Protest in Hong Kong

  • Category
    India & world
  • Published
    25th Jun, 2019

Issue

Context:

More than a million people in Hong Kong marched against a controversial extradition bill that they fear will erode freedom in the semi-autonomous territory.

About:

Historical Background

Hong Kong was a British colony from 1841, when China ceded the island to the British after the First Opium War - which had erupted over British traders smuggling opium into China.

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 as a ‘special administrative region’. The territory has been ruled under the ‘one country, two systems’ formula agreed by then U.K. and Chinese leaders. Hong Kong citizens have more autonomy and freedom than their mainland counterparts, but the elective process is still partly controlled by China.

At present, Hong Kong residents can only vote for pre-approved political candidates under Chinese law, making it impossible for a critic of Beijing to get on the ballot.

Immediate Reason - The Extradition Bill proposed by Chief Executive: 

Critics fear bill will compromise Hong Kong's judicial system and prove the 'death knell' of 'one country, two systems'.

Other major belief among the Hong Kongers, behind the protest is that since 1997 (since Hong Kong got the status status), China is consistently trying to erode the principle of one country, two systems.

Analysis

Why authorities pushed for the new law

The Hong Kong administration first proposed the changes in February, citing the case of local man who was wanted for the suspected murder of his pregnant girlfriend while the two were on holiday in Taiwan.

Officials said he could not be sent back to Taiwan for trial because there was no formal extradition agreement between the two territories.

Hong Kong's extradition arrangements are laid out in the Foreign Offenders Ordinance, which was negotiated in 1997 when the UK returned the territory to China.

Taiwan, Macau and the mainland were not included in that agreement in what the Hong Kong Bar Association says was a "deliberate decision" on the part of the legislature given the "fundamentally different criminal justice system operating in the mainland.

What are the amendments?

  • Hong Kong currently has bilateral extradition treaties with 20 countries including the UK, the US and Singapore, but the amendments put forward by the administration are being framed as a way to enable the sending of suspected offenders to places with which the territory has no formal extradition agreement on a case-by-case or one-off basis.
  • Under the proposals, the chief executive, who is not elected but chosen by an election committee accountable to China, would have the authority to decide any request.
  • It is to be noted that Chief Executive of Hong Kong could be considered as an Agent of Mainland China.
  • The 70-member assembly (elected) or Legco would have no role in the process.

What are peoples' concerns?

  • Hong Kong was returned to China under the concept of "one country, two systems".
  • Article 4 of the Basic Law, the mini-constitution which governs post-colonial Hong Kong, promises to "safeguard the rights and freedoms of the residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and of other persons in the Region in accordance with law".
  • People in Hong Kong have been particularly sensitive to issues involving judicial independence, which is seen as guaranteeing a measure of protection from the government on the mainland.
  • "This bill not only 'erodes' those protections; it places protection of those rights it only belatedly recognised as critically important to most Hong Kongers squarely within the hands of unelected bureaucrats who have so far manifested a rather poor record of being able or willing to resist pressure from Beijing
  • The deepening trade war between the US and China has also put the mainland's judicial system, which is said to have a near 100 percent conviction rate, under the spotlight.

China’s Stand

China has said it played no part in Hong Kong's decision to amend its extradition law, but it has indicated it supports the initiative.

India’s Concerns

India is also a stakeholder in the issues because Hong Kong is home to India’s wealthy business community.

Updates:

  • Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, indefinitely suspended the bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China.
  • But she made it clear that the bill was being delayed, not withdrawn outright, as protesters have demanded.
  • But leading opposition figures and protesters said a mere suspension of the bill would not satisfy the protesters, who had been planning another large demonstration.
  • Hong Kongers are demanding complete scrapping of this controversial Bill

Conclusion

It is not the first time that the Hong Kongers are on streets to protest against the attempts made by Mainland China to erode the special status. But this time, the protestors are around 1 million, highest ever. Since the chief executive has clarified that bill is just suspended and not withdrawn, it is yet to be seen what course of action is adopted by the Hong Kong administration. There is also a possibility of western vested interest behind the colour revolutions in Hong Kong.

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