Proposals for a bill that would allow fugitives to be extradited to mainland China prompted large scale protests in Hong Kong. The police used force to disperse the crowds and injured about 80 protesters. The government has now suspended the controversial bill but the unrest isn’t over, says Gina Ho.
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‘Discontent amongst the population is growing’
‘Every year on the 4th of June there are massive protests in Hong Kong to commemorate the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989. These demonstrations are banned in mainland China and Hong Kong people see them as a celebration of their political freedom. The timing of the extradition bill is unfortunate as it is the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen and emotions are running high. The bill allows for criminal suspects to be sent back to China for trial, but Hong Kong people fear it also opens up the possibility for the Chinese government to bring political opponents to China, where human rights and fair trials are not guaranteed.
The authorities are responding even more violently than they did to the umbrella protests of 2014; rubber bullets are being used and journalists are being attacked. Over 20 years have passed since Hong Kong was returned to China after British colonial rule, but discontent amongst the population is growing. This is due to mass tourism from mainland China and inflated property prices. These protests are really empowering, people feel a sense of belonging when defending our culture and values.
The protests have paid off, as the government has suspended the extradition bill. Unfortunately, the unrest is not over. A protestor who recently ended his life has inspired the crowds to reject anything but the full freedoms we were promised. The people of Hong Kong believe that there is power in mass action. As a popular Cantonese saying goes: if you don’t have a dream, what’s the difference between you and a preserved salted fish?’