Editorial

Protests in Hongkong

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 9/7/2019 11:11:42 AM IST

 After all the pent up frustrations and apprehensions felt by citizens of Hongkong, the extradition bill that would allow citizens to be extradited to mainland China burst into the open as thousands of protestors continued to vent their resentment. The protests have gone from weekly to almost daily. Of course, the citizens of Hongkong were protesting not only against the proposed extradition bill but the gradual erosion of democratic freedom in the colony which was returned to China on July 1, 1997, after the United Kingdom(UK ) ceded control. The protests were initially focused on a bill that would have made it possible to extradite people from Hong Kong to China, where the Communist party controls the courts. Though the majority of people in Hongkong are Chinese, they see themselves as ‘Hong kongers’ and not Chinese. Protests have continued since 1997, but now the biggest ones tend to be of a political nature - and bring demonstrators into conflict with mainland China's position. Many Hong kongers feared the law would be used by authorities to target political enemies and that it would signify the end of the “one country, two systems” policy, eroding the civil rights enjoyed by Hong Kong residents since the handover of sovereignty from the UK to China in 1997. Millions of people joined street marches against the bill, paralysing the city. In the early 1980s, as the deadline for the 99-year-lease approached, Britain and China began talks on the future of Hong Kong - with the communist government in China arguing that all of Hong Kong should be returned to Chinese rule. The two sides reached a deal in 1984 that would see Hong Kong return to China in 1997, under the principle of "one country, two systems". This meant that while becoming part of one country with China, Hong Kong would enjoy "a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs" for 50 years. Rights groups have accused China of meddling in Hong Kong, citing examples such as legal rulings that have disqualified pro-democracy legislators. Hong Kong's leader, the chief executive, is currently elected by a 1,200-member election committee - a mostly pro-Beijing body chosen by just 6% of eligible voters. Not all the 70 members of the territory's lawmaking body, the Legislative Council, are directly chosen by Hong Kong's voters. Most seats not directly elected are occupied by pro-Beijing lawmakers. While Hong Kongers have a degree of autonomy, they have little liberty in the polls, meaning protests are one of the few ways they can make their opinions heard. There has also been a rise in anti-mainland Chinese sentiment in Hong Kong in recent years, with people complaining about rude tourists disregarding local norms or driving up the cost of living. Some young activists have even called for Hong Kong's independence from China, something that alarms the Beijing government. The Chinese government said in 2014 it would allow voters to choose their leaders from a list approved by a pro-Beijing committee, but critics called this a "sham democracy" and it was voted down in Hong Kong's legislature. In 28 years' time in 2047, the Basic Law expires - and what happens to Hong Kong's autonomy after that is unclear. China is firm that Hong Kong should be unified with the mainland and would brook no protests further.

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