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Hong Kong's identity as a city of rights and freedom is under threat – so we protest Hong Kong's identity as a city of rights and freedom is under threat – so we protest
(1 day later)
In extraordinary scenes that could have been a direct replay of 2014’s Occupy Central protests, thousands of anti-government protesters surrounded the Hong Kong government offices and Legislative Council building at Admiralty today, blocking roads and forcing the government to postpone a planned meeting to debate a controversial proposed extradition law.In extraordinary scenes that could have been a direct replay of 2014’s Occupy Central protests, thousands of anti-government protesters surrounded the Hong Kong government offices and Legislative Council building at Admiralty today, blocking roads and forcing the government to postpone a planned meeting to debate a controversial proposed extradition law.
Again, as in 2014, today’s protesters were primarily youths, clad in black t-shirts and chanting “Cit Wui!” (“Withdraw!”). Drawing on their experience from the Umbrella Movement, protesters quickly equipped themselves with protective gear – face masks, goggles, hard-hats – in anticipation of police batons, capsicum spray, or even tear gas and rubber bullets. Police formed three-deep defensive lines equipped with riot shields, truncheons and guns. By mid-morning, protester supply stations – well-stocked with water, foodstuffs, first-aid supplies and other necessities – were already springing up.Again, as in 2014, today’s protesters were primarily youths, clad in black t-shirts and chanting “Cit Wui!” (“Withdraw!”). Drawing on their experience from the Umbrella Movement, protesters quickly equipped themselves with protective gear – face masks, goggles, hard-hats – in anticipation of police batons, capsicum spray, or even tear gas and rubber bullets. Police formed three-deep defensive lines equipped with riot shields, truncheons and guns. By mid-morning, protester supply stations – well-stocked with water, foodstuffs, first-aid supplies and other necessities – were already springing up.
Unlike in 2014, the protesters have two advantages which may increase their chances of success. Then, they were trying to push the government to adopt a “genuinely democratic” means of electing the territory’s chief executive – although specifically which model of genuine democracy the protesters could not quite seem to agree upon. This time, their request is simple: they want the government to drop a proposed new extradition law. And it is truism in politics that it is easier to oppose than propose.Unlike in 2014, the protesters have two advantages which may increase their chances of success. Then, they were trying to push the government to adopt a “genuinely democratic” means of electing the territory’s chief executive – although specifically which model of genuine democracy the protesters could not quite seem to agree upon. This time, their request is simple: they want the government to drop a proposed new extradition law. And it is truism in politics that it is easier to oppose than propose.
Hong Kong extradition bill: tens of thousands join protests as debate loomsHong Kong extradition bill: tens of thousands join protests as debate looms
The protesters’ second advantage is that public opinion seems to be much more solidly unified behind them this time. Over one million people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to protest the proposed new law. Why has this issue galvanised public opinion and provoked a response like no other in recent years?The protesters’ second advantage is that public opinion seems to be much more solidly unified behind them this time. Over one million people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to protest the proposed new law. Why has this issue galvanised public opinion and provoked a response like no other in recent years?
What started in early June as protests against a new extradition law have broadened into a pro-democracy movement concerned about the wider relationship between Hong Kong and China and the future for the special administrative region. Opposition to a proposed extradition law has broadened into a wider movement against Hong Kong's leadership, its relationship with China,  and the future for the special administrative region.
Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has offered a ‘solemn’ personal apology for the crisis and also hinted that she had in effect shelved the controversial legislation. However, protesters criticised her as insincere and said she had ignored their key demands. The demonstrations have continued.Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has offered a ‘solemn’ personal apology for the crisis and also hinted that she had in effect shelved the controversial legislation. However, protesters criticised her as insincere and said she had ignored their key demands. The demonstrations have continued.
People have been demonstrating against legal changes that would make it easier to extradite people from Hong Kong to China. Supporters say the amendments are key to ensuring the city does not become a criminal refuge, but critics worry Beijing will use the law to extradite political opponents and others to China. Under the amended law, those accused of offences punishable by seven years or more in prison could be extradited. The bill concerned legal changes that would make it easier to extradite people from Hong Kong to China. Supporters say the amendments are key to ensuring the city does not become a criminal refuge, but critics worry Beijing will use the law to extradite political opponents and others to China. Under the amended law, those accused of offences punishable by seven years or more in prison could be extradited.
The government claims the push to change the law, which would also apply to Taiwan and Macau, stems from the killing last year of a Hong Kong woman while she was in Taiwan with her boyfriend. Authorities in Taiwan suspect the woman’s boyfriend, who remains in Hong Kong, but cannot try him because no extradition agreement is in place. The government claims the push to change the law, which would also apply to Taiwan and Macau, stems from the killing last year of a Hong Kong woman while she was in Taiwan with her boyfriend. Authorities in Taiwan suspect the woman’s boyfriend, who remains in Hong Kong, but cannot try him because no extradition agreement is in place. 
Officials have promised to safeguard against abuses, pledging that no one at risk of political or religious persecution will be sent to the mainland. Suspects who could face the death penalty would not be extradited.Officials have promised to safeguard against abuses, pledging that no one at risk of political or religious persecution will be sent to the mainland. Suspects who could face the death penalty would not be extradited.
Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said the bill has not come from the central government in Beijing. However, Beijing has voiced its backing for the changes.Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said the bill has not come from the central government in Beijing. However, Beijing has voiced its backing for the changes.
Many fear the proposed extradition law will be used by authorities to target political enemies. They worry the new legislation spells the end of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, eroding the civil rights enjoyed by Hong Kong residents since the handover of sovereignty from the UK to China in 1997.Many fear the proposed extradition law will be used by authorities to target political enemies. They worry the new legislation spells the end of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, eroding the civil rights enjoyed by Hong Kong residents since the handover of sovereignty from the UK to China in 1997.
