In 1997, Britain gave up control of its last colony: Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule. At that time, China promised that the region would get to keep certain freedoms—ones that don’t exist in the communist-ruled mainland—for 50 years. Twenty-two years later, protesters this week say those freedoms are fading.
China’s influence is expanding in Hong Kong. This month, protests erupted after the territory’s top official, Beijing-backed Chief Executive Carrie Lam, tried to push through pro-China legislation. Because of intense and sometimes violent protests, the bill has been shelved—for now.
The law would have sent some criminal suspects to face trial in Communist Party courts in China. Many in Hong Kong viewed the bill as another step toward curbing protections they expect from their legal system.
Protesters want to preserve Hong Kong’s freedoms, says Samson Yuen, a professor at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University. “This protest has drawn everybody in town together,” he says. “They really value the freedom to speak up and protest.”
Jerome Cohen, an expert on Chinese law and government, says the bill would have prevented Hong Kong authorities from stopping forced transfers of suspects, including visitors, “for detention, trial, and punishment” to China.
Chinese officials warn against “outside interference.” But they back Lam’s decision to sideline the proposal.
Activists plan more protests for today. They hope to win attention and support from world leaders gathering in Osaka, Japan, later this week. There is also a protest planned for the July 1 anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover to Chinese control.
Lam’s push for the now-stalled legislation and the aggressive tactics used by police have drawn people young and old into the streets. Protester Brian Chow says he isn’t the “type” to get involved in violence. “I’ll just carry on sitting here,” he says, “sing some Christian hymns, show our resistance, keep the government paralyzed until it responds to us.”
Read 1 Timothy 2:1-2 and comment on how Hong Kong protesters do or do not follow Paul’s admonishment.
(A woman waves a British flag as police in anti-riot gear stand guard against protesters in Hong Kong. AP Photo/Kin Cheung)