Protests in Hong Kong leads to more violence and chaos
Since June 2019, Hong Kong has seen months of non-stop unrest which shows no sign of stopping. Protests began in June when millions came out to oppose a controversial bill that would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to China.
The extradition bill which triggered the first protest was introduced in April. It would have allowed for criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China under certain circumstances.
Opponents said this risked exposing Hongkongers to unfair trials and violent treatment. They also argued the bill would give China greater influence over Hong Kong and could be used to target activists and journalists.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets. After weeks of protests, leader Carrie Lam eventually said the bill would be suspended indefinitely.
The bill was withdrawn in September but demonstrations continue as the protesters feared that the bill could be revived and now demand full democracy and an inquiry into police actions.
Clashes between police and activists have become increasingly violent, with police firing live bullets and protesters attacking officers and throwing petrol bombs.
On October 1 Hong Kong experienced one of its most violent and chaotic days.
An 18-year-old was shot in the chest with a live bullet as protesters fought officers with poles, petrol bombs, and other projectiles.
The government then banned protesters wearing face masks, and in early November a pro-Beijing lawmaker was stabbed by a man pretending to be a supporter.
One week later, a policeman shot a protester at when activists were trying to set up a roadblock. Later that day another man was set on fire by anti-government protesters.
In November, a standoff between police and students barricaded on the campus of Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University became another defining moment.
What do the protesters want?
Despite all the chaos and the violence, the protesters don’t want to give up yet. The protester’s demands are simple, they have adopted a motto: “Five demands, not one less!”. These are:
- For the protests not to be characterized as a “riot”
- Amnesty for arrested protesters
- An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality
- Implementation of complete universal suffrage
- The fifth demand, the withdrawal of the bill, has already been met.
Protests supporting the Hong Kong movement have spread across the globe, with rallies taking place in the UK, France, the US, Canada, and Australia.
In many cases, people supporting the demonstrators were confronted by pro-Beijing rallies.
Chinese president Xi Jinping has warned against separatism, saying any attempt to divide China would end in “bodies smashed and bones ground to powder“.
Recently, China is proposing to introduce a new national security law, which critics believe could be used to crack down on rights and political activists.
Could this get any worse now?
That depends on China. Troops from its People’s Liberation Army have been in the city since the 1997 handover, but have played a minimal role. For some people, the greatest fear is of a crackdown mirroring the deadly one three decades ago on mostly student protesters in Tiananmen Square. Another worry concerns a withdrawal by the U.S. of the special status under which it agreed to treat Hong Kong as distinct from China for trade and economic matters. To the dismay of China’s leaders, President Donald Trump signed a bill into law expressing U.S. support for the protesters. The U.S. condemned the April arrests and politicians including Senator Marco Rubio have continued to push for a harder line on China.
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