In the early hours of Sunday, thousands upon thousands of Hong Kong residents flocked to several areas in the city, protesting a recent “extradition bill” that could end their judicial independence.
The protests lasted all through Sunday, and remained peaceful for most of those hours. However, there were some more violent riots, which were suppressed by police using pepper spray and batons. There currently are a total of seven arrests made, and its estimated that over one million members (15%) of the population turned out to protest and maintain their freedom. The Hong Kong police tried downplaying the event, citing the number of protesters at around 240,000, a much smaller value than the actual number of people protesting.
The discussion for the Extradition Bill came about last year, after Chan Tong-kai murdered his Hong Kong girlfriend while they were on vacation together in Taiwan. However, Taiwan was unable to charge Chan before he flew back to Hong Kong. This new bill would thus ensure that he would be able to stand trail within Taiwan, not his native homeland, Hong Kong. Right now, Chan is taking advantage of a massive loophole in the system. Since there was no extradition present between the two countries, Chan did not stand trial in Taiwan, although he was supposed to. Due to not being tried in Taiwan, the only crimes Chan could be accused of were fraud and theft, meaning that his jail time actually ends in October. He could not be charged with murder in Hong Kong.
That’s not to say that the extradition bill would be all positive. In fact, the new bill could prove detrimental for Hong Kong. If passed, Chinese mainland officials would be able to take whoever they wanted, charging them with a legal offense. The charges could range from business offenses to political dissidents. This bill would allow for crimes in Hong Kong to be tried in the mainland, and would be detrimental toward Hong Kong’s current mainly autonomous legal system. Additionally, the lawmakers in charge of this bill have made it clear that there is absolutely no guarantee of a free trial if residents are extradited to other areas of mainland China.
The bill could be detrimental to many local businesses in Hong Kong. Last year, booksellers from Hong Kong who were smuggling illegal books from Hong Kong to China were taken in by custody. Lam Wing-kee was abducted and harassed by Chinese police officers for months on end because he would smuggle banned books into the mainland. Without the extradition bill, Chinese officers had no right to charge Lam, rather, acting illegally. However, with the presence of the extradition bill, China would have the full rights to conduct trials and hold people like Lam custody within the mainland. China’s growing aggression toward Hong Kong and people’s freedom is why they’ve perfectly timed this bill. As China’s economy grows more prosperous and leadership grows more strict, it’s important that they start to fully eradicate the ideas of free thought. With this in mind, there’s no question that the new extradition bill would be the key to kickstarting China’s one-minded system, and would act as the beginning of the end for Hong Kong’s current autonomy.
Not only would the bill affect Hong Kong’s practical autonomy, but it would also destroy their economy. Countries like the USA have made it clear that they would end partnerships with Hong Kong if the bill were to be passed, citing high tensions with China, among other factors. There’s no doubt that this would absolutely lead to a breakdown in Taiwan’s economy. In western countries, this bill is viewed as a possible “communist threat”. Hong Kong, which relies on international involvement to maintain its steadily growing economy, would struggle tremendously if the bill was passed. Leaders from the US, along with other countries, met with Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to discuss the detriments behind the passing of the extradition bill.
— Kristie Lu Stout✌🏽 (@klustout) June 9, 2019
Despite the meeting and protests, Lam has decided to push forward with the bill, to many’s dismay. However, that doesn’t mean that the people are going to fall that easily. Although the bill could plug a loophole that would help out some, in the end, it throws Hong Kong’s current justice system up into the air. Authorities, businesses, and everyday people may all be affected by this bill, not to mention the economic and international connections that would be ruined by the bill. However, on the opposite end, the bill would bring peace of mind to families like those of the murdered Hong Kong girl, by finally ensuring her justice. But it’s not hard to say that for Hong Kong residents, this is the bill that might revoke their freedom. The protest is one of the biggest seen, comparable to when Hong Kong gained independence from the British. But Lam’s current agreement won’t stop the people of Hong Kong, who will continue to fight for their autonomy and their justice.
Featured Image via Qamar-ul Huda