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Hong Kong protests explained

Friday 14th June 2019 | Jake

The people of Hong Kong are angry. They believe they are being denied civil rights that they are entitled to under Hong Kong's mini constitution, 'The Basic Law'.

 

Mass protests have shut down parts of the city for almost a week now. They march against the proposed extradition law that would make it far easier for China to extradite people from the 'Special Autonomous Region' to mainland China. Critics worry China will use the law to hunt down its political opponents and punish them. The proposed extradition law is also further evidence of the continued erosion of civil rights in Hong Kong, rights which were supposedly guaranteed by the British during the twilight of their 99 year stewardship which ended in 1997. 

1997 saw Hong Kong handed back to China, with Hong Kong having been acquired by the British on a 99 year lease, a result of the famous 'Opium Wars' whereby China was pummelled into submission by the British navy for refusing to accept opium as payment for the huge quantities of tea desired by British consumers in the heyday of the Empire. 

Hong Kong now operates under a doctrine called ‘One Country, Two Systems’. This should mean that the ruling Communist Party in China has little say and limited control over the region, with governing laws and important decisions being made by the Hong Kong Legislative Council, all as proscribed in the 'Basic Law', Hong Kong's very own mini constitution which was enacted as part of the handover deal in 1997. However, the Communist Party has been perceived to be slowly tightening its grip over the years and over the last decade, Hong Kong citizens have started to publicly question if Hong Kong actually has the autonomy and civil freedoms it is meant to  have as supposedly guaranteed under the Basic Law. Now Hong Kong residents, more than ever, fear that their civil rights, including their right to protest, are gradually being fully erased.

On Wednesday police fired rubber bullets during the march, injuring many protesters. Police figures estimate 240,000 people joined the march at its peak, while the organisers of the protest and other media outlets quoted that over a million citizens were present.

Many pro-Beijing officials and Hong Kong residents still claim the protests had been organised and even funded by parties wishing to discredit and make trouble for China, something which is a distinct possibility.

China is a country widely accepted as having a highly authoritarian government as well as a legal system that far from guarantees a fair trial. If successful, the new extradition law would see to it that any person in Hong Kong who is accused of any crime which carries a jail sentence of seven years or more would be subject to the possbility of extradition and trial back in the mainland. 

Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, along with other officials, all deny that the central government in China is pushing the extradition law. The problem is that the hundreds of thousands of citizens marching on the street believe otherwise.

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