On Sunday 9th of June 2019, over a million of protesters took the streets of Hong Kong to protest the proposal of a new law that was announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam. This law, known as the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, will allow Hong Kong to send crime offenders to China and Taiwan for trial. Lam currently pushes for this law to be made reciprocal so that Hong Kong courts are also given authority over mainland-Chinese and Taiwanese offenders.
This legal strategy is a response to a gruesome murder that took place in Taiwan in 2018 involving Hong Kong citizens, Chan Tong-kai and his girlfriend. As Taiwan and Hong Kong do not have an extradition deal, Chan returned to Hong Kong and was arrested for money laundering. With the new deal, Chan can be on trial for murder; however, without the change of laws, he cannot. This loophole could potentially lead to a real-life incident of Peter Nowalk’s popular television show “How to Get Away with Murder”.
Nonetheless, protesters in Hong Kong voiced concerns over potential political ramifications of this move. In the past, Hong Kong and neighbouring countries in Asia did not have explicit extradition deals. From the government’s perspective, this “freedom” allowed for crime offenders to move in and out of Hong Kong as a “political haven” to escape their crimes because Hong Kong court jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed on local soil.
However, from the people’s perspective, Hong Kong courts respect humanitarian laws and provide fair trials for offenders regardless of race, gender, age, class, marital status, and religion. The concern is whether or not the mainland will regard these values if a Hong Konger is trialed in their courts. Furthermore, Hong Kong and the mainland differ on what constitutes as a “crime”, as evidenced by strict censorship laws in China on social media, news coverage, and religious texts.
In sum, what started as a murder warranted a strategic move in the legal field, which rippled into the political arena, and resulted in a protest that attracted over millions of people.
On a Sunday afternoon in Hong Kong, multiple MTR stations were flooded with crowds participating in the anti-extradition bill protest entitled “No-Extradition to China”. Several MTR stations were closed due to crowd control. People wore white to symbolize light and justice.
Hong Kong Island has long been the political center of the city, with the Legislative Council Complex, Government Headquarters, and the Court of Final Appeal in close proximity to each other. The system of “Separation of Power” being practised in HK is demonstrated in the spatial context.
Despite the hot weather, over 1 million Hongkongers out of the 7.4 million voiced out their ‘No” against the Extradition Bill. It is believed to be one of the largest protests in Hong Kong’s history. This is not the first time Hong Kong has protested against the government. In 2003, the protest against “Article 23” reached half a million. In 2014, the “Occupy Central” movement had a quarter million demonstrators.
Protestors held banners stating “No extradition to China” (“反送中”) and photos of Chief Executive Carrie Lam or other major government officer who supports the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance. Many shouted “No extradition to China” and “Carrie Lam resign” repeatedly. They fear that the freedom of speech and human rights in Hong Kong will be diminished as the new ordinance grants power to Chinese government to extradite people claimed “criminal” from Hong Kong without passing through court hearing in Hong Kong.
While millions of protestors went along Hennessy Road in Wan Chai, pro-Beijing media, companies, and political parties instead showed their support for the ordinance. Some claimed that their pro-ordinance online counter-signage had been accepted by 0.7 million people.
People from all walks of life joined the protest on June 9. Faces of different ages, ethnicities, gender, and with different physical abilities were seen on the street. Some parents who brought children said that they joined the protest to save a peaceful land with rule of law for the next generation. Some joined the protest for the first time in their lives as they were afraid that it was the final chance for them to voice out freely against government’s decision.
Thousands of people stood in the crowd after night as the protest continued. Protestors believe that they stand out not to say no to the rule of law, instead, they stand out to ensure that the rule of law can be remained. They hope that through a peaceful protest, their voices can be heard and respected by the government.
They stood from day to night and the protest lasted for over 10 hours. Protestors arrived earlier took a rest at the ending spot quietly and waited for the end of the protest.
The protest ended at around 2130 HKT on Jun 9. The government released their response to the protest at 2309HKT as below:(extract here)
"We urge the Legislative Council to scrutinise the Bill in a calm, reasonable, and respectful manner to help ensure Hong Kong remains a safe city for residents and business."
The Second Reading debate on the Bill will resume on June 12.
In conclusion, the protest was mostly peaceful aside from a few minor incidents near the end. Some protestors remained after the protest to start a separate sit-in around government Headquarter to show their views. Unfortunately, sources report that conflicts broke out around midnight between the police and the remainders, many of whom were reportedly young people.
What’s next? Hongkong Made By People
Millions of people braved the heat and humidity to voice their concern over the political impact of this legal strategy. Though policy-makers see this as a necessary move, Hong Kong People on the other hand feel a large sense of unrest and dissent due to distrust of the government.
Some would argue that the mainland government is exerting its dominance on Hong Kong, contrarily others have expressed that perhaps Hong Kong has taken its own autonomy for granted. In light of differing opinions, we’re curious to know what our readers outside of Hong Kong think about this situation. Feel free to send us a comment or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
A Collective piece By A City Made By People Hong Kong Chapter
Photo Credit to Bertha Wang, A City Made By People Hong Kong Chapter and other HK citizens