A Nation Divided: The Hong Kong Protests Explained


 As you read the latest news headlines, it can sometimes feel like the only stories ever covered are ones that affect us nationally, with little to no room for any global narratives. But with the recent anti-government demonstrations rattling across Hong Kong, the current news reports are ones that not only examine the domestic implications of the protests, but analyze the international significance to China’s latest political outcry, as well.

   The protests began back in February, when Beijing openly expressed their support of an extradition law that was proposed by the Hong Kong government. The law would have permitted the deportation of people accused of crimes to places where Hong Kong had no formal extradition agreement established. Although supporters of the bill claim that this would prevent Hong Kong from becoming a criminal refuge, many critics fear that the law would be used to expatriate political opponents, local activists and even Communist Party commentators back to their home regions, including mainland China. Because Hong Kong is considered a “special administrative region,” a subdomain of China that’s government operates separately from the mainland communist one, legal protections and civil liberties cannot be guaranteed when both Chinese citizens and foreigners are relegated out of the region.

   So why was an extradition bill even proposed? In February of 2018, a 19-year-old Hong Kong man named Chan Tong-kai allegedly murdered his pregnant girlfriend in Taiwan after an argument they had. Tong-kai was able to return back to Hong Kong before Taiwanese law enforcement officials could arrest and prosecute him. Even though Hong Kong law would have traditionally extradited a man like Tong-kai back to the country seeking to indict him, the region’s provincial-level administrative division left authorities powerless to do so. This, in turn, caused the proposition of an extradition bill to come into play. 

   As more and more people advocate for the removal of the amendment, the list of protestor demands continues to grow. Overall, though, demonstrators have five crucial requests from the Hong Kong government. The first is a complete withdrawal from the proposed law, which has recently been satisfied after months of continued unrest. During a news conference on July 9, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, promised a “complete and formal withdrawal from the bill.” Although the demonstrators first requirement was met, that didn’t stop them from protesting. Nathan Law, a pro-democracy activist, told BBC News that the anti-government campaign would go on until Hong Kong meets all five demands. “The movement has evolved into a movement that fights for autonomy, democracy, preserving our way of life and restricting the excessive power of the police,” Law said. Although many activists believe the withdrawal of the amendment is a step in the right direction, they still call for the release of arrested protestors, the government to stop using the word “riot” in relation to their protests, an investigation into police brutality and the implementation of universal suffrage. Until all of these requests are met, Hongkongers will continue to protest against the Chinese government, affecting local and national legislation—ultimately altering international relationships and perspectives.