GP Insights # 84, 22 June 2019
On 21 June 2019, the demonstrators including the activist Joshua Wong blocked a main road through the city centre in Hong Kong and massed outside the police headquarters to demand the total withdrawal of new extradition law, the release of detained activists and apologies for police brutality. This is the fourth major demonstration in the city in less than two weeks.
Despite the government on 15 June 2019 stating that it would postpone its plans on the extradition bill, demonstrators occupied roads around government headquarters and legislature, in a repeat of the tactics seen during the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement. The crowds began to parade on the streets, blocking the paths around the legislature and filling up the roads through Wanchai and Causeway Bay chanting for Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign.
What is the background?
The extradition bill was announced after a young man murdered his wife on Taiwan soil and escaped trial, as he returned to Hong Kong. When the bill was drafted in March, it drew criticism, after which amendments were made to the bill. However, the citizens are convinced that this bill would affect the business prospects of the region. There was also significant scare, regarding the investments spread by the visits by US officials in the past months.
Before the second debate over the bill took place, thanks to the protests, the administration announced postponing the bill indefinitely. Simultaneously, the protestors clashed with the forces, and many were arrested. The postponement should have reduced the intensity of the protests, but they have instead increased.
The crowds, mostly young and wearing black clothes along with helmets and face masks, staged the primarily peaceful, impromptu rally in Hong Kong's Wan Chai district, chanting slogans and hurling eggs at the police complex. The crowds were well prepared; for example, a bunch of youth taking water bottles and putting off tear gas shells went viral on Twitter.
What does it mean?
This is a mostly youth-led protest aimed at bringing down rules and regulations that will harm their freedom against the mainland. Lam, is seen as that power which will carry out orders by the mainland. One of the arguments was that the Hong Kong society could not be built on material wealth, and Lam is trained to do just that; she stopped short of withdrawing the bill entirely. However, what then is the solution to the extradition loop that the region has? One can expect more amendments to the bill after a couple of months. It is unsure if Lam will resign. The police would soon use mild violence to take control of the situation.
Harini Madhusudan is currently a Research Associate with ISSSP, NIAS. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org