The Hong Kong protests have dragged on for months now with no signs of letting up. In fact, the protests saw a sudden uptick in chaos today as masked demonstrators faced off with police at the Yuen Long MTR subway station. Outside China, many are wondering about the reasons for the Hong Kong protests.
According to NBC News, hundreds of demonstrators gathered for a sit-in at the subway station Wednesday night to mark one month since the violence on July 21 when mobs wearing white attacked peaceful demonstrators dressed in black. According to Reuters, the demonstrators who gathered on Wednesday night are angry that no one has been prosecuted for the violent confrontation last month.
They observed a moment of silence to mark the one-month anniversary. Then some of the demonstrators suddenly started to overturn carts, garbage cans and vending machines to create makeshift barricades in expectation of a clash with police. The night finally ended without a violent face-off with police, closing yet another day of protests in the semiautonomous city. Some protestors wearing masks sprayed fire extinguishers, while others poured bear, cooking oil and detergent on the floor to keep police from moving in on them.
NPR explains that the reasons for the Hong Kong protests are complex. In February, the Hong Kong government proposed a bill that would allow citizens of the semi-autonomous region to be extradited to mainland China. The bill also increases the range of countries where suspects could be sent to include some countries that Hong Kong doesn’t have mutual extradition agreements with. The proposed bill allows the city to extradite suspects on a case-by-base basis, and the chief executive would have control over which cases it applies to.
The concern for Hong Kong citizens was that some of the civil liberties they enjoy in the city but are denied in the mainland will be eroded. The region has remained judicially independent from mainland China since the end of British rule, but some now worry that the bill would allow Chinese authorities to extradite political activists. The bill stalled in June following major protests. Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended it indefinitely and apologized for it.
Although the bill has been suspended, it isn’t officially dead, which means it could still be revived. Thus, the Hong Kong protests have continued. Critics are demanding that the bill be officially withdrawn. Demonstrators are also calling for an independent investigation into “police misconduct and brutality.”
According to Reuters, Beijing accuses the U.S. and other countries of cultivating unrest in Hong Kong. The Chinese government has also warned that it could use force to quell the unrest and has been holding paramilitary drills in nearby Shenzhen.
The New York Times reports that China’s propaganda machine has been working overtime to convince the rest of the world that demonstrators are a danger. However, the protests have largely been peaceful, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets to call for more of a say in the semiautonomous city’s political system. Outside China, there are enough other news sources to call into question the reports from China’s state-run media. However, within the nation’s borders, residents have no access to outside news.
For now, the Hong Kong protests will likely continue until progress on their demands is made. The demonstrators want the proposed extradition bill to be completely withdrawn and for the government to stop using the word “riot” to refer to their demonstrations. They also want protesters who have been arrested to be released and the charges against them dropped and an independent investigation into police behavior as they deal with demonstrators.