By - Adedoyin Shittu
Hong Kong is facing a dangerously uncertain future, as Beijing looks to extend mainland law’s grip on the territory.
Hong Kong, a country with largely liberal population but an undemocratic system have been in the spotlight since the leader proposed to pass an extradition bill that will enable China to extradite fugitives from the city to the mainland for trial. China is not exactly the model child for freedom of “anything,” be it expression, religion, press, association, in fact freedom is far from the communist country.
Though the Hong Kong leaders has agreed to suspend the bill till further notice, the protesters are not satisfied, the protesters demand of the Hong Kong government includes;
To push their demand further on the international level, yesterday the 24th of June, a fundraising with a target of $3 million Hong Kong dollars was set up and over $5 million (Hong Kong dollars) was raised within hours. The money raised is to be used to place front-page newspaper ads in international newspapers urging readers to pressure the G-20 leaders to act over the city’s extradition law crisis. The organiser of the campaign said a front page space has already been booked with the Financial Times this Thursday the 27th June, ahead of Friday’s G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
However, China through the Chinese assistant foreign minister, Zhang Jun said, Beijing will not allow discussion on Hong Kong at the G-20 this week.
In a press briefing on Monday, 24th June, he said; “I can tell you with certainty that the G-20 will not discuss the Hong Kong issue and we will not allow the G20 to discuss the Hong Kong issue.” He further said, “Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs and no foreign country has the right to intervene,”
A call for more protests against Hong Kong’s extradition bill have been planned ahead of the G-20 summit which is to take place on 28th June, 2019 and 30th June, 2019 in Japan.
One of the protest calls made by a group of anonymous demonstrators on a Telegram messaging channel, is urging the people to gather tomorrow, 26th June, at Chater Garden in Hong Kong. They plan to walk to 19 foreign consulates to submit petition letters, urging them to press Chinese President Xi Jinping over Hong Kong issues at the G20 summit. They also plan to visit the US consulate, EU office, and the UK consulate. Then, they will split into two groups, with one group going to consulates in Central including Japan, Germany and Canada; and a second group moving to Wan Chai to visit the consulates of Italy, Australia and Indonesia.
It is their plan to visit the 19 consulates, afterwards they will join the rally hosted by the Civil Human Rights Front at Edinburgh Place in Central and the theme of the rally is “Free Hong Kong, Democracy now.”
The protesters said they will be dressed in black and will walk silently, and participants may choose whether to wear a mask or not. They said the petition letter mainly talks about the development of the anti-extradition bill protests, and the “erosion of democracy and freedom” in Hong Kong by China.
The Controversial Extradition Bill: What Is It All About?
In February 2019, the Hong Kong government proposed amending the extradition laws so that the city can accept extradition requests from countries where there is no prior agreement.
According to the government, the amendment would plug a “loophole” in the current system and the public should not be too concerned and extradition for political crimes will not be done. This new plan was made in response to a murder committed in Taiwan in February 2018, involving a pregnant 20-year-old Hong Kong woman Poon Hiu-wing. Hong Kong authorities arrested the woman’s Hong Kong boyfriend Chan Tong-kai in the city, but were unable to charge the suspect with murder in local courts. He has instead been held for almost a year on money laundering charges and awaiting trial in the city.
To face the crime committed in Taiwan, the Taiwan authorities have asked for Chan to be extradited, but the Hong Kong government said they have no such arrangements in place with Taipei. To fix this, the Hong Kong government decided to amend the extradition law, but the problem is amending the law to allow for the extradition to Taiwan will also allow criminals to be extradited to mainland China. Taiwan has been ruled by the Republic of China government since 1945 after Japan was defeated in the Second World War. Beijing claims the island is one of its provinces and does not recognise it as an independent country.
Why are Hong Kongers Angry with this Bill
This bill has triggered the largest protest ever to be experienced in the city, over a million people took to the street on Sunday, 11th June to protest the bill. The marchers in Hong Kong were also joined by 4,000 people in London, 3,000 in Melbourne, and thousands more in 27 other cities across the globe. Over the past two week, hundred of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Hong Kong s to protest the total withdrawal of the controversial bill, many of them, teenagers and university students. They said they are not protesting against the bill itself but also for the autonomy of the city and for freedom of their home.
Though the mainland government who are in support of the law says the right of the Hong Kongers will not be infringed upon, many do not believe and they said, China cannot be trusted and that the country in time past has used non-political crimes to target government critics.
Hong Kong, a former British colony which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, have been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula that allows it freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including freedom to protest and a much-cherished independent judiciary. This bill will only lead to further erosion of the city’s judicial independence.
China in recent times have increased its political, economic and cultural influence in Hong Kong.
Many Hong Kongers worry that this new bill spells the end of the “one country, two systems” system in the city and will erode the civil rights enjoyed by Hong Kong residents since the handover of sovereignty from the UK to China in 1997. Also it was expressed by many that the proposed extradition law will be used by authorities to target political enemies.
Consequence of the Extradition Bill for Hong Kong and the International communities
The extradition bill will mark the end of Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” framework because the new law will make it easier to extradite accused individuals to China. This has several consequences not only for Hong Kong but for the international community.
If this bill is successfully passed into law, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief and China President, Xi Jinping will have control on Hong Kong and this will affect the people’s political and civil rights, as well as the future of Hong Kong. Though the government uses Taiwan’s request of surrendering a Hong Kong suspect in a Taiwan homicide case as a pretext, the proposed changes will inadvertently cause the following.
Open the door to gross human rights violations and allow the Hong Kong government to repatriate secretly accused individuals without the legislature’s oversight. This will undermines Hong Kong’s rule of law.
Threaten Hong Kong democracy movement, Beijing, a communist country sees this movement as a security threat to it and will do anything to crush it. This is reflected in the aggressive, rapid response by Hong Kong police who fired rubber bullets, tear gas and bean bag rounds, and used batons and pepper spray.
Xi also will not allow “activities that jeopardies the sovereign security of China and challenges the authority of the Chinese Communist party, neither will he allow Hong Kong be used to infiltrate and undermine mainland China.
This bill also violates the agreement China made to international community, the United Kingdom and the people of Hong Kong. Particularly, the requirements to maintain Hong Kong’s autonomy, its independent executive, legislative and judicial powers; to allow the Hong Kong people to rule Hong Kong; and to keep “one country, two systems. Amending the extradition laws is another step toward steady incorporation of Hong Kong into mainland China.
Hong Kong stands out from the rest of the country as an international city and a financial powerhouse, it stood for western capitalism against the backdrop of Communist China, passage of this bill will inevitably erase this uniqueness and strip the city of the title of a financial powerhouse.
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