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Sunday, April 11, 2021

China-Hong Kong conflict: Explained through six Q&A

Nearly 370 protesters were arrested in Hong Kong on July 1. Of them, 10 were apprehended for breaching the new security law that came into effect on Tuesday after the top decision-making body of China’s parliament passed the controversial legislation. Police used water cannons to disperse thousands of demonstrators marching on the streets against the new law.

Before we delve into the topic, it is necessary to know the basic premise of the issue.

Hong Kong became a crown colony of the British empire following the Opium Wars from 1839 to 1842. During the war, the British invaded the Chinese mainland and China lost the war. The Dragons then had to cede Hong Kong to Britain in the Treaty of Nanking. As per the treaty, the British pledged to give Hong Kong back in 1997.

We shall cover the entire issue here through six questions

1. How did the protests begin?

Till 1997, Hong Kong was ruled by Britain as a colony. Then it was handed over to China. Since then, Hong Kong started having some autonomy and its people began to enjoy more rights under the “one country two systems” format. According to a report by the BBC, the protests started in June last year soon after the extradition bill was introduced. The bill would have allowed the criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China under certain circumstances. Critics feared that the bill would endanger Hong Kong’s judicial independence and cause harm to dissidents. Many thought that the bill will give China a free hand over Hong Kong and therefore, anybody who would defy the Chinese government, especially activists and journalists, will face the wrath of the harsh legal system.

In protest against the controversial bill, widespread agitation erupted across Hong Kong. Police tried to dissipate the tension but they faced with violent retaliation from agitators who were equipped with various crude weapons, including petrol bombs. After weeks and months of violent protests, leader and chief executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam finally said the bill will be suspended indefinitely.

2. What are the protesters’ demands?

So under tremendous pressure, the bill was withdrawn but the protests continued. Now the protesters want full democracy in Hong Kong and impartial inquiry into police atrocity on agitators. There are five clear demands by the protesters. They want:

  • The widespread agitation should not be characterized as a “riot”
  • A thorough and independent inquiry into police atrocity on protesters
  • Amnesty for arrested agitators
  • Introduction and implementation of universal and democratic suffrage
  • Complete withdrawal of the bill.

The fifth demand has already been met.

3. What is Hong Kong’s new security law and why does it scare Hong Kongers?

The fire of dissent broke out among the Hong Kongers since last year. Even the coronavirus pandemic didn’t bring any change to the situation. Recently it aggravated again after China introduced a national security law for Hong Kong. The new law gives sweeping powers to China to clamp down on dissent in the Chinese territory. Legal experts and political thinkers believe that this new security law will fundamentally change the legal system of Hong Kong. And it will also curb Hong Kong and its people’s overall freedom. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo termed the new law as “draconian” and said it marks the “end of a free Hong Kong”.

4. Why is China after “acquiring” Hong Kong?

So why is Hong Kong so “attractive” to China? Why have the Chinese government stepped up its measures to get a grip of the former British colony. Hong Kong is attractive to China for several reasons, one of the most important of them is the region’s geographical location and it’s strategic position. Hong Kong is the gateway to the Chinese market. Its status as a free port is attractive to any trader. Hong Kong has one of the simplest tax system in the world with loads of incentives to investors. No wonder, the Xi Jingping-led government, hungry to acquire more and more region in its territory and have clout over people, is eyeing Hong Kong. According to the ranking by Doing Business 2020 which the World Bank issues recently, Hong Kong stood at the third position among 190 countries in business climate.

Hong Kong protests
Riot Police firing pepper spray the air is full of tear gas during clashes with protesters outside Central Government Office in Hong Kong. Photo: Dave Coulson Photography

5. How other nations are reacting to the HK protests?

As Beijing imposed the new security law on Hong Kong, the US lawmakers have approved new Hong Kong related sanctions. As per the US measure that penalises banks that do businesses with Chinese authorities was unanimously passed by both the Senate the House. Now President Donald Trump will sign it to turn it into a law. This clearly reflects the US’s opposition to the Chinese move.

If we look at the UK, it is the same reaction. UK Prime Minister Borris Johnson has said that the new law by Beijing is a serious breach of the Sino-British joint declaration of 1985 which promised freedom and autonomy to Hong Kong. The UK has even offered residency and then citizenship to over three million Hong Kongers.

Australia has followed the suit too. Its PM Scott Morrison said they are actively considering providing safe haven to Hong Kongers. Taiwan, on the other hand, asked its citizens not to visit Hong Kong in these complex situation. Japan and Canada too have condemned Beijing over the move.

6. What’s India’s stand in the China-HK row?

India’s position amid all these is quite commendable. China has already earned a bad name in the world over the Covid-19 crisis. We all know how US President has been openly venting his anger about China for allegedly understating the pandemic’s outbreak. In that period, India showed a generous avatar to the world by distributing HCQ and other necessary drugs across the globe.

Soon India became a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. And it was important for India to flag China’s drawbacks to the world from that platform as China is a permanent member of the UNSC. India then launched a digital attack on China by banning 59 major Chinese apps. And for the first time since the Hong Kong protests began last year, India on July 1 spoke at the UN Human Rights Council that the relevant parties should address the issues “properly, seriously and objectively”, reported The Indian Express.





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