Protest in Hong Kong

Ben Nichols, Editor-in-chief

Violence-filled protests have rocked Hong Kong in 2019 following the introduction of a controversial bill, later followed by outrage over the actions of police as they sought to contain the chaotic situation.


The bill in question was the Fugitive Offenders Bill, which would allow local authorities to detain and extradite fugitives to countries such as mainland China, which doesn’t have an extradition agreement with Hong Kong. This would mean that fugitives seeking refuge in Hong Kong would now be caught and sent back to the country they were wanted in to be prosecuted. Some believed that this would allow the legal system of mainland China to slowly take over that of Hong Kong, sparking the protests.


The first protest against this bill occurred with a sit-in at the Central Government Complex on March 15, followed by a protest march against the bill at the end of the month. As the protest gained more attention and more followers, two distinct factions formed: those who wanted the protests to remain peaceful and those who wanted to take more action against the police holding them back.


More fuel to the already-raging fire was added as police began to use controversial dispersal methods, including tear gas, kettling, and bean bag rounds. Some journalists were reportedly hit during these dispersal methods while trying to cover the protests. The police were later criticized for firing tear gas at a crowd of peaceful protesters and for allegedly not displaying their identifying numbers.


Various instances of alleged police brutality culminated in a three-day sit in at Hong Kong Airport from Aug. 12 to Aug. 14, while a peaceful protest was held in Victoria Park. Police estimated that 128,000 attended, while the organizers claimed that 1.7 million showed up).


Despite these measures to try and stop the bill, the government continued to press on with it. Several efforts from civilians were launched in an attempt to stop the second reading of the bill, which was later suspended by Chief Executive Carrie Lam as the pressure mounted for the bill to be removed.


The first protester to be shot by police was hit in the chest on Oct. 1, in the midst of a massive protest during the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. On Oct. 4, Lam invoked Hong Kong’s Emergency Regulations Ordinance to ban face masks from public gatherings. Continued demonstrations followed this, with a 14-year-old boy being shot by Hong Kong police after being attacked by protesters.


On Oct. 23, Secretary John Lee officially withdrew the extradition bill. Protesters have continued, stating that they won’t stop until their other demands — including the investigation of police actions and the release of protesters from police custody — be met. Protesters started to besiege universities, especially following the death of 22-year-old student Alex Chow Tsz-Iok. An occupation of the Hong Kong Polytechnic Institution ended with police storming the university, arresting those who hadn’t already been caught or had managed to escape.


Protests are still active, with the pro-democracy political party winning recent elections in a landslide. The most recent protest on Dec. 1 followed the results of the election.