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Last Updated : Jun 12, 2019 06:51 PM IST | Source:

Hong Kong protests: Here's all you need to know

The proposed law, according to protesters, is dangerous because they feel that it would allow the Chinese authorities to target political opponents.

Atharva Pandit @AtharvaPandit3
Image: Reuters
Image: Reuters

More than a million people reportedly came out in Hong Kong on June 9 to protest against a bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China for the first time.

The Bill was up for a second round of debate again on June 12, but that has been postponed.

Despite the protests, however, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has said she is determined to pass the controversial law.


So, what is the extradition law all about?

Officially called the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill, the proposed law would allow extradition of suspects to mainland China.

The law would also apply to Taiwan and Macau. According to the proposed amendments, those who are accused of offences that are punishable for seven years or more can be extradited. Hong Kong's highest authority, the chief executive, would be given the authority to approve extradition requests after a review by court.

Image: Reuters

Why is it being opposed?

The proposed law, according to protesters, is dangerous because they feel that it would allow the Chinese authorities to target political opponents.

Residents of Hong Kong have enjoyed relative civil rights liberties and freedom under the "one country, two systems" policy. It was put in place after the United Kingdom (UK) handed over the sovereignty of Hong Kong to China in 1997. This means that while the former British colony is technically a part of China, it operates under a separate Basic Law granting it greater autonomy.

Pro-democracy leaders leading the recent protests have said the new proposed law would erode that autonomy. They fear that the proposed law would be used to undermine Hong Kong's legal system, and would put foreign nationals at risk.

What are the Bill's supporters saying?

Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, has said the law is necessary to better uphold the former British colony's justice and international obligation. Supporters of the proposed law have also said it would help prevent Hong Kong from becoming a haven for international fugitives.

Officials have also said China has not played any role in pushing for the Bill. "This bill is not initiated by the central people's government. I have not received any instruction," Lam said, referring to the Chinese government. She added that opposition to the proposed law is due to misunderstanding.

Image: Reuters

Does China really have a role to play here?

Whether China is actually pushing for the proposed law or not is not known, but according to reports, China has officially backed the Hong Kong government. China's foreign ministry released a statement on June 10 saying it “firmly supports” Hong Kong on passing of the Bill.

While calling the amendment Bill a "legitimate, sensible and reasonable piece of legislation", state-owned China Daily, in its editorial, blamed "foreign forces" for the unrest in Hong Kong.

"... Some foreign forces are seizing the opportunity to advance their own strategy to hurt China by trying to create havoc in Hong Kong," the newspaper said.

Where do things stand now?

As of now, the protests continue— despite, reports suggest, heavy rainfall in Hong Kong. Protesters have occupied main roads leading to the Legislative Council building. That has postponed the scheduled meeting to debate on the Bill.

According to reports, police also fired tear gas on protesters on June 12 afternoon to disperse them.

Image: Reuters

Reports suggest that these protests are the biggest since the 2014 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, also called the Umbrella Revolution. Interestingly, reports have noted that the weather conditions in Hong Kong on June 12 have forced protesters to bring out their umbrellas.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted its support to the protesters. "I stand shoulder to shoulder with hundreds and thousands in Hong Kong fighting the extradition Bill and rule of law. Please know you are not alone," Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu tweeted.

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First Published on Jun 12, 2019 06:50 pm
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