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Implications of Hong Kong’s Extradition Bill

Implications of Hong Kong’s Extradition Bill

On November 5, 2019, Posted by , In Asia, By ,,,, , With Comments Off on Implications of Hong Kong’s Extradition Bill
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By Meghan Bedell

Photo: Pixabay

Western media has seen steady reports originating from Hong Kong in the last few months detailing the rising tension over the mainland-Chinese sponsored extradition bill, in which perpetrators of certain crimes can potentially be extradited to the mainland for prosecution. Hong Kong and China’s stark differences in government and right to free speech have exacerbated the issue, with claims from the former stating that China has seen fit to unfairly accuse and then prosecute their citizens for things as simple as professing their distrust of the latter’s oversight. Tensions hit a new high several months ago as Hong Kong’s citizens took to the streets in groups of up to a million people, protesting for their rights. Eventually this led to tear gassing from masses of riot police being introduced to the mix, who allegedly beat and injured thousands of people, even those not directly involved in the protest [1]. Just days ago, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam, seen by many as a puppet figure controlled by Xi Jinping and the mainland government, came face to face with one of many angry groups of Hong Kong’s protesting citizens in a town hall meeting where she was insulted and frustratingly berated by a horde of people [2]. 

Now the official numbers of those arrested in connection with the protests has been reported by a Hong Kong police source to be over 100; these numbers include those as young as 13 years old, accused of conspiring or committing acts of treason against the mainland government [3,4]. What is to happen to those arrested? This remains unclear; although the extradition bill has formally been withdrawn (by Lam, once she had surreptitiously sought the approval of Xi Jinping just before September 4th [5]), whether the mainland will see fit to still imprison those who have been indicted in the nationalist protests is anyone’s guess. And thus the list of events continue, seemingly with no end in sight. 

The issue of Hong Kong began during its time as a British colony, granted to Great Britain from China as a result of the latter’s loss in the opium wars in 1842. In 1898, the territory of Hong Kong was expanded upon in a “lease” given to Great Britain that would endure for 99 years until the year 1997. Then, the territory was handed over once again to mainland China, under a slightly different “one country, two systems” setup. Hong Kong did not take too well to being returned to their mother country; protests have been rather commonplace since 1997, culminating with the 2014 Occupy Hong Kong protests (resulting from China’s efforts to screen democratically-elected candidates for office) and the current extradition protests.

The extradition bill protests could perhaps not have come at a more strenuous time for Jinping’s China; as the country kickstarts efforts on the multi-trillion dollar “One Belt One Road” Initiative (一带一路), struggles in the tense U.S.-China Trade War, and continually fights to repress news of its other human rights abuses, its attention is drawn thinner yet by large-scale protests in one of its most profitable administrative regions. 

President Trump has made it clear that he is no ally of China’s in the trade war; however, it would appear that neither is he on their side in the Hong Kong protests. Since 1997, the United States has treated Hong Kong legally as its own entity, apart from mainland China, in matters of trade and economy [6]. And during Trump’s presidency, as the wave of extradition bill protests has reached a new extreme, the United States passed a bill prohibiting sales of tear gas to the Chinese mainland in hopes that Hong Kong’s citizens might be spared unjust punishment by any weapons that we have provided to their oppressors [7]. Implications of the Hong Kong riots for the United States may be hard to exactly pinpoint; however, through judging based off of patterns from previous movements including the 2014 Occupy Hong Kong protest, there are some things that we will likely see repeated. Prominent members in the movements will likely be jailed for some time, prompting for the United States to again call out, like they did for prisoners from the 2014 movement, against human rights abuses. This is nothing new for the United States to do against China. It is unlikely that we will do much more in regards to this, however; even in a trade war, China is far too valuable of a provider of U.S. agricultural and manufactured goods to be completely sanctioned by us. In observing the unfolding of chaos in Hong Kong through the eyes of its citizens in newspaper articles and on websites such as Twitter, it would appear that independence from their oppressor, or at least true democracy, remains the desired outcome by most [8]. However, if China were to allow Hong Kong to become independent, which is highly unlikely to occur in the near future given the current state of affairs (and the likelihood to spur a similar movement in Taiwan that it could cause), the United States would then have to adjust their diplomacy in other ways, possibly cutting off relations with the new Hong Kong altogether to preserve relations with the bigger trading partner. It far is more likely, though, that instead of reaching this point, we will continue to observe, perhaps imposing a few more trade restrictions on mainland China to urge them to ease up on Hong Kong, and wait until the protests calm down, only to once again be ignited in a few more years as Xi Jinping imposes yet another law or change upon the territory that angers its citizens. What happens at that point could be similar to the cycle we have already gone through and are going through again, or perhaps something completely different.   

