Mass Protests Against Controversial Hong Kong Extradition Bill

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Friday, June 14, 2019
Michael Plachta

Between June 9 and June 12, 2019, Hong Kong witnessed a massive and violent wave of protests attended by up to one million. They demonstrated against a proposed extradition law that would allow suspects to be handed over to mainland Chinese authorities for prosecution. Demonstrators were shocked by the violence, when police charged on protesters, firing rubber bullets and tear gas. At least 72 people were hospitalized, two of which were in serious condition. Rights group Human Rights Watch accused the police of using "excessive force" against protesters. An immediate result of the protests was that the debate on the controversial extradition law was not held on June 12. Instead, Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo) delayed a second reading of the controversial extradition bill and it is unclear when it will take place. Another victory was that the government raised the proposed threshold for extradition to crimes that carried sentences of seven years in prison, compared with the initial three-year threshold. The proposed amendments to the extradition law should be seen in a broader legal and political context. The “one country, two systems” framework agreed to when the UK handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997 was meant to guarantee the territory’s civic freedoms and legal system – unique in China – for 50 years. The policy has helped preserve Hong Kong’s civil service, independent courts, freewheeling press, open internet, and other features that distinguish it from the Chinese mainland.