Hong Kong’s ‘One Country, Two system’ principle fades as China strengthens hold5 min read
On Sunday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Tseun Wan neighbourhood and clashed with the police. The police fired tear gas but eventually used water cannons to disperse the demonstrators, who gathered despite steady rains. The protest in Hong Kong has been long-running, being carried out for past three months, and Sunday night saw the most violence of all.
With more than 700 citizens having been arrested by authorities and around 2100 others injured, the city is set to face more trials and tribulations as they continue with their protests, fearing a Tiananmen Square Massacre all over again.
The Bill that started it all: The Extradition Bill.
The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 was proposed by the Hong Kong government in response to a homicide case registered in 2018, where a man murdered his pregnant girlfriend in Taiwan and fled to Hong Kong to evade the law.
This bill permits the transfer of fugitives from the jurisdiction of Hong Kong to the jurisdiction of Mainland China and 20 other regions, all with whom Hong Kong holds no formal extradition treaty. It allows other courts of laws to get alleged or convicted criminals to be extradited to their jurisdictions for a trial to take place. The bill helps uphold laws in the region while it ensures that justice is being served.
Why are the people of Hong Kong against the bill?
While the bill ensures better implementation of justice, the public fears that it also plays into the favour of Mainland China having more control over the politics of Hong Kong.
Having been colonised under the rule of the British, Hong Kong Island was handed back to Mainland China in 1997 with Hong Kong adopting the Hong Kong Basic Law.
Despite going back to being a part of Mainland China, Hong Kong has enjoyed an autonomous government with comparatively liberal laws and regulations. The people of Hong Kong have greater freedom of speech, of the press and of publication, and other liberal laws under the principle of ‘one country, two systems’.
Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, suspended the bill on June 15 and then declared it “dead” on July 9. However, the bill has not been officially withdrawn, leaving citizens doubtful.
How has the public’s demonstration of protests changed over time?
What started off as peaceful protests by the public has now escalated to a show of brutal force by both sides. The public faces harassment in the form of numerous canisters of tear gas being shot with non-lethal ammunition at close range and attacks with bamboo sticks by pro-Beijing supporters and the police. Government buildings, public offices and police stations have been vandalised by the public and they have fought back with their weapons of choice ranging from umbrellas and sticks to Molotov Cocktails.
As protests stay strong for the 11th weekend, the following are a few cases of how the situation continues to spiral downwards.
July 21, 2019:
Hong Kong experienced a new wave of destruction as clashes took place between citizens at Yuen Lang railway station. With black being the elected the colour of the protest, a group of men in white appeared at the station while protestors were returning home and started beating them up with no prior warning or explanation. “The first time they showed up it was at the train station, everyone was in shock and fear mostly because they did not expect triads to come and do that (beat people up) at all. I knew something bad was about to happen when they started coming towards the protesters in a group with white shirts on and sticks,” said a 20-year-old female demonstrator from Hong Kong who wishes to stay anonymous out of fear of being tracked by the local police.
August 11, 2019:
“It was originally a peaceful march in one district called Sham Shui Po, that ended up being full of tear gas and the police beating a few protesters to the ground before brutally arresting them. The rest of us retreated because we were getting news that other protesters in a more touristy area called Tsim Sha Tsui needed help because there were not enough protesters there, so we ran for it and took the train as soon as possible. After getting there it was already super tense since rounds of tear gas were being shot from a short distance.” said the 20-year old demonstrator.
“One hit a woman’s right eye and I saw it hit her; she fell back and was bleeding through her goggles,” she continued.
Why has the bill not been withdrawn yet?
Research points to the trade benefits enjoyed by Hong Kong as opposed to the conflicts and problems faced by the economy of Mainland China. With a powerful giant like the US constricting their trade relations, China hopes to exploit and contract from the prospering economy of Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong government sits in silence even as the protestors provide them with a diplomatic solution. The protestors demand the government’s participation and response towards unsolicited police brutality in addition to the need for the government to abide by their six objectives: complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill from the legislative process (as opposed to suspension), retraction of the characterisation of the protests as “riots”, the release and exoneration of arrested protestors, the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into police behaviour, universal suffrage for the Legislative Council and Chief Executive elections, and the resignation of Carrie Lam.
Countries from across the world continue to watch as the government of Hong Kong ponders over two paths – whether to surrender or to tackle.
With inputs from Takshak Pai in conversation with an anonymous source on the ground at the protests.
Featured Image Courtesy: Anonymous
Edited by: Disha Acharya