Why Are People in Hong Kong Protesting the Government?

Hong Kong protest
On June 16, 2019, nearly 2 million people clogged the streets of Hong Kong in a protest. The protests have continued since then.

Since June 2019, pro-democracy protestors have held weekly demonstrations in Hong Kong like the one shown here. In August, protestors disrupted travel at the Hong Kong International Airport, shutting down the airport for days. The seeds for these protests were planted long ago in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, when the British government handed control of Hong Kong to China. As a British colony, Hong Kong was a democratic territory. China promised that the territory could have its own local government and that residents of Hong Kong could have freedom of speech. But China has a different form of government than Hong Kong. China appoints a chief executive for Hong Kong. The current chief executive is named Carrie Lam.

What caused the protests? A resident of Hong Kong committed a crime in Thailand and returned to Hong Kong. The government considered passing a law to extradite this man, or send him back to Thailand for a trial. Residents of Hong Kong were concerned. That law might allow China to extradite people from Hong Kong to China. It could even allow China to detain people who disagreed with their policies or stood up for human rights. This would go against the freedom of speech they were promised.

On June 9, almost a million people protested peacefully in Hong Kong. They didn’t want the bill to be considered. A few days later, the protests became more violent. A few of the protestors were arrested. In Hong Kong, they were called “rioters.” Rioters can be sent to prison for 10 years.

The leader of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, announced she would suspend voting on the proposal. But Hong Kong residents viewed this as just a way to delay the decision. Since June 17, there have been protests every week. Protestors want the legislature to retract the bill that would extradite criminals. They also want the protestors to not be called rioters, and they demand that residents who have been arrested for the protests be released from jail. They want Lam to resign from office so that residents of Hong Kong can elect their own executive.

What Do You Think? Do you think protests are an effective way to try to change things? Why or why not?

Photo Credit: Gonzales Photo/Alamy Stock Photo