By Eunice Lai, Summer Times Staff Writer
“I won’t be around anymore,” Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy legistator in Hong Kong said. “It’s their future, it’s their Hong Kong, they have every right to fight it”
If you have been keeping up with the world news recently, you would most likely know about the protests in Hong Kong. However, you probably don’t know what it’s about and how it all started (except for the 20 other Hong Kongers here at Exeter).
It’s a complicated, two-sided story which started when a young couple, Chan Tong Kai and Poon Hiu Wing, went to Taiwan in February 2018 together, but only one of them returned 9 days later. Chan later confessed to murdering his pregnant girlfriend Poon but received no punishment as he did not commit the crime in Hong Kong. Because of this incident, an extradition bill was proposed by Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, that allows extraditions to both Taiwan and mainland China.
Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous region of China, giving it a different set of laws and the citizens of Hong Kong freedom of speech. By passing the extradition bill, it is putting all Hong Kong citizens under the risk of getting sent to China to be tried. This led to three successive demonstrations aimed at preserving Hong Kong’s rights (on 9 and 12 June, and on 1 July) and another protest on the 9th of June attended by 240,000 people, according to police sources, or over a million protesters, according to the organizers.
“If the Hong Kong bill passes,” said a middle-aged man who participated in the protests, “that means Hong Kong has fallen.” They feel this due to their beliefs that China’s outrageous and unfair laws will cause the possibility of politically motivated prosecution, the lack of fair trials under mainland China’s laws, and the loss of freedom of speech.
“We support Hong Kong’s democracy movement,” said Representative Lee Jong-cheol of the South Korean politcal party Bareunmirae. “We hear the strong echo of the cry of a Hong Kong headed towards democracy and freedom.” Many in the business community are also concerned what the impact of becoming another city in China will have on the economy. The Eupopean Commission reported in 2018 that Hong Kong’s unique “one country, two systems” principle was one of the reasons for the city’s economic success and that it had “legitimate concerns about whether Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and its attractiveness as an international business center will continue to be upheld in the long term.”
However, the protest impacted business in the city. “Tourism is down 5-10% so far,” said Allan Zeman, a Hong Kong businessman and founder of Hong Kong’s most popular nightlife district Lan Kwai Fung. “Retail is down, many of the retail shops where protesters have been had to close down. Business is destabilized.”
Luckily, this is not a lasting impact on the economy, and Hong Kong will be able to quickly bounce back to the way it was. Not passing the extradition bill will also allow murderers to walk free. Fugitives from over 170 countries will be able to evade justice just by coming here. An example of this is when mainland China extradited around 200 criminal suspects since 1997, but in the absence of an extradition bill, Hong Kong only have itself to blame for letting these people go unpunished. Hong Kong is also sending a message that they cannot trust China, forfeiting their confidence towards their home country, adversely affecting its own ability to uphold criminal justice.
Since the protests, Carrie Lam announced that the controversial extradition bill was “dead.” However, protesters still remain unconvinced and are demanding to see the extradition bill being formally withdrawn.