Metropolitan Digital

The Conversation

  • Written by Kelly Chernin, Research Assistant Professor, Appalachian State University

Protesters in Hong Kong have achieved a major victory in their fight to protect their legal system from Chinese interference.

On June 15, in response to massive popular resistance[1], Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced she would suspend a vote on a proposed new law that would allow China to extradite suspects accused of certain crimes and prosecute them in Chinese courts.

For over a week, some 1.3 million people had gathered daily outside Hong Kong’s legislature[2] to protest the legislation, which protesters say China will abuse to extradite political dissidents. They managed to postpone a June 12 vote[3] by blocking entry to the legislative building. Days later, consideration of the law was indefinitely postponed.

That temporarily protects Hong Kong’s judicial system[4], one of the island territory’s few remaining areas of government autonomy from China.

Protesters are now demanding that the bill be withdrawn[5], not just suspended[6]. If the law comes up for vote at a later date, it will likely pass in Hong Kong’s legislative council, where pro-China forces dominate.

‘One country, two systems’

Chinese rule over Hong Kong, an island territory off the coast of Shenzhen, has long been disputed.

The British colonized[7] Hong Kong in the 1800s following the Opium Wars[8]. But China never accepted this territorial claim, and insisted throughout the 20th century that Hong Kong belonged to China.

In 1997, after a decade of negotiations between the United Kingdom and China, Hong Kong returned to China – with some strings[9] attached. Knowing that Hong Kong had developed under a Western system of government, then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping made Hong Kong a “Special Autonomous Region” and agreed to give the island a 50-year transition period to come fully under Chinese rule.

Under this system, Hong Kong would retain its judicial system and legislative council, affording the island relative independence in its day-to-day operations. But Hong Kong would belong to China. The arrangement became known as “one country, two systems[10].”

Controversially, full suffrage and free elections were not part of the 1997 deal[11].

For two decades, though, the “one country, two systems” arrangement seemed to give Hong Kong relative autonomy from Chinese interference.

Then, in 2014, China announced that people would be allowed to vote in Hong Kong’s 2017 chief executive election[12] only from a short list of preapproved candidates.

Thousands took to the streets to demand universal suffrage. To protect themselves from police spraying tear gas at the front lines, they used umbrellas, giving rise to the name the “Umbrella Movement[13].”

Mass protests protect Hong Kong's legal autonomy from China – for now Umbrella Movement protesters face off against police, Sept. 28, 2014. Reuters/Bobby Yip[14]

In the years since the uprising, I have interviewed numerous democracy activists in Hong Kong as part of my academic research[15] into the evolution of social movements.

Many participants told me that they believed the 2014 Umbrella Movement had ended peacefully because China didn’t want another Tiananmen Square on its hands. In 1989, Chinese soldiers opened fire on student protesters[16] in Beijing, killing hundreds and raising global uproar.

Emboldened by international support for the Umbrella Movement, Hong Kong’s young activists[17] have continued their efforts to protect their independence from China. Nine Umbrella Movement leaders[18] ran for local office in Hong Kong in the territory’s 2015 elections.

In 2016 elections, two pro-independence politicians even won seats in the legislative council. However, they were quickly expelled[19] for “failing” to properly recite their loyalty oaths at a swearing-in ceremony.

In 2017 Carrie Lam[20], a candidate loyal to Beijing and the driving force behind the extradition law, was elected Chief Executive – Hong Kong’s highest public official.

Creeping Chinese influence

Under Lam’s leadership, traditionally pro-democracy politicians were removed[21] from office. Some were even arrested and jailed as dissidents[22].

Mass protests protect Hong Kong's legal autonomy from China – for now Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Wikimedia Commons[23]

Today, only 24 pro-democracy politicians remain in Hong Kong’s 70-seat legislative council.

Increasing Chinese influence on the island territory also threatens Hong Kong’s clout as a major economic hub[24].

For decades, Hong Kong’s relative autonomy has made the island territory an appealing place to do business in Asia[25]. But under stronger Chinese rule, financial markets and regulatory systems in Hong Kong may become less reliable as they begin to reflect the national interests[26] of China – not those of the free market.

