One of the largest protests in decade one can argue for is the Hong Kong protest. Story of Hong Kong began in the late 19th century, opium war broke between China and Great Britain and at last, peace was negotiated and a small part of China which only had a population of 700 at that time was given to Great Britain on lease for 99 years. That part was Hong Kong. From 1898 to 1997, Hong Kong was completely transformed into one of the most modern cities to be considered with business as well as tourist attractions. After the lease was over, it was observed that Hong Kong cannot be simply integrated into China again. People living in Hong Kong were completely different from Chinese in terms of culture, language, and daily life. Hongkongers used to feel pride as they had things like freedom of speech which communist China was rigid about. To somewhat solve this problem, Hong Kong was further given 30 years status of ‘semi-autonomous’ state. Now Hong Kong is neither under complete control of China nor Britain has any role. Many Hongkongers feel betrayed by the British as both countries are completely different in terms of the political system too. A Chinese cannot simply enter Hong Kong as Hong Kong have its own passport, currency, and system. Many times Hong kong is known as the western city in an eastern setting.
This all began when on 29th March 2019, the government of Hong Kong proposed extradition bill which says that a criminal living in Hong Kong will be easily prosecuted in China. Bill was proposed by the government of Hong Kong but was completely under the influence of China. This bill ignited citizens of Hong Kong as the bill was one of the things which China did in order to snatch the autonomy of Hong Kong. This was the major reason for protest as their autonomy was questioned and China trying to mold it as much as it can. Another reason is the cruelty of Chinese prosecution. Hongkongers fear that prosecutions in China are not fair and criminals can even be sent to concentration camps. Ultimately due to communism, reconsideration and any kind of legal claim cannot be made in China as the system is very much opaque. If the law would have passed, chances that opposition leaders who are against China would have been convicted and justice to be misused. The bubble factor also played a role, bubble of people’s frustration with sky-rocketing prices and high cost of the living burst with the proposed extradition bill.
China had always interfered with the basic law that was designed in order to provide Hong kong special status to develop its own democracy equipped with human rights, different flag, freedom of speech and right to protest, leading to the concept of “One country, two systems”. The reason why China wants the extradition bill to be passed can be twofold. Firstly as explained above, passing such law reduces the autonomy of Hong Kong practically as well as morally. Secondly, in a country like USA or India, chances of revolution are negligible as if people are unhappy with the rule of the current government, after certain years they can vote again in order to select new leader according to the principles of Democracy. However, in a country like China, the accumulation of multiple dissatisfactions with the current government ignites people and hence revolution occurs as there is then no other way to change the current government. This whole process has a very special role in the media. If media showcases more of the goodness and less of failures of the government then the image will be formed accordingly in front of commons whereas if media criticizes, people become more dissatisfied. Therefore China controls the media of its mainland. However, there are many journalists and media houses in Hong Kong which openly criticizes the Chinese government and can ultimately become a matter of concern for the Chinese communist party. Law would give China power to extradite Hong Kong’s journalists also.
Violent instances were reported where protesters raged and police brutally clamped down. Conditions deteriorated when due to protest which seemed to have no end, China was reported to have stationed its troop near Hong Kong. Fear that incident of the Tiananmen Square massacre could repeat but in Hong Kong spread across all the protesters. Trump showed full support to the protesters and US senators warned that the USA can impose more sanctions amid of Trade war and can even take more severe action if China will act in such a manner. For the meantime when China stationed its troops in the region, protesters started protesting at the airport for two main reasons. First one was in order to gain international recognition and secondly, the airport was comparatively safer than rest of the city.
Finally, protesters won and government of Hong Kong completely withdrew the extradition bill. But the protest have not completely stopped. There were mainly 5 core demands of Hong Kong-
- Complete withdrawal of extradition bill
- Establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into police conduct
- Retraction of the designation of ‘riot’ to describe the protest
- Ammnesty for arrested protesters
- Full democracy
China gave up mainly due to international pressure this time. Consecutive warnings of USA, trade war, G7 statement condemning China, etc. According to China, this move was ‘Internal matter’ whereas it was not regarded as such by international community.