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12th June, 2019 will echo down the corridors of Hong Kong’s 22 years of unrelenting History. The protests did not come accross as a surprise to the world. China’s long standing efforts to undermine the ‘one country, two systems’ policy demanded such drastic efforts perhaps to rekindle the fire within the people of Hong Kong.
Time and again, China has been accused of tampering with the internal affairs of Hong Kong. 12th June is just another example of overwhelming response to China’s effort. On 12th June, 1st July, and 7th July, people turned out in huge numbers to protest against the newly floated extradition bill. This incident is just the tip of the iceberg. The world will witness many such outcries from Hong Kong in future, dampening the unrelenting efforts of Beijing.
The extradition bill introduced in the legislative council seeks to allow extradition requests from mainland China, Taiwan, and Macau for suspects accused of criminal wrongdoing. This is opposed by the people of Hong Kong as the justice delivery system in China is notoriously opaque and throttled by the Cummunist government.
Honk Kong government had to suspend the bill after Hong Kongers took to the streets demanding formal withdrawal of the bill and accused Ms. Carrie Lam (Chief Executive of Hong Kong) of using wordplay in duping the people of Hong Kong.
Ms Lam in a press conference said that government’s effort on the bill has been a “total failure” and “the bill is dead”. Her ambiguous “bill is dead” statement didn’t go well with the people as it does not clarify the situation. It sparked controversy and lead to protests and demonstrations.
What is the background of this issue?
Hong Kong was leased to Britain for a period of 99 years by China in 1888. This lease expired in 1997 resulting in transfer of sovereignty to China. Britain, in a bid to ensure basic rights of the people of Hong Kong, signed an agreement with China. This was the beginning of ‘one country, two system policy’.
The essence of this agreement was the protection of basic rights of Hong Kongers. Beijing seemed to had held its end of the bargain for the first decade hitherto. However, since early 2000, Beijing seems to have made a paradigm shift in its stand on respecting the autonomy of Hong Kong.
The main source of tensions between mainland China and Hong Kong in fact originates from the very core of their ideologies. Hong Kong follows democratic ideals inherited from Britain while China follows deep rooted Communism. Ever since its handover to Britain, Hong Kong has evolved under the British regime carving its way out from the clutches of mainland China.
Over the years, Hong Kong has established itself as the financial capital of Asia. Be it the right to free speech and expression or fair and independent judiciary, people of Hong Kong have been bestowed such prerogative. This is unlike mainland China where even the media houses are state run. In fact, government of China has censored all the news of protests in Hong Kong leaving no stones unturned in not letting the outcry get to the people of mainland China.
What is the current status of the bill?
As of now, the government has suspended the extradition bill. Be that as it may, Hong Kongers are still speculative of government’s action. Ms. Lam’s statement: “bill is dead”- lends credence to the speculation raised that legislative council of Hong Kong may in a bid to satiate their political bosses in mainland China reintroduce the bill.
What are the different opinions on this proposed bill?
As far as people of Hong Kong are concerned, the extradition bill is an attempt by mainland China to undermine the autonomy of Hong Kong. The hue and cry coming from all walks of life bears testimony to the unrelenting disdain that seem to have grown into people’s mind.
Everyone but Beijing seems to have defended the introduction of the bill. The political stand of the government is crystal clear. They have condemned the protesters who vandalised the legislative building of Hong Kong. Beijing sought immediate action against them.
Whilst the tussle between Hong Kong and mainland China, support in favour of people of Hong Kong is pouring in from around the world. In fact, the UK has even issued a caveat of serious repercussion if it breaches the agreement.
The probable future…
The probable future of civil liberties in Hong Kong seems grim. The 50-year buffer that the agreement states will end in 2047. The sovereignty over Hong Kong will then be completely transferred to China, incorporating it into the mainland. However, recent developments in Hong Kong indicate that Hong Kongers will not give in easy. It will be intriguing to see how Hong Kongers react to the inevitable transition.