(Hong Kong—June 10, 2019) At least hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents flooded the streets on Sunday, protesting a new piece of legislation that would allow China to extradite the trials of those living in Hong Kong to China at will, possibly resulting in many being targeted by the Communist Party for their beliefs and political stances.
The protest was attended by more than 1 million people, organizers claim, nearly 14 percent of Hong Kong’s population and one of the largest protests within China and its administrative regions since 1989’s Tiananmen Square Massacre. The Hong Kong government, however, numbered the protesters at 240,000.
If the extradition bill is passed, it would pave the way for Chinese authorities to target individuals living in Hong Kong for their political and religious stances by ordering them extradited to China for prosecution. The Chinese government routinely harasses, detains, arrests, and tortures individuals who challenge its views or hold religious beliefs, spiking fears that Hong Kong residents may become subject to the same treatment should they be forced to undergo Chinese legal proceedings.
Previously, China would satiate its fury at Hong Kong residents who didn’t align with its beliefs by abducting them to China, which would sometimes raise international attention for their cases and allow Hong Kong residents to take open stances on such actions. If the extradition bill passes, such cases might be quieter, since China will now have a legal means to acquire prisoners and could possibly target Hong Kong residents for protesting imprisonments.
China uses a “One Country, Two Systems” way of governance in regards to Hong Kong. “One Country, Two Systems” was established in the 1980s by then-Chinese General Secretary Deng Xiaoping and has been used on Hong Kong and Macau. In the case of Hong Kong, it means the region should be allowed to retain a more democratic shape than the rest of China, with Hong Kong residents electing their legislative representatives and maintaining their own legal system until 2047, as enshrined by the Basic Law, which authorities had to put into place before Britain ceded control of Hong Kong back to China in 1997.
The “One Country, Two Systems” model provides an extra buffer between China and Hong Kong and permits limited amounts of freedom to thrive. As a result, Hong Kong has been relatively safe, when compared to China, for human rights activists and other dissidents and has been a hotbed for political protests. If the extradition bill is passed, the safety and freedom of many Hong Kong residents could be compromised.