Lisa (Yi) Wu
Hong Kong, returned to China from British colonial government in 1997, maintained its prosperity and economic status under the “one country, two systems” framework. Although the Chinese government promised people of Hong Kong high autonomy, including an independent legal system, continued capitalism, and access to international institutions and conferences, protests against Chinese governance have been occurring since March.
The primary cause of the protests was the amendment of the “extradition bill”. Chan Tong-kai, a man who fled back to Hong Kong after committing murder on his girlfriend in Taiwan, was not able to be extradited to Taiwan. After the victim’s family appealed to the government, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, proposed the extradition bill in February 2019. The bill enabled Hong Kong government to transfer fugitives to jurisdictions that were excluded in the existing laws, including not only Taiwan, but also Macao, mainland China and other countries.
Ronny Tong, the senior advisor of the Chief Executive, said: “What the amendment does is to extend the applicability of the statute to China and to the rest of the world.” Moreover, the government emphasized the need to ensure that Hong Kong does not become a haven for fugitives. People in Hong Kong and western media seemed to interpret the bill from another perspective. The Law Society from UK criticized: “The proposals fundamentally imperil the operation of the rule of law in Hong Kong.”
In my perspective, however, the bill should be implemented because it helps solve the fugitive problem, even though it’s being misunderstood and used as an excuse for protesters to undermine Hong Kong’s social order.
Without the extradition bill, the fugitive problem will remain in Hong Kong and severely interrupt the order of the society. Chan Tong-kai was only sentenced to 29 months in prison on April 29 for charges of “money laundering”. Because of the shortcomings of the law, the murderer did not receive the punishment he should have. Chen Zhimin, deputy Minister of Public Security, revealed that since 1997, more than three hundred repeat offenders fled to Hong Kong from mainland China. Since there was no extradition, they escaped punishment. If we continue to tolerate such incidents, more people will take advantage of the legal loophole and Hong Kong will truly become the “haven for fugitives.”
As the bill invoked public anger, protesters gathered on Hong Kong streets to express their concerns regarding the bill. Their means of expressing dissatisfaction are worrisome. While some police have used violence to suppress the protestors, the behaviors of the protestors have severely disrupted the operation of public transportation and threatened the safety of Hong Kong citizens. The Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong University ended the fall semester because of safety concerns. Playgrounds were set on fire; buildings and facilities in schools suffered from random attacks by protestors; students were forced to pause their academic pursuit; citizens were hit indiscriminately. On June 13th, protestors on the pedestrian bridge near Wangjiao threw bricks down, despite the cars and pedestrians that were still crossing the road.
According to Joey Siu, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and a spokesperson for several student unions, “One of the principles among protestors is about no splitting and no condemning any of their protestors, even though the level of violence they use seem to be escalating and might be posing some harms to others.” She admitted that nobody could stop the violence. Even worse, there’s no single person who can represent the protestors to talk to the government about their demands. Therefore, the violence from the protestors is more like a tool to vent against society. They are carrying the banner of democracy, but doing things that run counter to democratic principles. “The Australian” posted an article entitled “Hong Kong mob protesters rule the streets” by Hedley Thomas, in which he pointed out: “In this volatile atmosphere, anyone who publicly challenges their cause, who seeks to call out the violence and the damage, is at risk of fierce reprisal.”
Although pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong were violent and non-democratic in its essence, international organizations and many countries have supported the protest, showing strong doubt towards Hong Kong’s judiciary and distrust of the Chinese government. As Ronny Tong said in his interview, 90 percent of the people who participated in the march thought that the extradition bill was to enable the Hong Kong government to send people back to China for trial for criticizing Beijing. However, as the statute of Hong Kong stated, the Chief Executive has no power to order extradition, only to refuse extradition. The only institution which can order extradition is the courts. Therefore, the law itself does not erode the human rights of Hong Kong citizens. The bill is being protested instead as an excuse to express long-term anxiety and diffident about freedom in the judicial system.
To date, the situation in Hong Kong has not been optimistic. How to solve the fugitive problem and stop violence is an urgent problem for Hong Kong government and Beijing. We hope that while protecting Hong Kong’s democracy and human rights, we will maintain social stability and the basic security of Hong Kong people.
YouTube. YouTube. Accessed November 29, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTBC3WdRzog.
“2019 Hong Kong Extradition Bill.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, November 28, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Hong_Kong_extradition_bill.
“中央完全支持香港做的这件事，有两大背景_逃犯.” _逃犯, May 23, 2019. http://www.sohu.com/a/316022004_221650.
THOMAS, HEDLEY. “Hong Kong Mob Protesters Rule the Streets.” https://www.theaustralian.com.au/world/hong-kong-mob-protesters-rule-the-streets/news-story/3784f837073df318fbb5b9f35884ecbc. The Australian, n.d.