The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 was first proposed by the government of Hong Kong in February 2019 in response to the 2018 murder of Poon Hiu-wing by her boyfriend Chan Tong-kai in Taiwan, where the two Hong Kong residents were visiting as tourists. As there is no extradition treaty with Taiwan (because the government of China does not recognise its Cap. 525) to establish a mechanism for case-by-case transfers of fugitives, on the order of the Chief Executive, to any jurisdiction with which the city lacks a formal extradition treaty. One such jurisdiction would be mainland China.
The inclusion of mainland China in the amendment is of concern to different sectors of Hong Kong society. Pro-democracy advocates fear the removal of the separation of the region's jurisdiction from mainland Chinese laws administered by the Communist Party, thereby eroding the "one country, two systems" principle in practice since the 1997 handover. In addition, Hong Kong citizens also lacked confidence in China's judiciary system and human rights protection due to its history of suppressing political dissidents. Opponents of the bill urged the Hong Kong government to explore other avenues, such as establishing an extradition arrangement solely with Taiwan, and to sunset the arrangement immediately after the surrender of the suspect.
A Reuters report claims that the Beijing officials had been pushing for an extradition law for 20 years. Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese billionaire residing in Hong Kong was allegedly abducted by Chinese agents across the border in January 2017 as a spillover of China's paramount leader and general secretary Xi Jinping's mass anti-graft campaign. The incident was widely reported in Hong Kong, sparking fear among the local residents. That same year, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the Chinese Communist Party's internal anti-corruption body, began pressing Beijing officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs about the urgent need for an extradition arrangement, which it thought to be less damaging politically than kidnapping for snaring fugitive mainlanders in Hong Kong.
The 2019–20 Hong Kong protests came four and a half years after the Umbrella Revolution of 2014, which began after the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) regarding proposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system which were largely seen as restrictive. However, the movement ended in failure as the government offered no concessions. Since then, democratic development has stalled: only half of the seats in the Legislative Council remain directly elected, and the Chief Executive of Hong Kong continues to be voted by the small-circle Election Committee. The 2017 imprisonment of Hong Kong democracy activists further dashed the city's hope of meaningful political reform. Citizens began to fear the loss of the "high degree of autonomy" as provided for in the Hong Kong Basic Law, as the government of the People's Republic of China appeared to be increasingly and overtly interfering with Hong Kong's affairs. Notably, the Legislative Council oath-taking controversy ended with the disqualification of six lawmakers following a ruling by the NPCSC; the Causeway Bay Books disappearances sparked concerns over state-sanctioned rendition and .
The rise of localism and the pro-independence movement was marked by the campaign for the 2016 New Territories East by-election by activist Edward Leung as fewer and fewer youth in Hong Kong identify themselves as Chinese – pollsters at the University of Hong Kong found that the younger respondents were, the more distrustful they were of the Chinese government. By 2019, almost no Hong Kong youth identified themselves as "Chinese". The Moral and National Education controversy in 2012 severely shook young people's confidence in the systems which they believed protected their rights. With the approach of 2047, when the Basic Law is set to expire, and along with it the constitutional guarantees enshrined within it, sentiments of an uncertain future have driven youth to join the protests against the extradition bill. For some protesters, the Umbrella Revolution was an inspiration that brought about a political awakening. Others, who felt that peaceful methods were ineffective, resorted to increasingly radical methods to express their views. Media has noted that unlike the 2014 protests, protesters in 2019 were driven by a sense of desperation rather than hope, and that the aims of the protests had evolved from withdrawing the bill to fighting for greater freedom and liberties.
The unaffordability of housing prices was also cited as an underlying cause of anger among Hong Kongers. Hong Kong is "the world's most expensive city to buy a home". This is because, unlike the comparable city-state of Singapore, Hong Kong has not secured affordable or public housing for the city's population. That is due to the fact that since the colonial period, the city's politics have largely been ruled by the business elite. That has also meant a few powerful families having significant influence over property development, with the construction of commercial properties on key real estate with limited competition. Furthermore, a significant amount of the local government's revenue is made from land sales to developers.