How did Hong Kong get here?
After the failed trial of a Hong Kong resident who murdered his pregnant girlfriend in Taiwan, the Legislative Council (LegCo) proposed an Extradition Bill which would have enabled countries that the city does not have extradition agreements with - such as China - to apprehend “fugitives” through the help of local authorities. This caused widespread unrest given China’s track record of incarcerating political dissidents, such as the disappearance of anti-China booksellers. The bill triggered peaceful protests in June, which saw marches of around two million citizens. Police and protestors took to violent means after a symbolic attack within the LegCo chambers in July. The Extradition Bill was withdrawn in October.
Why are the protests still going on? / What’s still at stake?
Over a summer of mass arrests, indiscriminate weapon usage, vandalism and other violence, protestors drew up a list of five demands: for the bill to be withdrawn, an independent inquiry into police brutality, the release of arrested protestors, dropping the classification of ‘rioters’, and true universal suffrage - as well as the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam. These demands were triggered by severe dissatisfaction towards the government’s handling of the protests, and suspected bias towards police sympathisers and supporters of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
What’s happened so far?
In July, white-shirted mobs assaulted protestors and civilians - including elderly and children - returning home in Yuen Long train station, yet no police were called to the scene. In August, riot police (“Raptors”) stormed Prince Edward station, attacking escaping protestors as well as other passengers with pepper spray. In October, the PRC’s establishment anniversary, a 14-year-old boy was shot at point-blank range with a live round. In November, two more were shot in a similar fashion and an old man was set alight during an argument with protestors. In November, university campuses transformed into “battlegrounds” between protestors and the police.
Has there been any casualties?
The protests have seen multiple deaths, many were concluded by the police to be suicides. The body of a 34-year-old man wearing a yellow raincoat was found. A much disputed case turned urban legend of a 15-year-old girl who reportedly committed suicide, but was suspected to have died at the hands of the police force, triggered citywide commemorations. Candlelight vigils took place across Hong Kong following the mysterious death of Alex Chow, a university student who fell from a carpark near demonstrations.
Severe injuries have been sustained by protestors, journalists and first-aiders, some of whom were shot in the eye. Scandals of torture, rape and murder against protestors - especially those in Sun Uk Ling Detention Centre - have also broken out.
What’s next for Hong Kong?
Following sixth months of protest, Hong Kong has been irrevocably scarred by the events of this year. Bloomberg forecasts a recession in sight for the city, whose protests have made it across international waters. Solidarity on university campuses in the UK, US and Australia have been met with opposition from chiefly mainland Chinese students. Foreign intervention, such as the enactment of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act by the US, has been met with celebratory marches. On 25 November, democratic parties achieved a “landslide victory” in the District Council elections. The protestors even made the top five choices in TIME’s Person of the Year.
Nonetheless, the future remains uncertain for the financial centre, as mainland forces are increasingly baited to pursue aggressive action. Whatever comes next, don’t look away from the Hong Kong protests.
Image - Unsplash