Hong Kong's Raging Protests: what's happening and why?
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
Hong Kong's background:
Before we can understand the cause of Hong Kong’s protests, we must look back at their history.
Hong Kong was under British rule until 1997, when it was handed back to China.
This meant Hong Kong would have the right to self-governance (their own governmental system), and that their people would have more rights than those offered in the Chinese mainland.
Officially, Hong Kong is a part of China, but on a day-to-day basis, they operate as their own country.
What caused the protests?
The protests began in April when an extradition bill was introduced by Hong Kong’s government.
This bill meant that anyone who stayed in Hong Kong, but was suspected of crime in China, could be sent to China for trial.
Citizens saw this as a risk that exposed Hong Kongers to unfair trials, as 99% of those accused in China’s courts were convicted.
Protesters argued that the bill would give China greater influence over Hong Kong and could be used to target activists and journalists.
However, the government argued that this law would stop the city from becoming a haven for criminals, who found refuge in Hong Kong after committing crimes in China.
In response, the people of Hong Kong began their protests until the bill was officially suspended.
If the bill was suspended, why did the protests continue?
Throughout the protests, false rumors, misinformation and fake news spread like wildfire. This lead to more violence during the protests, from both the police and protesters.
During unauthorized protests, police used controversial methods to disperse the crowds, firing tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets, allegedly assaulting journalists in the process.
Many citizens believe the police had the right to violently intervene in these protests, as protesters had been destroying public property and negatively affecting the daily lives’ of other citizens. They were seen as creating more problems than solving them.
Protesters would vandalize shops, school campuses, subway stations and roads, paralyzing the MTR system.
As a result, protesters were arrested, many left bleeding heavily. They claimed that the police were ‘abusing their power’ and that the protesters were simply ‘defending themselves.’
Additionally, a sudden increase of ‘suicides’ began to occur during these protests. Police gave vague and suspicious responses, and were not thorough with their investigations.
This caused protesters to doubt the polices' honesty and began believing they were behind the deaths.
The government refused to meet these demands, resulting in even more protests.
As expected, matters quickly escalated. Protesters and police alike became more aggressive to one another. Police began firing live rounds; a 21-year-old man was wounded after being shot by police.
Police defended the shooting, alleging that the protester was trying to grab his gun.
Another protester was shot in the chest while trying to hit a policeman with a pipe.
The Polytechnic University Protest
On the 12th of November, one of the most crucial and destructive protests occurred at the
Polytechnic University Campus.
Once inside, protesters were faced with an impossible decision: leave the protest and risk getting arrested, or stay at the campus until supplies ran out.
Hong Kong police claimed that protesters were using these campuses as ‘weapons factories.’ More than 8,000 petrol bombs were found in Chinese University alone.
Rounds of tear gas were fired at protesters who responded with makeshift petrol bombs, catapults and bows and arrows, injuring a media liaison police man.
As a result of clashes, there have been multiple reports of police injuries and assault of officers throughout the protests, with one officer being slashed in the neck with a box cutter.
Protesters have justified this type of violence as proportional and meant to keep police at bay, but authorities say their actions are dangerous and potentially deadly.
Hong Kong's Governmental System:
Another reason behind the protests is the lack of democracy found in Hong Kong’s political system.
The democratic system in Hong Kong is a filtered one. Only a few selected individuals can vote and they have to be agreed upon by Beijing representatives.
Protesters believe their leader should be elected in a more democratic way that reflects the preference of the voters.
Until this moment, protesters remain adamant on their demands, while the government refuses to meet them.