The American Chamber of Commerce[27] and several prominent Hong Kong business leaders have publicly spoken out against the extradition law.

“Spiriting people away over the border would undermine business confidence,” one hedge fund manager told the nonprofit human rights organization Hong Kong Watch[28].

Human rights at stake

Hong Kong’s legal system is now the only surviving pillar of “one country, two systems,” which was created to give Hong Kong autonomy over its legal, economic and financial affairs.

If the postponed extradition law passes, there will be no meaningful remaining barriers between democratic-leaning Hong Kong and authoritarian China.

For many in Hong Kong, that’s an intolerable future.

An assessment by the World Justice Project[29], a nonprofit organization that works to advance the rule of law worldwide, ranks Hong Kong 16th and China 82nd worldwide based on[30] their constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice.

China is a known violator of human rights[31]. It systematically surveils and represses[32] ethnic minorities like the Uyghurs, a Muslim population in China’s northwest region, and restricts internet access[33]. The government has jailed hundreds of human rights lawyers[34] since 2015.

Political dissidence is not tolerated in China. The late Nobel Peace Prize winner[35] Liu Xiaobo, was sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in Chinese prison for “inciting subversion of state power[36].” He died in prison in 2017[37] after being denied travel abroad for cancer treatment.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, has a rich history[38] of mass demonstrations.

Mass protests protect Hong Kong's legal autonomy from China – for now Hong Kong protesters carry umbrellas – a symbolic reminder of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, June 17, 2019. Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha[39]

In Hong Kong’s 1966 Star Ferry riots[40], people protested the British colonial government’s decision to increase transit fares. And every July 1[41] since 2003 – the anniversary of the 1997 transition from British to Chinese rule – people have taken to the streets pleading for universal suffrage.

“One country, two systems” has allowed Hong Kong residents to openly disagree with policymakers in a way mainland Chinese cannot. As required by Hong Kong’s legal system, democracy protesters arrested for their political activism are given legal representation, trials and serve time in Hong Kong’s well-regulated prisons[42].

The extradition law’s threat of trial and punishment in China would have a chilling effect on future democracy demonstrations[43] there.

If “One country, two systems” falls, what remains of Hong Kong’s democracy will go down with it.

(Like what you’ve read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter[44]. )

References

  1. ^ massive popular resistance (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ 1.3 million people had gathered daily outside Hong Kong’s legislature (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ June 12 vote (www.washingtonpost.com)
  4. ^ judicial system (theglobepost.com)
  5. ^ withdrawn (www.nytimes.com)
  6. ^ suspended (www.nytimes.com)
  7. ^ British colonized (rowman.com)
  8. ^ Opium Wars (theconversation.com)
  9. ^ strings (www.gov.cn)
  10. ^ one country, two systems (www.basiclaw.gov.hk)
  11. ^ were not part of the 1997 deal (www.scmp.com)
  12. ^ chief executive election (www.theguardian.com)
  13. ^ Umbrella Movement (thinkprogress.org)
  14. ^ Reuters/Bobby Yip (pictures.reuters.com)
  15. ^ academic research (www.annualreviews.org)
  16. ^ Chinese soldiers opened fire on student protesters (www.youtube.com)
  17. ^ young activists (www.bbc.com)
  18. ^ Nine Umbrella Movement leaders (www.scmp.com)
  19. ^ expelled (www.nytimes.com)
  20. ^ Carrie Lam (www.scmp.com)
  21. ^ removed (theconversation.com)
  22. ^ arrested and jailed as dissidents (www.nytimes.com)
  23. ^ Wikimedia Commons (upload.wikimedia.org)
  24. ^ major economic hub (www.routledge.com)
  25. ^ appealing place to do business in Asia (www.scmp.com)
  26. ^ the national interests (static1.squarespace.com)
  27. ^ American Chamber of Commerce (www.ft.com)
  28. ^ Hong Kong Watch (static1.squarespace.com)
  29. ^ World Justice Project (worldjusticeproject.org)
  30. ^ based on (worldjusticeproject.org)
  31. ^ violator of human rights (www.hrw.org)
  32. ^ surveils and represses (www.wired.com)
  33. ^ internet access (www.hongkongfp.com)
  34. ^ jailed hundreds of human rights lawyers (www.theguardian.com)
  35. ^ Nobel Peace Prize winner (www.nobelprize.org)
  36. ^ inciting subversion of state power (www.reuters.com)
  37. ^ died in prison in 2017 (www.amnesty.org)
  38. ^ rich history (www.taylorfrancis.com)
  39. ^ Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha (pictures.reuters.com)
  40. ^ 1966 Star Ferry riots (www.scmp.com)
  41. ^ July 1 (www.nytimes.com)
  42. ^ well-regulated prisons (www.scmp.com)
  43. ^ future democracy demonstrations (www.scmp.com)
  44. ^ Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter (theconversation.com)

