GP Insights

GP Insights # 97, 6 July 2019

Hong Kong: Civilian Protests takes violent turn
Harini Madhusudhan

What happened?

Protestors bashed through Hong Kong’s Legislative Council building this week. On the occasion of the 22nd Anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, a bunch of young protestors took to the streets, smashing windows, defaced walls and destroyed property in the vicinity have filled the headline news around the world. One of the city’s most sacred political institutions has been spoilt shockingly; the protestors have begun resorting to hardline tactics in the name of democracy- which is both counterproductive to the cause and also crossing the red line. There is concern among the moderates after how uncontrollable the movement might continue to become, the effects of the turmoil on the city’s reputation, economy and investments. 

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, this week warned that Beijing would face ‘serious consequences’ if it failed to honour the terms of the agreement to hand over Hong Kong. Hunt said that the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984 and setting out the terms for Hong Kong’s return to the Chinese sovereignty, was a “legally binding” agreement to be honoured and if it is not, there will be serious consequences. 

What is the background?
Demonstrations erupted last month against the proposed extradition law that would allow the mainland to take decisions on the crimes that were committed on the autonomous regions. The protests did not stop despite the promise of postponement of the hearing of the legislation. 

The protests rose to a new level this week, on 1 July 2019,  when demonstrators stormed the city’s legislature, left anti-Beijing messages on the walls such as “Hong Kong is not China”, and hung the colonial-era flag. This was coupled with the provocative response from Jeremy Hunt and the western media who did not fail to target the Chinese government. 

What does it mean?

Hong Kong police have arrested a few people over the protests, but the authorities and the Chinese government have their hands tied. It seems like the protestors, and the world is waiting for a response from them, and any response from their side would have a drastic impact on their reputation. Neither of them wants another Tiananmen-like incident. 

Harini Madhusudhan is a Research Associate at ISSSP, NIAS. She can be reached at harinimadhusudan@gmail.com

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