The Busy Streets of Hong Kong (Danielvfung via public domain photo)
The Busy Streets of Hong Kong

Danielvfung via public domain photo

What’s Going on in Hong Kong?

Learn about what happened to Hong Kong in wake of the civilian protests.

November 9, 2021


In response to the increasing civilian protests, the president of China’s Communist Party, Xi Jinping, has passed the National Security Law by a legislative unanimous vote on June 30, 2020.

The major components of the National Security Law include prohibition of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with external/foriegn forces. One substantial factor in the creation of the law is the 2019 Extradition Bill protests. Hong Kong residents protested against the threat of the Extradition Bill passing, which would have made it possible for the Chinese Communist Party to take Hong Kong residents to mainland China for criminal trials. Hong Kong police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, the United States passing a ban on export of police crowd control methods to Hong Kong in response.

“The current atmosphere in Hong Kong right now, I would say, is very eerie. It is a shell of the city that it once was. There’s a law that was passed in June of 2020 that really put a muzzle on Hong Kong and really changed a city that was once kind of a hope throughout the world that China could lean into a more free society and democracy one day,” Samantha Puckett, world area studies teacher, said.

To contextualize Hong Kong’s major differences from China, it begins with the ending of the first Opium War between Britain and China. Hong Kong was granted to Britain for precisely 99 years, relenting in 1997. Though Hong Kong was no longer a British colony in 1997, the Sino-British declaration states that the maintenance of Hong Kong’s autonomy lasts for 50 years, the declaration meaning the loss of Hong Kong independence in 2054. However, many Hong Kong citizens and experts speculate a motivation to speed up that process on China’s end. An example of China’s authoritarianism is Chinese officials opening fire on Chinese student protesters resulting in the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Following the massacre Hong Kong residents held vigils in honor of the 1989 protest.

“[June 2019] was probably the last Tiananmen Square vigil that will go on within the boundaries of China. It’s very disheartening. We have a generation that has been put in prison, arrested and will spend years in the courts,” Puckett said.

Having lent an estimated $1.5 trillion in loans to over 150 nations worldwide, China is one of the world’s most powerful economic superpowers.The United States, in particular, has the cooperation of China on the matter of climate change, trade, debt and more. Yet, in October of 2019, American Congress passed a bill banning exports to Hong Kong’s that police used as crowd control measures. The exports mainly included tear gas, rubber bullets and stun guns.

“I think that it comes from people’s fear of China as an economic powerhouse,” Puckett said. “Because they hold the economic ‘purse strings’, they’re kind of being allowed to do whatever they deem fit. We can condemn it all we want, but we’re still doing business dealings with them.”

Countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada have expressed concern over China’s newly passed National Security Law. These nations largely express their worry for the people of Hong Kong because of China’s human rights record.

“There’s something about watching kids stand up for something that you know that you should have stood up for that really woke up a lot of people in Hong Kong,” Puckett said.

The people of Hong Kong have protested policies imposed and proposed by the Chinese Communist Party for years. Most significantly known for their activism in their youth in Hong Kong are Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, Agnes Chow and Carrie Lam. Wong (currently imprisoned) and Chow (recently released from prison) played foundational roles in the program, Scholarism, which protested National Education for the students of Hong Kong. Law, a youth activist and formerly a member of the legislative council in Hong Kong, is currently exiled in London.

“They’re fighting for their very futures, they’re fighting for their livelihood and for their ability to stay in the city they love.”

— Megan Puckett

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