Fighting for freedom: the Hong Kong protests

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The movement has grown into a simple protest over the Extradition Bill, into a movement to make Hong Kong an independent, autonomous country without Chinese interference or rule. The autonomy that China is “respecting” from the 1997 transfer from British to Chinese rule and the “two systems, one country”. The movement from all Hong Kong people from various backgrounds is the voice of change and future for the region. From the umbrella movement in 2014, activism in Hong Kong has not been silenced by mainland China. 

What is the extradition bill?

The bill allows Hong Kong to extradite suspects to China over crimes under the Chinese legal system. The legal system in China is completely different from that of Hong Kong and is often reported that the Chinese legal system is corrupt. People from Hong Kong view that they are completely independent of China due to the current agreement between China and the United Kingdom. The autonomy will cease in 2047.

Why is China intervening?

Hong Kong is considered a special administration area under China. In 1898, the British after the Second Opium War obtained a 99-year lease on Hong Kong which expired in 1997. The two countries, the UK and China held talks leading up to the transfer of ownership in the region. In these agreements, China agreed to the “one country, two systems” which allowed Hong Kong to have rights to free speech and free assembly, own legal system, and multiple political parties. Another agreement was that China respects the autonomy of Hong Kong. However, while Hong Kong is autonomous, in 2047 the agreement will cease, and China can implement its own system in Hong Kong.

Why are people protesting? Why are they hiding their faces?

The protests have been going on for years. Pro-democracy activists want autonomy over Hong Kong and have the right to elect their own leader. Currently, the leader or the Chief Executive is elected by a 1,200 member executive committee, most of whom are seen as “Pro-Beijing”. Meaning that they prefer Hong Kong as another province in China and serve the best interests of the mainland in Hong Kong. The current population is nearly 7,500,000. There is no fair election of the Chief Executive. The current Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, has been serving since 2017. The now-withdrawn extradition bill has received a major backlash with months of demonstrations which involved major delays and sometimes cancellation of flights in Hong Kong airport. The protestors feel angry that the government, often the younger generation, have not listened to them or respect their sovereignty. The bill was originally shelved which causes massive anger.

Carrie Lam recently came out with four agreements.

  1. The extradition bill is completely withdrawn.
  2. Two new members join the Independent Police Conduct Commission.
  3. More direct communication with the community.
  4. Community leaders must independently examine problems in society.

Protestors are hiding their faces due to the fear of repercussions. Whether it is being in trouble at work (most are public servants) or the fear that China might punish them if they are identified. Approximately 1,200 people have been arrested during the movement.

What is with the umbrellas?

In 2014, Hong Kong experienced its largest social uprising in terms of duration, location and reach. Its primary empowerment was through social media. It stemmed from the 2007 Civil Referendum by the Secretariat of the “Occupy Central with Love and Peace”. Occupy Central with Love and Peace is an organisation that is very much involved in the discussion of the electoral system in Hong Kong. The organisation demanded that the electoral system should be updated to the international standard of suffrage and have the right to vote, to be elected and to nominate in these elections. Approximately, 700,000 voters agree the Legislative Assembly should reject the Chinese government’s proposal of limiting their rights on democracy. On August 31, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China (NPCSC) rejected this and limited the right to vote and participate in elections. This was viewed as against the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement and interference between the mainland and Hong Kong.

Starting as a week-long strike held by the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) and Scholarism, to condemn the NPCSC decision. Joshua Wong, the convener and founder of Scholarism, and the members of HKFS, on the night of September 26th 2014 started the Umbrella Movement and gathered around Civic Centre to reclaim the area and started the famous movement and uprising for fair democratic elections and participation in Hong Kong.

The Umbrella movement is significant in future protests as a symbol of uprising and also gathering support for Hong Kong independence.

Why are there protests in Australia?

There is a high percentage of students from China and Hong Kong which study in Australia. Approximately there is 182,555 mainland Chinese students and 11,822 Hong Kong international students across Australia at various educational institutes. There have been numerous rallies across Australia with clashes in Adelaide and Melbourne where pro-Chinese and pro-Hong Kong protesters have clashed with physical altercations and cases of fake Chinese police cars to scare off protesters. With the two countries and the number of international students coming from both countries, Australia has been subconsciously brought into the demonstration.

In conclusion, the protests will not end. The issues surrounding Hong Kong’s autonomy will always be a centre of problems between the citizens and mainland China. Until the undemocratically elected officials actively voice the concerns of Hong Kong to China, and to respect the agreement initiated by Britain in the 1990s, there will be more large scale protests at home and abroad for years to come.

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