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Hong Kong protests

The Hong Kong protests: everything you need to know

The Hong Kong protests are all over the news.

There are reports of people storming the city's streets, protests, suicides and people breaking into parliament. But what is it all about?

These protests are connected to Hong Kong's history as an ex-British colony which separates it from other Chinese cities.

A short summary of this history:

Hong Kong was a British colony for over 150 years. Hong Kong island was given to the UK after a war in 1842. Later, in 1898, Britain gained a 99-year lease from China for the 'New Territories' - aka, the rest of Hong Kong.

It became a busy trading port, and its economy took off in the 1950s as it became a manufacturing hub. This area was also popular with migrants and those fleeing from poverty or persecution in mainland China.

In 1984, Britain and communist China reached a deal that Hong Kong would return to China in 1997, under the principle of "one country, two systems". This meant that while becoming part of one country with China, for the next 50 years, Hong Kong would have the right to self-govern, except in foreign and defence affairs.

This created the Basic Law—a small manifesto which means that Hong Kong has its own legal system, borders, and rights which include the freedom of speech.

In China, it is one of the few places where people can remember the fateful events of Tiananmen Square. As in 1989, the military pulled the trigger at defenceless protesters in Beijing. Today, it marks an important event in Chinese history for the rest of the world except China.

Today:

A series of protests erupted in late April after the Hong Kong government revealed an anti-extradition bill. This bill was created to "plug the loopholes" so that the city would not be a safe haven for criminals.

These changes will allow for deportation requests from authorities in mainland China, Taiwan and Macau for suspects accused of criminal wrongdoings, such as murder and rape. The requests will then be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Hong Kong officials claim that Hong Kong courts will have the last word whether to give people extradition requests. Suspects accused of political and religious crimes should not worry as they will not be extradited.

But critics say those in Hong Kong would be exposed to China's corrupt justice system, and it would further erode the city's judicial independence. As people would be subject to unfair trial and torture under China's judicial system.

Many argue that the freedom Hong Kong has outside of mainland China is on the decline.

Rights groups have accused China of meddling in Hong Kong, citing examples such as legal rulings that have disqualified pro-democracy legislators. They've also been concerned by the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers, and a tycoon who then turned up in custody in China.

Artists and writers say they are under increased pressure to self-censor—and a Financial Times journalist was barred from entering Hong Kong after he hosted an event that featured an independence activist.

Another reason for the protest is the need for democratic reform.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's leader, was elected by a 1,200-member election committee. These members are mostly pro-Beijing and were chosen by a mere 6% of eligible voters.

Not all the 70 members of the territory's lawmaking body, the Legislative Council, are directly chosen by Hong Kong's voters. Most seats not directly elected are occupied by pro-Beijing lawmakers.

In 2016, some elected members were disbarred for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance properly, as it references Hong Kong as a part of China. These members even held a flag saying "Hong Kong is not China."

Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, says it should ultimately elect its leader in a more democratic way—but there's been disagreement over what this should look like.

In 28 years' time in 2047, the Basic Law expires—and what happens to Hong Kong after that is uncertain.

Many citizens don't consider themselves Chinese.

Despite how geographically, Hong Kong is part of China, and most Hong Kong residents are ethnically Chinese, most people there do not identify as Chinese.

Recent studies show that only 11% of residents would call themselves "Chinese", as most see themselves as "Hong Kongers". Overall, 71% of people say they do not feel proud about being Chinese citizens.

This stand-alone identity and attitude, brought in by social and cultural differences have helped form the Hong Konger.

The difference is particularly pronounced amongst the young.

Featured image: PaulWong / Shutterstock.com

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