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Hong Kong Rises against Proposed Extradition Law

The second quarter of 2019 has seen growing tensions in Hong Kong. On 9 April, nine leaders of the Umbrella Movement, a mass pro-democracy protest that took place in the former British colony in 2014, were found guilty for their roles in mobilising protesters to block major roads in the centre of the city for 79 consecutive days. In a 268-page document, Judge Chan Jong-herng wrote that although Hong Kong courts recognise the notion of civil disobedience, it ‘is not a defence to a criminal charge’. A proposed extradition law further exacerbated the already-acute tensions in Hong Kong (see Werner’s op-ed in the present issue). The legislation was put forward by the Hong Kong government in February, with the stated aim of easing the transfer of criminal suspects between jurisdictions with which Hong Kong lacked formal extradition agreements, including mainland China. The legislation caused widespread public concern, as people worried that it would be abused by mainland China, whose legal system remains opaque. Still, in spite of the criticism, the bill was submitted to Hong Kong’s legislative council for approval in early April, which triggered the first round of protests. With the backing of the Chinese government, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam determined to press ahead. On 12 June, around one million protestors took to the street, clashing with the police, who deployed tear gas and rubber bullets to contain the demonstration. Unexpectedly, three days later Carrie Lam announced the indefinite postponement of the bill. Short of total cancellation, however, the announcement did not prevent an even larger protest on 16 June, which involved as many as two million people. Amid mounting public pressure, Carrie Lam personally apologised but refused to resign. In the latest twist, on 1 July, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the mainland, protesters broke into the Legislative Council building, breaking glass walls and spray-painting surfaces with political slogans. NLiu

(Sources: Bloomberg; CNN; People’s Daily; Reuters; South China Morning Post 1; South China Morning Post 2; The New York Times; Xinhua)

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