Authors: Kelly Chernin, Research Assistant Professor, Appalachian State University

Read more http://theconversation.com/mass-protests-protect-hong-kongs-legal-autonomy-from-china-for-now-118753

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Entertainment News

Phish’s 2018 Fall Tour to Conclude with Four Performances at MGM Grand Garden Arena

LAS VEGAS (May 15, 2018) – Phish, the American rock band known worldwide for its dedicated fan base, recently announced a 14-date Fall tour which will conclude in Las Vegas with four performances at...

Blane Ferguson - avatar Blane Ferguson

Dave Damiani and The No Vacancy Orchestra are “Bending The Standard”

Tina Sinatra, Dave Damiani & Landau Murphy Jr. celebrate 100 years of Frank Sinatra in Los Angeles There have been stories about independent filmmakers, but how about the independent big band...

Tom Estey - avatar Tom Estey

Billboard Chart-Topping Saxophonist VANDELL ANDREW Returns With New Single

From the vantage point of 30, his age and the name of his infectious, sensually grooving new full length album, Vandell continues to be fueled by the impressive roar of accolades and achievements th...

Metropolitan Digital - avatar Metropolitan Digital

Metropolitan Business News

Office Cleaner Takes Ownership of the Neglected Dishwasher

In an office that a dishwasher is being used communally, it is pretty difficult to set rules on how a certain appliance needs to be taken cared of. A dishwasher is a responsibility of no one until you...

News Company - avatar News Company

Amazing tips to become a successful trader

Everyone is working very hard to secure their financial freedom. Most of the people find it hard to support their family even after having a 9-5 day job. For this very reason, people often look for ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Best Practice For Young Professionals Working Through HR Internships

The industry of human relations is vitally important to the health and prosperity of a business.   Whether they are operating in textile manufacturing, accounting, sports, IT development or hospit...

News Company - avatar News Company

4 Easy Steps To Gaining SEO Momentum For Your Business

SEO (search engine optimisation) does not have to be a tiresome and overbearing exercise that diverts attention away from the core functions of a business.   SEO Shark affirms this as a smart and ...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Manage An SEO Project On Limited Funds

SEO operators don’t need thousands upon thousands of dollars to become successful.   What SEO practitioners needs more than ever is the skills and diligence to identify problems that are acting a...

News Company - avatar News Company

An Introduction To Coworking For Australian Business Owners

Advancing technology is bringing with it great advantages in communications and networking, and to survive in business you need to keep up. With the rate at which everything changes these days, that...

News Company - avatar News Company

Holidays

New Baggage Regulations to Help Aussie Parents Travel with Infants

Travelling around the globe has never been easy, especially when infants tag along for the trip. One of the main issues that parents often have to deal with is the need to bring extra item...

News Company - avatar News Company

Maya Beach Opens to Tourists

Despite recent reports that Southern Thailand's famous Maya Beach will close for three months this year, in fact no decision to this effect has been made by Thai authorities. Phi Phi Nati...

Maevadi Rosenfeldt - avatar Maevadi Rosenfeldt

SKYN LAUNCHES GUIDE TO THE BEST PLACES TO GET INTIMATE

SKYN®, Australia’s best-selling condom*, today launches its very first SKYN® Places of Intimacy Guide.   Curated in partnership with GQ Magazine and Conde Nast, the Guide features 30 lux...

SKYN - avatar SKYN