Hong Kong Protests Continue: SMCM Student Perspective

The 2019 Hong Kong protests, also known as the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement, are an ongoing series of demonstrations in Hong Kong which began with the aim to oppose the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill proposed by the Hong Kong government. If enacted, the bill would allow local authorities to detain and extradite criminal fugitives who are wanted in territories with which Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements, including Taiwan and mainland China. People were concerned that the bill would subject Hong Kong residents and visitors to the mainland Chinese jurisdiction, undermining the autonomy of the region and its civil liberties. Students from St. Mary’s College Of Maryland (SMCM) report their opinions and beliefs with how China is treating Hong Kong. Anonymous reports state that it all began with a murder. A couple escaped Hong Kong and the boyfriend killed his girlfriend in another country. However, since they were outside of Hong Kong, the extradition bill allows them to remain autonomous outside of China.

It is important to understand the background of Hong Kong and its relations to China. Hong Kong belongs to China, but it has its own currency, political system and cultural identity. Many Hong Kong residents don’t see themselves as Chinese, but rather as Hong Kongers.

That difference goes back generations; the city was a colony and territory of the United Kingdom for more than 150 years, until the British handed it back over to China in 1997. Today, Hong Kong’s legal system still mirrors the British model, prizing transparency and due process. 

A policy dubbed “one country, two systems” explains this uniqueness. Under the policy, Hong Kong maintains a de facto constitution, known as the Hong Kong Basic Law. It guarantees freedoms that are unavailable to Chinese mainlanders, such as the right to protest, the right to a free press and freedom of speech. 

One of the tenets in the Basic Law is that Hong Kong has the right to develop its own democracy, and previous Chinese officials pledged that the central government in Beijing wouldn’t interfere with that. But in recent years, Beijing has repeatedly reinterpreted the Basic Law – now it says it has “complete jurisdiction” over Hong Kong.The Basic Law states that Hong Kong “shall safeguard the rights and freedoms of the residents” for 50 years after the handover. But many residents say mainland China is already starting to encroach on those rights. This perceived threat to Hong Kong’s rule of law has led to the regular confrontations which has seen hundreds of protesters arrested so far.

An anonymous SMCM student states, “China has two options right now. China can use forces using military force, and start using real force that can harm such as guns. The other option is letting Hong Kong remain an autonomous separate country.” The student also states that they are “really surprised by how there are two different points of view. My friends on Chinese social media are saying we support mainland China, probably due to the fact they are receiving all of their media from mainland China.” The student also feels when this began to happen, “Chinese media tried to minimize the media going to mainland china. But it’s becoming out of control so they cant hide it anymore.” 

Another student reports, “China can try and resonate with the Hong Kongese and come up with a compromise, which is most likely for the best.” The first anonymous student “This is an extremely complicated, no one solution, and not everybody will be happy with the outcome.” A father of a student explains, “It’s because with the development of mainland China, Hong Kong isn’t as ‘important’ as it was before, [largely due to] inequality of household incomes.”

Since Friday, October 4, The government of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is expected to discuss emergency laws that would allow it to ban face masks at protests, among other measures. Rallies are planned across the city to protest against any moves by the government to invoke emergency laws. On Saturday, Oct. 5, there was an Anti-mask rally and march from the shopping district of Causeway Bay to Chater Garden close to government headquarters. Protesters also plan an early Halloween celebration in the shopping and tourist district of Tsim Sha Tsui, inviting people to gather wearing masks.

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