Hong Kong Protests

  May 30, 2020

Hong Kong Protests

What is the Background?

Hong Kong is facing a major political crisis for some months with mass street protests and demonstrations. What started as a movement against a controversial extradition Bill has expanded into wider pro-democracy movement. Protesters are now demanding greater democracy.

Why does the Extradition Bill worry the people of Hong Kong?

The bill that was proposed by the Hong Kong government in February 2019 to establish a mechanism for transfers of people of Hong Kong to Mainland China for trial. It means, the undemocratic Chinese judicial process will apply to the people of Hong Kong. They feared the erosion of Hong Kong's legal system and its built-in safeguards, as well as damage to Hong Kong's business climate.

Is the Bill still under consideration?

No. It was initially suspended and later discarded.

Why did the protests gain so much popularity?

There are many reasons

  1. Pro-democracy sentiment
  2. Fear of the draconian Chinese law being applied to HK
  3. Growing inequality
  4. Presure on affordable housing and 
  5. Hong Kong belongs to China, but it has its own currency, political system and cultural identity. Many Hong Kong residents don't see themselves as Chinese, but rather as Hong Kongers.

What are the 5 demands of the protestors? 

They are:

  1. Full withdrawal of the extradition bill (which is granted recently)
  2. A commission of inquiry into alleged police brutality
  3. Retracting the classification of protesters as “rioters”
  4. Amnesty for arrested protesters
  5. Dual universal suffrage, meaning for both the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive

Presently, only half the seats in Legco - the body which makes the city's laws - are directly elected by voters. The other 35 seats are from "functional" constituencies-elected by professions or trades. 

What is Basic Law?

When Hong Kong was handed back to China on 1 July 1997, following more than 150 years of British control, the "one country, two systems" principle was established as the foundation of the relationship.

While Hong Kong is part of China, the policy has given the special administrative region a high degree of autonomy.

Is it the same as "one country, two systems"?

The "one country, two systems" principle is enshrined in the document called the Basic Law - Hong Kong's mini constitution which came into effect on the day of the handover.

The Basic Law was established as part of a treaty between the British and Chinese governments and essentially ensures that Hong Kong's rights and freedoms are preserved for 50 years from the date of handover.

Why is it relevant to the protesters?

It protects rights such as freedom of assembly and freedom of speech and also sets out the structure of governance for the city.

Does the Basic law promise democratic structures of governance?

Hong Kong is ruled by a chief executive with support from a formal body of advisors, called the Executive Council. As stipulated by the Basic Law, the chief executive is elected by a committee of 1,200 people. The Basic Law does state that the "ultimate aim" is for the chief executive to be selected by universal suffrage. This means that many in Hong Kong feel they were promised a level of democracy that has not been delivered.

Who is responsible for implementing Basic Law?

The chief executive is responsible for implementing the Basic Law.

Hong Kong handles most of its affairs internally, while Beijing is responsible for defence and foreign affairs.

What is the impact of the protests?

While mainland China is Hong Kong's most important trading partner, the city is an international business and financial hub, and the economy is already showing signs of hurting as a result of the protests. Companies have already reported "serious consequences from the disruption," including lost revenue, disrupted supply chains and shelved investments. Experts worry that travelers will now avoid Hong Kong. Stock market is falling and growth is hurt.

How did China react?

Officials in both Hong Kong and Beijing are increasingly critical of the protests. The Chinese government has expressed their opposition to the protests, while taking measures against the protests and their supporters. The protests have been described by Chinese government and media as separatism riots facilitated by foreign forces. In China, protestors are labeled as "violent mobs" and "criminals. “It says protests showed "signs of terrorism" and suggested that they were the real threat to rule of law.

What about US and UK?

US President Donald Trump called for calm. British government expressed concern of the deteriorating situation.

What is U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992?

Under the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, the United States treats the former British colony separately from mainland China in matters dealing with trade and economic control in the wake of the 1997 handover. China is worried that United States could revoke the Hong Kong Policy Act, because then China will no longer have access to American technologies through Hong Kong. 

What is the impact on and reaction of India?

Hong Kong’s   bilateral trade with India stood at around USD 31 billion in 2018-19. It has not been impacted so far.