Grace Crocker, Staff Writer
In February 2019, the Hong Kong government proposed a bill that would spark protests for months to come. The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019, also called the Hong Kong Extradition Bill 2019, would allow criminal suspects to be handed over to the Chinese government for trial. Hong Kong government officials claim this new law would keep Hong Kong from becoming a safe haven for criminals. The Hong Kong government was influenced by a case where a Hong Kong man was accused of murdering his girlfriend in Taiwan. He was arrested in Hong Kong and convicted of money laundering, but because of the lack of legal framework in Taiwan, he could not be sent there to undergo trial.
The now popular Hong Kong Anti-Extradition Bill Protests followed not too long after the bill was introduced. Opponents of the bill believe that it would subject the people of Hong Kong to unfair trials and the violent criminal treatment that is allowed in China. The protesters also believe that it would affect the city’s judicial independence by giving China more influence over Hong Kong, as well as be used to target activists and journalists.
Hong Kong has more autonomy and legal rights than Mainland China under the “one country, two systems” doctrine. Hong Kong is still a part of China, but because it used to be a United Kingdom territory, there was a negotiation between the two nations when the U.K. returned Hong Kong to China. The agreement concluded that Hong Kong would have an independent government and judicial system, which includes protecting rights such as freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. The U.K. wanted to ensure the city had a guaranteed level of autonomy, and China agreed.
The extradition bill was amended in April, after the protests began, to limit the cases where the suspects would be extradited to “serious” crimes and only in certain cases. But just amending it was not enough; the protesters wanted the bill removed. Furthermore, the protesters began to advocate for other demands. At one point, the protests were referred to as “riots”, and they wanted that term to be removed. The protesters also wanted all arrested demonstrators to be pardoned and for there to be some inquiry into alleged police brutality. Another major demand was universal suffrage for the election of Hong Kong’s parliament, according to BBC News.
As for the police violence, senior Hong Kong police officers spoke to CNN journalists and claim that they are simply responding to violent, criminal behavior, and are denying accusations that they are using excessive force against the demonstrators.
Around June 2019, the extradition bill was suspended by Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Protesters, however, did not push for full democracy and feared the bill would be revived. Violence between Hong Kong police and protesters only became worse as time went on. Some police resorted to using tear gas and rubber bullets, while some protesters threw bricks and firebombs. In August, following the injury of one protester’s eye, other demonstrators wore red eyepatches in solidarity. Hong Kong’s airports cancelled hundreds of flights because of the demonstrations that broke out within the facilities.
As of September, the Hong Kong Extradition Bill has been repealed, a large victory for the protesters. Yet they still refuse to back down, continuing to push for democracy and reforms within the government. Those who side with the protesters say that repealing the bill was “too little, too late.”