By Sakshi Chhabra
Hong Kong is actually a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China. It is free to manage its own affairs according to a national unification policy which is developed by a Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s.
This concept was introduced with the intention to help the integration between Taiwan Hong Kong and Macau with sovereign China while also preserving the unique political system as well as the economic system at the same time. Almost after a century and a half of the colonial rule the British government had returned Hong Kong in 1997.
China pledged to maintain much of what makes Hong Kong unique after the former British colony was handed over many years ago.
Beijing made it clear that it would give Hong Kong approximately 50 years to keep its capitalist system as well as enjoy the freedoms which were not found in mainland China.
But over the time it was seen that these promises were fading. In recent times Beijing has taken has steps to end Roach the political system of Hong Kong and crack it down. This led to massive protest in Hong Kong and have drawn down the international condemnation.
The protests in Hong Kong blew off again, after the extradition bill was introduced which allowed extradition to mainland China.
Thereafter, China is now proposing to introduce a new bill regarding the national security law. The critics of Hong Kong believe that this bill can be used to crack down the political system in Hong Kong.
History of Hong Kong
Hong Kong is significantly different from other Chinese cities. Hong Kong was initially a British colony for more than 150 years and a part of its Hong Kong Island was ceded to the United Kingdom after a war in 1842.
Later on, China also had leased the rest of Hong Kong to British for over 99 years.
Hong Kong had become a busy trading port and the economy took a kick start in the 1950s after it became a manufacturing hub. Later, when the lease deadline was near, talks between British and China began regarding the future of Hong Kong.
Both the parties signed a treaty in 1984 stating that Hong Kong would be returned to China in 1997 under the rule of “One country and two systems”. The terms under which Hong Kong was returned to China were mentioned in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984.
The result of this was Hong Kong would become a part of China but would enjoy autonomy, except in the region of foreign and defense affair for a period of 50 years.
Hong Kong had its own legal system and borders as well as freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of press.
Political unrest in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has seen non-stop political unrest which show no signs of halting. Protests began in June 2019 when millions of citizens came out on the streets in order to oppose a bill which would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to China.
The city’s leader Carrie Lam had suspended the bill. Many people are now insisting on a greater democracy and a legal inquiry into the matters of police brutality.
As the protests are continued, they have now become grave and violent posing a serious challenge on the city’s government.
Anti-government protests are on from months and the clashes between the police and citizens have become highly disruptive. The extradition bill that had triggered the protests was first introduced in April and this bill permitted the criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China under specific circumstances.
The opponents argued that this bill would risk exposing the people of Hong Kong to unfair trials and violent treatment. Also, China would get a chance to have greater influence over Hong Kong. Even after Carrie Lam suspended the bill indefinitely the protestors feared that the bill could be revived and called for withdrawing it completely.
However, in September the extradition bill was finally withdrawn but the people said this was too late.
October 1st , Hong Kong experienced it’s one of the chaotic days. An 18-year-old boy was shot in the chest as the protest was going on to fight against the petrol bombs and other projectiles.
A week later one more protester was shot by the policemen at a close range when some of the activists were trying to set up a roadblock. In November a standoff was executed between the policeman and the students Barry gated on the campus of Hong Kong’s Polytechnic university.
Recently Hong Kong’s legislature has resumed debate pertaining to amend the present electoral laws, a significant change that would increase the number of pro-Beijing lawmakers in decision-making for the city.
Later that month council elections were seen as a battle meter of the public opinion. Were seen as a battle meter of the public opinion in this the number of votes saw a landslide victory in regards to the pro-democracy movement.
The demands of the protestors were simple and to the point, being:
- The protest to not be characterized as a riot.
- Amnesty for arrested protestors and immediate release of them.
- An immediate and independent inquiry in the matter of police brutality.
- Implementation in regard to complete universal suffrage.
- Withdrawal of the extradition bill.
However, the fifth demand was already fulfilled. The Hong Kong protests of 2019-2020 is also known as the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement. This Amendment was a great matter of concern to the Society of Hong Kong its citizens academics and the legal professions as they fear that the removal of the separation of the region’s jurisdiction from the legal system will be administered.
Furthermore, the citizens of Hong Kong also lack confidence in the judiciary system of China and human rights protection due to its great history of suppressing the political dissent.
The conflict that took place at the Chinese University and the siege of Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University as well as the COVID-19 pandemic hitting in the early 2020, these incidents all together brought a huge set back to the city of Hong Kong.
But these tensions took off again in May 2020 after Beijing decided to introduce the National Security Bill for Hong Kong before September 2020.
Fight for a more democratic government has always been prevalent in Hong Kong. However, the political activism was always discouraged in the city, things began to change slowly in the second half of the last century when for the very first time or majority of the population began calling for a greater say in The Walking of the government.
In today’s time the people of Hong Kong still remain unable to directly elect the leader of the city who carries the title of the chief executive. Even after having the majority of the popular vote the democratic bloc never took the control of the chamber.
Is Hong Kong regarded as a democracy?
Hong Kong does have certain freedoms but it is not regarded as a full democracy. China is basically a one-party state and is reluctant to allow Hong Kong to hold free and fair elections. It is said that the ultimate aim for Hong Kong is to have a leader elected by a popular vote but the deadline for this still to occur.
Ever since the handover has been done there have been no free votes by universal suffrage for the chief executive who is regarded as the head of the Hong Kong government. In fact, the Chief Executive is selected by the representative from Hong Kong’s main professional sectors and the business elites.
During the recent election in 2017 only candidates decided by a nominating committee set up by the Beijing were allowed to run. 35 members of the legislature of Hong Kong, the legislative council have been elected by direct voting while the rest of the 35 members have been elected by groups that represent different industries and profession.
The residents of Hong Kong also get a chance to vote for the members of their local District Council who handle the day-to-day concerns of the community.
Hong Kong has several political parties, and these parties are split traditionally between two factions: Firstly the Pan Democratic, who are in favor of democratic reforms and Secondly the Pro Establishment Groups who are large business supporters of Beijing.
The latter party however have been more dominant in the Hong Kong politics but in the recent times the pan democratic groups have increasingly seen more support from the voters.
In the recent years the student protestors are demanding a more democratic system and have fought for a democratic government as well as free and fair elections. The Mini Constitution of Hong Kong, the basic law states that both the leader and the legislative council should be elected in a more democratic way.
However, this concept has not been seen yet and in 28 years’ time that is in 2047, the basic law Hong Kong’s Mini Constitution expires and what will happen to Hong Kong after that still remains unclear.
As observed the political chaos is on a very large scale in Hong Kong. The system there needs a drastic change. As now China is planning to introduce a new law that is the National Security Law in Hong Kong which could be similar to the one withdrawn in 2003. They say that the legislation in Hong Kong is highly necessary and this law would safeguard the national security in Hong Kong.
But the new proposal is highly controversial as it is expected to be an obstacle to the lawmaking process in Hong Kong.
- The Hong Kong protests explained in 100 and 500 words available at: .bbc.com (Last visited on June 7th 2021) ↑
- Helier Cheung and Roland Hughes, “Why are there protests in Hong Kong?” available at: bbc.com/news (Last visited on June 7th 2021) ↑