A controversial new law in Hong Kong would greatly expand the crimes for which Hong Kongers could be hauled to China to stand trial.
UNITED NATIONS – Thousands of protesters clogged Hong Kong on Wednesday, battling police in a desperate effort to block an extradition bill that hands broad new powers to China.
At least 70 people were reported injured in clashes with police.
To understand why Hong Kong residents are up in arms, it’s worth understanding how the territory is governed.
Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, when Britain handed the territory to China on the condition that Hong Kong’s “previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years,” that is, until 2047.
Victoria Hui grew up in Hong Kong and is now a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame.
“For our generation, 2047 seemed like a really distant future, but there’s been already 20 years of transition and things are really going south.”
Far from implementing a “one country, two systems” model, Hui says China is gutting Hong Kong’s cherished freedoms, rounding up independent booksellers and denying long-promised universal suffrage for local elections.
Then there’s the extradition bill, which greatly expands the crimes for which Hong Kongers can be hauled to China to stand trial. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam says the bill is necessary to prosecute violent criminals, but critics charge it would “destroy Hong Kong’s status as a safe harbor” from direct Chinese governance.
Protesters won a small victory Wednesday as lawmakers temporarily delayed debate on the extradition bill. But with Hong Kong’s legislature packed with Beijing loyalists and the city’s leader equating protesters with petulant children, Hui sees little chance of stopping the legislation.
“When it comes to mutual understanding, it seems very, very difficult because Carrie Lam and the Hong Kong government is not accountable to Hong Kong people. The chief executive is not democratically-elected.”