border in Shenzhen, in a clear show of force.