Global Concerns

Hong Kong’s Freedom Crumbling

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HONG KONG—For the past several months, Hong Kong has been seized by violent protests, and the unrest shows no sign of ending. On Friday, China invoked what is known as the emergency law for the first time in more than 50 years; this allowed them to introduce an anti-mask law. Protesters have been wearing masks to protect themselves from tear gas and to protect their identity, and for both reasons China wants them to stop. Under the new anti-mask law, anyone caught wearing a mask will be ordered to remove it, and demonstrators wearing masks can be arrested and face up to one year in jail. 

Some of the more radical protesters have attacked Mass Transit Railway stations and other businesses. During clashes with police, both sides typically sustain multiple injuries as police fire tear gas and rubber bullets and protesters throw bricks, firebombs and other objects. Because of this, Hong Kong’s transportation system is extremely limited.    

Last week, police used live bullets on protesters for the first time. On Tuesday they shot and wounded an 18-year-old who was allegedly attacking a police officer and on Friday it was reported that a 14-year-old demonstrator was shot in the leg. 

The violence stems from proposals made in April of this year for a law that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to China. Protests began in June and the bill was finally withdrawn in September, but the protests have continued as pro-democracy and anti-police demonstrations. 

Hong Kong’s current situation is the result of a transition from existence under Britain’s rule to becoming a province of China. In 1984, after being leased to Britain for 99 years, Britain and China reached an agreement that returned Hong Kong to China in 1997.  

However, as part of the agreement, China had to agree to allow Hong Kong to maintain many of their freedoms for a length of time. It was agreed that Hong Kong would exist under a “one nation, two systems” policy. This means that Hong Kong was to enjoy "a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs" for 50 years. As a result, Hong Kong has its own legal system, borders and rights. 

This agreement will not end until 2047, but China is already attempting to strengthen their presence and solidify their authority. The ensuing riots have led to great concerns for the future of Hong Kong. 

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