Photo courtesy of Anthony Kwan/Getty
On Aug. 12, thousands of protestors dressed in black stormed the Hong Kong International Airport. Some carried signs with defiant messages while others taped red-stained bandages over their eyes, a representation of an injury a volunteer medic suffered after the police fired bean bags at an earlier rally.
The commotion delayed nearly 1,000 flights, bringing the world’s eighth busiest airport to a standstill for two nights, according to CNN. Consequently, the international community was forced to pay attention to the protests that had been building momentum since March. To grasp the cause of the turmoil, it is essential to understand the history of Hong Kong and China relations.
Where it all began
After the age of British colonialism, Hong Kong became a “special administrative region” of the People’s Republic of China. The Joint Declaration deal between China and Britain, which was signed in 1997, set up the “one country, two systems” rule. Essentially, Hong Kong has its own judicial, legislative and executive powers but is undergoing a 50-year process of reunification with China.
The protests began in March when pro-democracy groups defied the local government’s extradition bill– a controversial amendment that would allow a person arrested in Hong Kong to face trial elsewhere, including mainland China. About one million people took to the streets to denounce the extradition bill to save democracy and halt Beijing’s creeping authority.
Trade unions joined the struggle by going on strike, while bankers showed their solidarity by holding a “Freedom snooze, Market lose” demonstration in Hong Kong’s central business district. Unrest quickly turned the peaceful protests violent as police sought to control the crowds with teargas, rubber bullets and beanbags.
On June 12, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam responded by suspending the extradition bill. Regardless, her decision did not satisfy many pro-democracy Hongkongers who believed it was a standard delay tactic, fearing the bill could still be passed once the protests end.
Lam and the government have made it clear they would not accept the protestors demands and have refused to withdraw the bill altogether, according to South China Morning Post.
Despite the lack of support from the international community, tens of thousands of protestors continue to flood the streets of Hong Kong, demanding the implementation of universal suffrage and eradication of the extradition bill.