Hong Kong has a population of over 7 million people. Classified by the Economic Freedom World Index as having the highest economic freedom (90.2) in the world, its populace has enjoyed relative stable peace.
However, July 1st can be called ‘Black Monday’ as it was the peak of the protest which began in June. The annual pro-democracy march aimed to commemorate Hong Kong’s independence from the British to the Chinese rule in 1997, turned to hundreds of demonstrators smashing the glass facade of the Legislative Council (Legco) building.
On the streets of Hong Kong’s densely populated capital, these anti-government protesters had several reasons for condemning the government and requesting for Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam to step down from office.
“She has to withdraw the bill and resign,” veteran Democratic Party lawmaker James To told crowds gathering outside the city’s parliament and government headquarters on Sunday night, reports Channel News Asia.
Firstly, according to Joshua Wong, a pro-democracy activist interviewed by BBC, the fundamental reason for the violent destruction at Legco is that the legislators are not democratically elected in Hong Kong. Thus, people feel that their basic freedoms are not appropriately addressed.
Secondly, last month the parliament announced the introduction of an extradition bill which was designed to allow extraditions from Hong Kong to China. This new proposed bill was frowned at by the Hong Kong people as they chanted “no China extradition, no evil law” insisting the bill is going to subject them unjustifiably under mainland China’s oppressive legal control.
The protesters want the the bill to be withdrawn, but strangely, Lam has tweaked it, with the amendments but refused to completely pull the bill, saying it is vital to plug a long-standing ”loophole.” Hong Kong’s autonomy and various freedoms including a separate legal system have been considered by many business leaders and diplomats as the city’s strongest remaining asset.
Some protesters such as Garry Chiu, a School teacher with his wife and 1-year-old daughter, said, “I need to save my daughter. If the law is implemented anyone can disappear from Hong Kong. No one will get justice in China. We know there are no human rights.” For 21-year old Kelvin Tam, a student in London, CNA says that “The extradition bill will directly threaten the core values of Hong Kong and the rule of Law. It will remove the firewall of Hong Kong judicial independence.”
Hong Kong judges have questioned the impartiality of Chinese courts to try extradition cases reports Reuters. The Hong Kong people believe the amendments would simplify case-by-case arrangements to allow the extradition of wanted suspects to jurisdictions, including mainland China, Macau and Taiwan, beyond the 20 with which Hong Kong already has extradition treaties.
Internationally, foreign governments have expressed concern, warning the impact on Hong Kong’s reputation as an international financial hub, and noting that foreigners wanted in China risk getting ensnared in Hong Kong. This protest is proof of the inefficiency of the “one country, two systems” governing Hong Kong, South Morning Post added.
Demonstrators have broadened their demands to include the release of all detained activists. Amnesty International and the HK Bar Association are calling for investigations into alleged police violence and the use of illegal tactics. Stephen Lo Wai-chung, Commissioner of Police insisted his officers had retreated and regrouped before taking action later. The police and government of Hong Kong must ensure democratic measures are taken to resolve deep-rooted political inconsistencies.