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#NoExtradictionBill: The Story of a Popular Movement in Hong Kong

 

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As some of you may know, I have studied my PhD in Hong Kong and in the years I have spent there I could appreciate the peculiarity of this city, its citizens and its culture. Today, Hong Kong is fighting a very important battle for its freedom, and I cannot avoid standing for it and write about it, in the hope this may be of some help.

#NoExtradictionBill Protest in Hong Kong

#NoExtradictionBill Protest in Hong Kong

On the base of a recent killing crime, the Hong Kong government has proposed a controversial extradition bill that, according to many, will allow Chinese authorities to arrest HK citizens for political or business offenses, and extradite them to China, where human rights are not always guaranteed. As of today, Hong Kong still relies on a UK-style system, with no capital punishment, unlike mainland China.

Hong Kong citizens fears are not unmotivated: in 2015, five Hong Kong book sellers disappeared from various countries (e.g. Thailand, China). Only in 2016 China admitted they had been taken in custody. In the following months some of them admitted crimes in interviews that looked totally staged (https://en.wikipedia.org/…/Causeway_Bay_Books_disappearances).

Few days ago approximately 1 million people (one seventh of the population) walked the streets to ask to withdraw the bill. Despite the movement was mostly peaceful, police dispersed the crowd that was reaching Admiralty for a peaceful sit-in in front of the government buildings. On the day that the bill had to be debated, Hong Kong citizens gathered again and tried to reach Admiralty, but police escalated by using rubber bullets, bean bag bullets and teargas against the demonstrators. Many have been injured and at least two are in serious conditions. The discussion about the bill has been currently postponed, probably to the moment in which people will lower their attention on it.

I ask everyone of you to keep an eye on what is happening and help to inform your friends and colleagues, possibly chatting with them or forwarding this email. It takes no effort and it will help Hong Kong people not to be alone in this fundamental battle for freedom.

Thanks a lot for your understanding and help,
Enrico Santus

BACKGROUND
Hong Kong went through the handover from Great Britain to China in 1997. The handover was anticipated by a long negotiation, which culminated in the Sino-British Joint Declaration (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handover_of_Hong_Kong…), signed in 1984, in which the two parties agreed on:
1. the date of the handover, the 1 of July 1997;
2. the Hong Kong organization would have kept immutable, under the "one country, two systems" principle;
3. the complete autonomy (other than for Defense) of Hong Kong for a period of 50 years, until 2047.
This agreement - which allowed the drafting of the Basic Law, the Hong Kong constitution - was meant to preserve the cultural and economic peculiarity of Hong Kong until at least 2047.

Despite such an agreement, it is already more than a decade that the Chinese government is pushing the HK government to pass laws aimed at increasing the control over the Hong Kong population. It all started with an education bill, which increased the relevance of Mandarin and Chinese education in the schools.

In 2014, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress said that "yes, Hong Kong could have had the promised democracy, but that candidates had to be pre-screened by the Chinese government". This lead hundred of thousands of people, including myself, to occupy the streets (Occupy Central) for 73 days. The movement was peaceful, at that point that media described it as "The Umbrella Movement", because the demonstrators (mostly high school and university students) protected themselves from police with umbrellas (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umbrella_Movement). During those days, people cleaned the streets, created gardens, made art pieces (statues, etc.), organized events and services, such as a post office that delivered letters in the tents, cooks that provided free food, and so on.