In the last few weeks, thousands of people have been protesting in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is a one-of-a-kind city. An island located off the south-east coast of China, life in Hong Kong is a mix of Asian and European culture. This territory was taken over by the British Empire in 1842, and European influence mixed with the traditional Chinese way of life. In 1997, Hong Kong was returned to China. Because the city had gotten used to a different way of life, compared to society on the Chinese mainland, China and Britain agreed that it should be given autonomy (independence) for the next 50 years. This gave rise to the “one country, two systems” idea, which means that Hong Kong is officially part of China, but it is allowed some independence.
What are the protests about?
The protests were sparked by an extradition law that was introduced by Carrie Lam, the city’s leader. Extradition is when one country asks another country to send it a person who may have committed crimes to face a trial.
Hong Kong has its own laws and courts, and people have the right to free speech. People in mainland China do not have that right, and they can get in real trouble if they criticize the government. The extradition law would make it possible to send Hong Kongese people to mainland China if they are accused of a crime by the Chinese government. Some people think that China wants to use the law to control people in Hong Kong, especially when it comes to free speech. The protesters are worried that China could bring Hong Kongese who criticize the Chinese government to Beijing, where they can be punished, or face an unfair trial. Beijing is the capital of China.
Who is in the Right?
The protesters are mainly young people, who have marched on the streets. They also gathered in the airport, stopping travel to and from the city. Police have used tear gas and riot equipment to try to stop the protests. According to some reports, police have disguised themselves as protesters. In one incident, protesters held a sign over the man that said, “I am China’s police. I pretend to be [a] protester.”
Some people say the police reaction has been too harsh. On the other hand, the protests have been criticized by the Chinese and Hong Kong governments, due to violence and rioting by some protesters. Chinese politician Yang Jiechi has also accused the USA of interfering. He said, “The U.S. and some other Western governments … are constantly fanning the flames of the situation in Hong Kong.”
Nobody knows what will happen next in Hong Kong. What do you think the answer could be?