Instead of boiling the frog over the remaining 20 years, China has decided to set the kitchen on fire. And instead of obeying the Chinese intrusion, Hong Kong is standing up for itself and saying “No”.
The Sino-British Joint Declaration between the British government and that of Xiaoping’s, signed in 1984, meant that Hong Kong would have independence in its politics and economy for 50 years under Basic Law, following the country’s official transfer from British rule to China in 1997. As the red orchid flag of Hong Kong found its place flying over Victoria Harbour, Beijing promised that following the peaceful return of Hong Kong. It assured that the city’s social and economic systems would remain untouched while retaining political freedom and a market economy until 2047.
In February, Carrie Lam, the Chinese-elected Chief Executive of Hong Kong and her government proposed the extradition law which would allow citizens and foreign nationals passing by Hong Kong to be sent to Mainland China for the trial of a crime they have committed in China. Leading up to almost the halfway mark for the expiration date of 1C2S (One Country Two Systems), Hong Kong has seen many protests against the intrusive nature of the Chinese government. This includes the Umbrella Protests of 2014, in which the public protested the proposed changes to the Hong Kong electoral system, claiming it to be restrictive for China to pre-screen the candidates for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive.
The Umbrella Protests had the catchphrase of “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” and were relatively more peaceful compared to other political protests in history, to the extent of being compared to a ‘1967 Californian Summer of Love’. Although there were anti-occupy attacks, it could not compete with the current level of violence those yearning for legislative freedom in Hong Kong are currently suffering. The main difference between the two is that the 2014 protests had democracy at their core, which would only apply to citizens of Hong Kong, whereas the current proposed bill applies to anyone passing through, even if only through the airport.
Now in June, when the proposed bill is close to turning into law, numbers leading up to a million have taken the streets to propose against it. The main aim of the protests is to block the entrance to the legislature building in order for the officials to not be able to enter, therefore slowing down the passing of the extradition law. The police responded to the protests called an ‘organised riot’ by Carrie Lam, in a very violent manner with the use of pepper spray, tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets, injuring at least 79 people.
The Potential Consequences
The main worry of the protesters is that sending a potential criminal to a court under the Chinese government provides no guarantee of their physical and mental well being under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which China has already breached with its lack of emphasis on human rights despite being a signatory state. The Chinese legislative system is neither independent from the political control nor reliable with a near-perfect conviction rate. Therefore, the proposed law would put anyone accused of a crime in Hong Kong under great inhumane danger as it is basically a form of legalized kidnapping.
What would this mean for the future of Hong Kong? This law would allow China to control both the political and social spheres of Hong Kong firstly by releasing a nationwide fear that anybody that appears anti-Beijing and anti-Communist Party could face trial, and secondly by convicting those pro-democracy and independence. Many powerful businessmen, politicians, journalists and influential people from the former British colony would easily be subjugated to trial in China under the control of the Beijing government with a simple affidavit produced by the Chinese government accusing them of a crime. This law would be a historic expansion of Beijing’s power and show to the world and the people of Hong Kong that they have no plans for Hong Kong to remain independent, politically free and ‘democratic’ once the 50-year agreement is over.
On the 15th of June, Carrie Lam decided to suspend the bill without further notice and called her government to pause and think. Although this is a step forward, the protesters have announced that they will not stop until the bill is cancelled. Carrie Lam’s upcoming decision on whether to back down or to keep pushing the proposed bill will most probably determine her time in office. However, regardless of how driven and bright she is, she simply plays the part of pawn in the Chinese game of dominance over Hong Kong. Regardless of how the protests end and whether the bill passes or not, this shows that China does not plan on waiting until 2047 to start taking control over Hong Kong.
In the cover picture: Protests in Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Joseph Chan via Unsplash
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com