Many attending the protests said they could not trust China as it had often used non-political crimes to target government critics, and they also feared Hong Kong officials would not be able to reject Beijing’s requests. Legal professionals have also expressed concern over the rights of those sent across the border to be tried. The conviction rate in Chinese courts is as high as 99%. Arbitrary detentions, torture and denial of legal representation of one’s choosing are also common. Many attending the protests say they cannot not trust China because it has often used non-political crimes to target government critics. They also fear Hong Kong officials will not be able to reject Beijing’s requests. Legal professionals have also expressed concern over the rights of those sent across the border to be tried. The conviction rate in Chinese courts is as high as 99%. Arbitrary detentions, torture and denial of legal representation of one’s choosing are also common.
After the current crisis, analysts believe the Hong Kong government will probably start a new round of retaliatory measures against its critics while the Chinese government will tighten its grip on the city. Not only have police clashed directly with demonstrators, but pro-democracy activists and lawmakers have accused the police of standing by as men dressed in white attacked commuters and protesters at a mass transit station in Yuen Long, leaving 45 hospitalised. Police have clashed directly with demonstrators, and have been accused of standing by during attacks on protesters and commuters by groups of men in white in Yuen Long on 21 July.  
After the current crisis, analysts believe the Hong Kong government will probably start a new round of retaliatory measures against its critics, while the Chinese government will tighten its grip on the city.
Lily Kuo in Beijing and Verna Yu in Hong KongLily Kuo in Beijing and Verna Yu in Hong Kong
The key to the public reaction may lie in the issue at the heart of the protests yesterday and those sixteen years ago, when 500,000 people filled the streets to protest proposed laws that would criminalise acts of sedition against the Beijing government.The key to the public reaction may lie in the issue at the heart of the protests yesterday and those sixteen years ago, when 500,000 people filled the streets to protest proposed laws that would criminalise acts of sedition against the Beijing government.
The current proposal would enable Beijing to extradite criminal suspects from Hong Kong to face trial on the mainland. Not since 2003 has the Hong Kong government attempted to push a policy that was so blatantly in the interests of Beijing, and contrary to the interests of the people of Hong Kong.The current proposal would enable Beijing to extradite criminal suspects from Hong Kong to face trial on the mainland. Not since 2003 has the Hong Kong government attempted to push a policy that was so blatantly in the interests of Beijing, and contrary to the interests of the people of Hong Kong.
Yet there is a deeper reason at the heart of why these issues have provoked such a visceral response from the Hong Kong populace.Yet there is a deeper reason at the heart of why these issues have provoked such a visceral response from the Hong Kong populace.
In the past, Hong Kong had distinguished itself on the basis of wealth: Hong Kong was rich, while the rest of China was struggling to bring its population out of poverty. However, over the twenty years since the handover in 1997, as Hong Kong’s economy has drifted and China’s boomed, that distinction has failed to hold. Pride rooted in materialism has been replaced by a deeper pride among Hong Kongers, based around the notion of “Hong Kong Core Values”, those rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong that distinguish it from the rest of China. Hong Kong Core Values include: a lively and unfettered media, the right to participate in the electoral and governing process, freedom to criticise the government, rule of law and due process, an independent judiciary, and, of course, the right to protest. “Hong Kong core values” has become the answer to the question: “What does it mean to be a Hong Konger?”In the past, Hong Kong had distinguished itself on the basis of wealth: Hong Kong was rich, while the rest of China was struggling to bring its population out of poverty. However, over the twenty years since the handover in 1997, as Hong Kong’s economy has drifted and China’s boomed, that distinction has failed to hold. Pride rooted in materialism has been replaced by a deeper pride among Hong Kongers, based around the notion of “Hong Kong Core Values”, those rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong that distinguish it from the rest of China. Hong Kong Core Values include: a lively and unfettered media, the right to participate in the electoral and governing process, freedom to criticise the government, rule of law and due process, an independent judiciary, and, of course, the right to protest. “Hong Kong core values” has become the answer to the question: “What does it mean to be a Hong Konger?”
The current proposed extradition law, by blurring the line between the Hong Kong and mainland justice systems, is seen as another attack on Hong Kong core values. The million people on Hong Kong’s streets on Sunday and those gathering again today are protesting not just against a theoretical risk of extradition to the opaque mainland criminal justice system; they are protesting a threat to their very identity as Hong Kongers. And by taking to the streets, they were expressing their dissatisfaction by exercising of one of those key rights and freedoms: I am a Hong Konger, therefore I protest.The current proposed extradition law, by blurring the line between the Hong Kong and mainland justice systems, is seen as another attack on Hong Kong core values. The million people on Hong Kong’s streets on Sunday and those gathering again today are protesting not just against a theoretical risk of extradition to the opaque mainland criminal justice system; they are protesting a threat to their very identity as Hong Kongers. And by taking to the streets, they were expressing their dissatisfaction by exercising of one of those key rights and freedoms: I am a Hong Konger, therefore I protest.
The government led by chief executive Carrie Lam now faces a dilemma — ignore the clearly expressed will of the people and face the potential for ugly clashes on the streets and international condemnation, or face the wrath of Beijing.The government led by chief executive Carrie Lam now faces a dilemma — ignore the clearly expressed will of the people and face the potential for ugly clashes on the streets and international condemnation, or face the wrath of Beijing.
• Antony Dapiran is a Hong Kong-based writer and lawyer and the author of the book City of Protest: A Recent History of Dissent in Hong Kong• Antony Dapiran is a Hong Kong-based writer and lawyer and the author of the book City of Protest: A Recent History of Dissent in Hong Kong
Hong KongHong Kong
OpinionOpinion
ChinaChina
Asia PacificAsia Pacific
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