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Hong Kong Crisis – A Call for Democracy

Hong Kong Crisis – A Call for Democracy

UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-1- redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism,capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.

One country, two systems:

  • Hong Kong belongs to China, but it has its own currency, political system and cultural identity.
  • That difference goes back generations; the city was a colony and territory of the United Kingdom for more than 150 years, until the British handed it back over to China in 1997.
  • Today, Hong Kong’s legal system still mirrors the British model, prizing transparency and due process.
  • A policy dubbed “one country, two systems,” enshrines this uniqueness. Under the policy, Hong Kong’s maintains a de-facto constitution,known as the Hong Kong Basic Law. 

Hong Kong Basic Law:

  • It guarantees freedoms that are unavailable to Chinese mainlanders, such as the right to protest, the right to a free press and freedom of speech.
  • One of the tenets in the Basic Law is that Hong Kong has the right to developits own democracy, and previous Chinese officials pledged that the central government in Beijing wouldn’t interfere with that.
  • But in recent years, Beijing has repeatedly reinterpreted the Basic Law — now it says it has “complete jurisdiction” over Hong Kong.
  • The Basic Law states that Hong Kong “shall safeguard the rights and freedoms of the residents”for 50 years after the handover.
  • But many residents say mainland China is already starting to encroach on those rights.
  • This perceived threat to Hong Kong’s rule of law has led to the regular confrontations which have seen hundreds of protesters arrested so far.

Many Hong Kong residents don’t see themselves as Chinese, but rather as Hong Kongers.

Hongkong crisis:

  • The extradition billwhich triggered the first protest was introduced in April.
  • It would have allowed for criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China under certain circumstances.
  • Opponents said this risked exposing Hongkongers to unfair trials and violent treatment.
  • They also argued the bill would give China greater influence over Hong Kong and could be used to target activists and journalists.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets.
  • After weeks of protests, leader Carrie Lam eventually said the bill would be suspended indefinitely.

How did the protests escalate?

  • Protesters feared the bill could be revived, so demonstrations continued, calling for it to be withdrawn completely.
  • By then clashes between police and protesters had become more frequent and violent.
  • Clashes between police and activists have become increasingly violent, with police firing live bullets and protesters attacking officers and throwing petrol bombs.
  • The bill was withdrawn in September but demonstrations continue and now demand full democracyand an inquiry into police actions.

What do the protesters want?

  • Protesters have adopted the motto: “Five demands, not one less!” These are:
  • For the protests not to be characterised as a “riot”
  • Amnesty for arrested protesters
  • An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality
  • Implementation of complete universal suffrage
  • The fifth demand, the withdrawal of the bill, has already been met.
  • HongKong’s rights vs Chinese power grip:
  • Hong Kong’s relationship with mainland China is a key element in untangling this issue.
  • HongKong’s freedom and rightsstand in stark contrast to China’s strict censorship and Chinese government’s tight grip on power, which have seen dissidents jailed and interrogated in secret prisons.
  • This is what we mean when we say Hong Kong is semi-autonomous.
  • The city is part of China — but it has its own currency, language, legal system, identity and culture.
  • This model of governance is called “one country, two systems.”
  • And this is why protesters here are desperate to protect their freedoms — because they fear becoming just another Chinese city.
  • Now, young protesters say China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy is a violation of the “two systems” agreement.
  • Many want to achieve full democracy before 2047,the pre-handover agreed date when Hong Kong could in theory become fully integrated with China.
  • Some are even calling for full independence from the mainland.
  • This strong anti-China sentimentis why protesters have targeted Chinese-owned businesses.
  • They have also boycotted restaurants that expressed pro-China stances.

How does this affect the rest of the world?

  • Hong Kong is a global financial hub— so a hit to its economy affects business worldwide as well.
  • Experts warned early on that if the unrest continues, international companies could look to pull out of Hong Kong and relocate their branches elsewhere.

Clash of Ideologies:

  • Some people have framed the unrest as a tug-of-war between Chinese authoritarianism and the Western ideals of freedom and democracy.
  • This narrative oversimplifies some of the nuances at play.
  • However, it also explains why the movement has gained traction in the US.
  • The US Presidentsigned an act in support of the protests after it was passed almost unanimously by both houses of Congress.

Way forward:

  • Over the past few decades the demand for democracy and other civil rightsis rising around the globe.
  • Hong Kong has already witnessed pro-democracy protests – umbrella protests in 2014.
  • With the rise of conservative governments in Europe and North America the civil and basic human rightsseems to be in a danger.
  • There is a need to revitalise the agreed Universal Declaration of Human rightsand International Convention on Civil and Political rights of all humans.  

Source:” The Hindu“.

POSSIBLE UPSC CSE MAINS QUESTION:

Provide an insight in to the recent crisis in Hongkong. Comment on the rising nature of civil protests all over the world.