If Hong Kong were a relationship status on Facebook, it would probably fall under the category “it’s complicated”- not least after the protests and unrest that are currently going on. But what is Hong Kong actually, why is it so easy to love and what are Hong Kongers fighting so hard for?
Hong Kong is:
Hong Kong has:
After the 156 years of British colonial rule, Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese rule on 1 July 1997. This was known as the “handover” and it was agreed that Hong Kong would remain an integral part of China but that its economic, political and judicial freedoms would continue for 50 years – until 2047. This was an experiment known as the “one country, two systems” framework. But some argue that Beijing has, since 1997, been tightening its grip on some of those freedoms.
As a result, a number of protests have taken place over the years - the most famous ones being in 2014 when Mainland China refused to grant universal suffrage (the right to vote of all adult citizens, regardless of property ownership, income, race, or ethnicity, subject only to minor exceptions) to Hong Kong. This led to protests by students demanding more democracy and independence. The protests lasted almost 3 months and were led by the so-called “Umbrella movement”. Despite the extensive protests, the quest for free elections failed.
Carrie Lam was sworn in as Hong Kong’s Chief executive in 2017 and was chosen by an “election committee”. Voters had no say. During the ceremony, President Xi Jinping warned that any attempt to challenge the power of Beijing is “absolutely impermissible”.
What is going on right now in Hong Kong?
It all started with a proposed bill. The law would allow the extradition of suspects to mainland China for the first time. As put by "The Guardian", supporters say the amendments are key to ensuring the city does not become a criminal refuge, but critics worry Beijing will use the law to extradite political opponents and others to China, where their legal protections cannot be guaranteed.
The bill (which was proposed in March 2019) received prompt support from China and further amendments were announced at the end of May. They caused the first mass demonstration which took place on 9 June and violent clashes followed that same week. After massive pressure, Carrie Lam temporarily suspended the law on 15 June 2019. But protesters refuse to stop until their main demands are met.
In the meantime, China is calling the protesters terrorists. It has gathered the army in the nearby (China Mainland) city of Shenzhen and is exerting a lot of pressure on companies such as the Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific to stop employees from participating in the protests.
The future - and why you should visit Hong Kong
While it's very difficult to predict what will happen next in Hong Kong, my hope is that an acceptable solution will be found so that things (or at least everyday life) can go back to normal. For Hong Kong is a truly wonderful and fascinating place to visit.
It's the perfect mix between urban jungle and lush, green hills overlooking the South China Sea. In Hong Kong, you can shop, hike and swim all on the same day (if you get up early). It is full of life and much of that that life is lived near the water. The iconic Star Ferry sails between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon day and night and the city's skyline as seen from either side of Victoria Harbour is stunning. When you hop on a red double-decker bus and then sit down and enjoy a selection of dim sum, you are reminded of Hong Kong's colonial past and it's Asian heritage at the same time.
Much love and jūk néih hóuwahn from me, dear Hong Kong.