Update (10/04/2019): A protestor was shot at close range on Wednesday the 2nd by mainland-sent police forces and remains hospitalized, soon to face charges of assault. (9) This event, along with the same-day arrests of 269 people and sudden imposition of a law today banning the wearing of face masks at protests (put in place as an emergency measure by Lam), have brought a new level of anger to those in the streets (10). As China continues to send more police forces from Beijing, it would seem that small-scale efforts to promote democracy for Hong Kong will soon be, or already have been, quashed. Although Lam’s actions have drawn sharp criticism from several national-level leaders, including president Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, and US senator Rick Scott, it is unlikely that either will take further action against her beyond words (11). Short-term, it would appear that protests will continue to be harshly suppressed by Hong Kong’s own police forces as well as the many already borrowed from China. Long-term would provide the most hope for democracy and independence for those who want it. However, following the patterns seen so far in the escalation of the protests, China may soon send in military forces to potentially enforce martial law. Another aspect to examine regarding this issue is the effect that the protests have on mainland ideology. One might think that the Hong Kong protests may influence mainlanders to undertake protests of their own. However, there has not been much yet; some news stories have even suggested that mainlanders, youth especially, feel the opposite and have no desire to protest (12). Overall, it would appear that those wanting independence will have to wait for some drastic changes. 

Sources:

[1] Einhorn, B., & Kwan, S. (2019, September 14). Hong Kong’s World Class Subway in Crisis After Repeated Attacks. Retrieved September 28, 2019, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-09-14/hong-kong-s-mtr-pressured-after-protesters-attack-subway-stations.

[2] May, T., & Jacobs, A. (2019, September 26). Carrie Lam Comes Face to Face With Angry Hong Kong Residents at Town Hall. Retrieved September 28, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/26/world/asia/carrie-lam-hong-kong-protests.html.

[3] As it happened: more than 100 arrests after march descends into violence and chaos on Hong Kong Island. (2019, September 29). Retrieved September 29, 2019, from https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3030822/tensions-hong-kong-streets-ahead-anti-government-march.

[4] Ives, M., & Yu, E. (2019, September 22). Two 13-Year-Olds Are Arrested Over Hong Kong Protests. Retrieved September 27, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/22/world/asia/hong-kong-protests.html?action=click&module=RelatedCoverage&pgtype=Article®ion.

[5] Cheung, G. (2019, September 28). Carrie Lam ‘had to seek Xi’s approval’ to withdraw extradition bill. Retrieved September 28, 2019, from https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3030735/hong-kong-leader-carrie-lam-sought-president-xi-jinpings.

[6] CHAPTER 66—UNITED STATES-HONG KONG POLICY. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2019, from https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title22/chapter66&edition=prelim.

[7] Churchill, O. (2019, September 11). US lawmakers introduce bill to stop tear gas sales to Hong Kong. Retrieved September 27, 2019, from https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3026631/us-lawmakers-introduce-bill-stop-tear-gas-sales-hong-kong.

[8] Examples include:

蔡晓颖 . (2016, September 3). 特写:为何部分香港年青人支持”港独”? – BBC News 中文. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/zhongwen/simp/china/2016/09/160903_hongkong_independence_movement_.

专访黄之锋:天安门事件有可能在香港重演,我并不主张香港独立. (2019, August 18). Retrieved September 28, 2019, from https://www.voachinese.com/a/joshwa-wong-on-hong-kong-self-determination-and-crackdown/5046314.html.

Almost nobody in Hong Kong under 30 identifies as “Chinese”. (2019, August 26). Retrieved September 29, 2019, from https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2019/08/26/almost-nobody-in-hong-kong-under-30-identifies-as-chinese.

Lin, G. (2016, July 25). CUHK survey finds nearly 40% of young Hongkongers want independence after 2047. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from https://www.hongkongfp.com/2016/07/25/17-hongkongers-support-independence-2047-especially-youth-cuhk-survery/.

remonwangxt. (2019, September 28). 2014年我還畫過這樣的漫畫。。。從香港人還能友善地為警察撐傘,到現在看到舉五星紅旗挑釁的視如仇寇,甘願做“暴徒”,中間發生了太多事,有無數次和解的機會,但是中國和香港政府幾乎每次都選擇了与人民為敵,最終催生了香港獨立運動的崛起 [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/remonwangxt/status/1178036978866147328.

[9] Chan, V., & Givetash, L. (2019, October 3). Hong Kong student protester shot by police charged with assault. Retrieved October 4, 2019, from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/hong-kong-student-protester-shot-police-be-charged-n1061806.

[10] Withnall, Adam. (2019, October 4). Hong Kong leader bans face masks using archaic law to try and combat protests. Retrieved October 4, 2019, from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/hong-kong-protests-latest-news-today-face-masks-ban-carrie-lam-police-a9142581.html.

[11] Ng, T. (2019, October 4). Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam is Beijing’s puppet, US senator says. Retrieved October 4, 2019, from https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3031549/us-senator-rick-scott-accuses-hong-kong-chief-carrie-lam-being.

[12] Zuo, M. (2019, August 31). Mainland Chinese students call for peers in Hong Kong to end protests. Retrieved October 4, 2019, from https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3025208/mainland-chinese-students-call-peers-hong-kong-end-protests-and.

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