On July 1, protesters in Hong Kong ransacked the Legislative Council. This comes in line with the mounting protests in the country from the past month. These protests are being carried out by the citizens of Hong Kong to ensure that a bill allowing the extradition of Hong Kong citizens to Mainland China for trial is not passed.
Hong Kong, an erstwhile British colony was given back to China on July 1, 1997. The region was termed as a special administrative region. They enjoy special benefits such as freedom of speech and independent jury that mainland China does not, until 2047.
In February of 2019, Hong Kong’s government introduced a bill that would allow for extradition to Mainland China. This law gave rise to fears that Beijing might take advantage to target political opponents and tighten its hold on Hong Kong’s society. On April 28, tens of thousands of people led a march against the proposed law. This was one of the biggest gatherings that the country had witnessed since the umbrella movement. Following this, in May there were instances of scuffles between pro-democracy supporters and Beijing loyalists over the scrapping of the law.
On May 21, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam stated that the law would be expedited despite local and international pressures and protests. The US and EU also condemned the passing of the bill. On May 30, the Hong Kong government decided to add some concessions to the extradition bill by proposing a limitation on the scope of extraditable offences.
This move did not appease the citizens and on June 4, over 120,000 students and parents signed a petition against the bill. On June 6, over 3,000 Hong Kong lawyers dressed in black took to the streets to protest the unfair law.
According to protesters, on June 9 a gathering of about a million people came together to protest against the law but the police put the numbers around 240,000. That night the protests turned violent with skirmishes breaking out between the protesters and police that went on till late at night. The month of June saw the city move into the third week of protests with the police becoming increasingly violent towards protesters. The initially defiant government on June 18, signalled towards an end of the bill and apologized.
The following days saw some radical changes with Britain banning the sale of tear gas to Hong Kong and China stepping to absolutely clamp down on discussions about China at G20 summit in Japan. On July 1, a new life was thrust into the movement as protesters celebrated the 22nd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong by the British. In the protesters’ occupation of the Legislative Council, the council was heavily vandalized. The police are now on the lookout for vandals but it is going to be particularly difficult considering all the protesters donned hard hats and goggles.
Hong Kong has been fighting hard over the years to maintain it’s autonomy and it would behove other nations and their legislators to fragment their independence and relinquish their freedom.