Courtesy of The Guardian 19 September 2019
Anti-government protests have rocked Hong Kong for months and the situation shows no sign of dying down.
To bring you up to date, here’s all the background you need to know in 100 or 500 words – you can read each individually or in turn.
Hong Kong’s protests started in June against proposals to allow extradition to mainland China.
Critics feared this could undermine the city’s judicial independence and endanger dissidents.
A former British colony, Hong Kong has some autonomy and more rights than the mainland under a “one country, two systems” deal.
City leader Carrie Lam agreed to suspend the bill, but demonstrations continued and developed to include demands for full democracy and an inquiry into police actions. The bill was finally withdrawn in September.
Clashes between police and activists have been becoming increasingly violent, with police using tear gas and activists storming parliament.
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 Hong Kongers 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.
How did the protests escalate?
Protesters feared the bill could be revived, so demonstrations continued, calling for it to be withdrawn completely. The bill was finally withdrawn in September.
By then clashes between police and protesters had become more frequent and more violent, with injuries on both sides and scores of people arrested.
Police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets while some activists have thrown bricks, firebombs and other objects.
In July, protesters stormed parliament, defacing parts of it. Also in July, a masked mob armed with sticks – suspected to be triad gangsters – assaulted pro-democracy protesters and passers-by inside Yuen Long station, far from the city centre.
In August, one protester was injured in the eye, leading to demonstrators wearing red-coloured eye patches to show their solidarity.
Protest action at Hong Kong international airport in August also saw renewed clashes and led to hundreds of flights being cancelled.
What do the protesters want?
The protesters’ demands have changed over the weeks. They also include:
- Withdrawal of the “riot” description used about the protests
- Amnesty for all arrested protesters
- An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality
- Universal suffrage for the elections of the chief executive and Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s parliament.
Some also want the resignation of Carrie Lam, whom they view as Beijing’s puppet. It’s not clear if scrapping the bill will end the protests – some opponents see the move as too little, too late.
After initially staying quiet on the unrest, China has condemned the Hong Kong protests as “behaviour that is close to terrorism” – a sign its approach is hardening.
There have also been reports of Chinese police and military massing across the border in Shenzhen, in a clear show of force.
Protests supporting the Hong Kong movement have spread across the globe, with rallies taking place in the UK, France, US, Canada and Australia.
In many cases, people supporting the Hong Kong demonstrators were confronted by pro-Beijing rallies.
What is Hong Kong’s status?
Hong Kong is a former British colony handed back to China in 1997.
It is run under a “one country, two systems” agreement that guarantees it a level of autonomy.
It has its own judiciary and a separate legal system from mainland China. Those rights including freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are protected.
But those freedoms – the Basic Law – expire in 2047 and it is not clear what Hong Kong’s status will then be.
Want to know more?
- What led to a single gunshot being fired?
- How business is navigating Hong Kong’s new reality
- The background you need on the Hong Kong protests
- The twists and turns in Hong Kong so far
- Profile: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam
- Seven ways China’s media took on HK protests
- How badly has tourism been affected