Why Are There Protests in Hong Kong?

Protests in Hong Kong throughout 2019 involve a pro-democracy movement in the semi-autonomous region of China. The initial outburst occurred in June when the government would have allowed extradition to the mainland over alleged crimes. 

There was a fear that this action could lead to oppression against those who had made a stand against communism in the past.

The plans to allow extradition got scrapped in September, but the protests are continuing. It now involves demands to look into issues of police brutality while wanting expanded democratic reforms.

Why Does China Allow These Protests to Continue?

China’s history with protestors is one that involves death and destruction. Why does the government allow Hong Kong to continue making global headlines with these activities when the communist government usually takes the opposite approach?

It is because Hong Kong has a special status within the Chinese government. It was a British colony for over 150 years, with part of the island captured after a war in 1842. China then leased the rest of the land to the UK for 99 years. The economy became a thriving hub in Asia thanks to manufacturing innovation, but it was also a popular destination for people fleeing from persecution, poverty, or instability on the mainland.

The Chinese and British governments eventually agreed in 1984 that a handover of Hong Kong would happen only if it could operate under the principle of having one country, but with two systems.

These agreements were set to last through to 2047, allowing Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, except for defensive or foreign affairs. Even the rights to free speech and freedom of assembly are allowed in Hong Kong. It’s one of the few places under Chinese rule where the Tiananmen Square violence from 1989 receives any recognition.

Is China Already Meddling in Hong Kong?

Critics say that China has already started meddling in the affairs of the former colony. Writers and artists talk about being under increased pressure to censor their works. Booksellers have disappeared, only to be found in the custody of law enforcement in China.

Imagine feeling safe in your home, believing that you could do as you wish, but one day you find a security camera in your bedroom linked to someone who you don’t know. People once felt secure and with a bright future ahead of them, but now they fear being watched and at risk of harm if they step out of line even in their own home.

What makes matters even more complex is that most people in Hong Kong don’t identify as being Chinese. Over 70% say that they are “Hong Kongers,” and only 1 in 10 say that they would even associate themselves with the mainland. 

The protests continue because there is a real fear that Hong Kong will become “just another city” for China to exploit if democracy is cast aside. Until more pro-democracy actions are taken, these activities will likely continue indefinitely.