The 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests are a series of ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong against the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill proposed by the government of Hong Kong.
How the extradition bill protests shook Hong Kong | South China …
Hong Kong is in the midst of its biggest political crisis since the former … This SCMP Film looks at the impact …
A typical subdivided flat in Hong Kong
HONG KONG — Rents higher than New York, London or San Francisco for apartments half the size. Nearly one in five people living in poverty. A minimum wage of $4.82 an hour.
Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese city of 7.4 million people shaken this summer by huge protests, may be the world’s most unequal place to live. Anger over the growing power of mainland China in everyday life has fueled the protests, as has the desire of residents to choose their own leaders. But beneath that political anger lurks an undercurrent of deep anxiety over their own economic fortunes — and fears that it will only get worse.
“We thought maybe if you get a better education, you can have a better income,” said Kenneth Leung, a 55-year-old college-educated protester. “But in Hong Kong, over the last two decades, people may be able to get a college education, but they are not making more money.”
Mr. Leung joined the protests over Hong Kong’s plan to allow extraditions of criminal suspects to mainland China, where the Communist Party controls the courts and forced confessions are common. But he is also angry about his own situation: He works 12 hours a day, six days a week as a security guard, making $5.75 an hour.
He is one of 210,000 Hong Kong residents who live in one of the city’s thousands of illegally subdivided apartments. Some are so small they are called cages and coffins.
His room, by comparison, is a relatively spacious 100 square feet to sleep, cook and live. He sometimes struggles to make his $512 a month rent after paying for food and other living costs.
The numbers are striking. Hong Kong’s gap between the rich and the poor is at its widest in nearly half a century, and among the starkest in the world. It boasts the world’s longest working hoursand the highest rents. Wages have not kept up with rent, which has increased by nearly a quarter over the past six years. Housing prices have more than tripled over the past decade.
The median price of a house is more than 20 times the annual median household income.
These issues were at the fore five years ago, when protests known variously as Occupy Central or the Umbrella Movement shut down parts of the city for weeks. Similar protests, such as the Yellow Vest movement in France, echo worries that a booming global economy has left behind too many people.
Today, protesters are focusing on the extradition bill, which Hong Kong leaders have shelved but not killed, and a push for direct elections in a political system influenced by Beijing. Hong Kong, a former British colony, operates under its own laws, but the protesters say the Chinese government is undermining that independence and that the leaders it chooses for Hong Kong work for Beijing, for property developers and for big companies instead of for the people.
Housing lies at the root of many of the frustrations. So many people are priced out of the housing market that it is unusual to meet a young adult who does not still live with parents or family members.
“Many Hong Kong people face serious financial problems like the high price of housing,” Mr. Chan said. “They try to work hard but they cannot earn enough money to have a better living condition. They cannot see their future so they are frustrated.”
“Many young people see there is little way out economically and politically, and it is the background of their desperation and anger at the status quo,” said Ho-fung Hung, a political-economy professor at Johns Hopkins University.
McRefugees is a relatively new word that refers to those who stay overnight in a 24-hour McDonald’s fast-food restaurant.
Why are there protests in Hong Kong? All the context you need
What Hong Kong’s massive protests are really about
The fight over an extradition law and democracy in China, explained.
On the surface, the people of Hong Kong are fighting their political leaders over a seemingly bland set of amendments to a longstanding law. But what’s really motivated people to flood the city’s streets in record numbers is something much grander: the future of democracy in China.
Last week, hundreds of thousands in Hong Kong held a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre 30 years ago. And on Sunday, roughly 1 million peopledemonstrated in the semi-autonomous Chinese city-state against amendments to an extradition law that would allow a person arrested in Hong Kong to face trial elsewhere, including in mainland China.
The passion is understandable. For many, the amendments would all but cement Beijing’s authority in a city that’s supposed to be allowed to operate mostly on its own for three more decades. The problem for demonstrators is that the measures will likely pass as soon as Wednesday, due to a legislature and leader that answer to Beijing.
“We were doing it, and we are still doing it, out of our clear conscience, and our commitment to Hong Kong,” Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, told reporters on Sunday in her first comments after the protests began.
The extradition law fight, then, is the latest one in Hong Kong residents’ years-long effort to stave off Beijing’s creeping authority. And while the newest push is among the largest in the city’s history, it still may not be enough to save democracy in its nearly last Chinese refuge.
So the people of Hong Kong are fighting back to curb mainland China’s growing clout in the city. The problem is that effort has been going on for years — and it’s seemingly failing.
Mainland China versus Hong Kong
China is an authoritarian state. Its political leadership and law enforcement officials don’t like anyone protesting against the government in Beijing and have no tolerance for democratic movements. That, in part, is what makes Hong Kong’s status as a quasi-democracy so unique in China — and so threatening to Beijing.
Experts say the newest flare-up is part of the long-term resistance movement to keep the city as independent as possible.
“The proposed change to the extradition law, which would open up Hong Kongers and others passing through the city to the vicissitudes of mainland Chinese justice, is the latest in a long list of actions that undermine democratic freedoms and the rule of law,” says Bland, who also wrote a book about life in post-handover Hong Kong.
There’s also a dark history behind this specific extradition issue. China has increasingly begun kidnapping people it views as criminals, either for their pro-democracy views or for other perceived crimes, but who are outside of its legal jurisdiction. Beijing’s authorities sometimes hold prisoners for years without a proper trial.
In January 2017, for instance, billionaire business executive Xiao Jianhua was forcibly taken out of Hong Kong’s Four Seasons hotel, even though mainland Chinese officials legally can’t do so without the city’s say so. Xiao is now in mainland China, and his fate remains unclear.
This is why the extradition law fight is so personal and so widespread: It’s for the future of human rights and democracy in the city. And if Beijing wins, Hong Kong’s millions of citizens could lose both.
“When the legislation passes — which now seems near certain, and imminent — it will spell the death of Hong Kong as the world has known it,” Ray Wong Toi-yeung, a political activist from the city, wrote for the New York Times last week.