2019–20 Hong Kong protests

2019–20 Hong Kong protests
Part of democratic development in Hong Kong,
Hong Kong–Mainland China conflict
and the protests of 2019
Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protest (48108527758).jpg
2019-09-15 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protest 036.jpg
2019-10-01 Demonstration Hong Kong 61.jpg
Hong Kong protests - Panorama.jpg
2019-09-13 Lion Rock, Hong Kong 04.jpg
Demonstration against extradition bill, 12 June 2019.jpg
LR-7557 (49049938866).jpg
A collection of various protest scenes in Hong Kong
  • 15 March 2019 – ongoing
    (313 days, total)[1]
  • 9 June 2019 – ongoing
    (227 days, large-scale break out)[2]
Caused by
  • Full withdrawal of the extradition bill from the legislative process
  • Retraction of the characterisation of the 12 June 2019 protests as "riots"
  • Release and exoneration of arrested protesters
  • Establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into police behaviour
  • Universal suffrage for Legislative Council and Chief Executive elections
  • Resignation of Carrie Lam[9]
MethodsDiverse (see tactics and methods)
  • Bill suspended on 15 June and officially withdrawn on 23 October[10][11]
  • Police partially retracted characterisation of protests on or before 12 June as "riots", except for five individuals in Admiralty on 12 June[12]
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
(no centralised leadership)

Deaths, injuries and arrests
  • 2,600+ (as of 9 December 2019)[22][a]
Arrested7,019 (as of 16 January 2020)[26][27][c]

The 2019–20 Hong Kong protests are ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong triggered by the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill by the Hong Kong government.[29][30] If enacted, the bill would have allowed the extradition of criminal fugitives who are wanted in territories with which Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements, including Taiwan and mainland China.[31] This led to concerns that the bill would subject Hong Kong residents and visitors to the jurisdiction and legal system of mainland China, thereby undermining the region's autonomy and Hong Kong people's civil liberties.[32][33][34][35] As the protests progressed, the protesters laid out five key demands, namely the withdrawal of the bill, investigation into alleged police brutality and misconduct, the release of arrested protesters, a complete retraction of the official characterisation of the protests as "riots", and Chief Executive Carrie Lam's resignation along with the introduction of universal suffrage for election of the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive.[36][37]

Despite a demonstration attended by hundreds of thousands on 9 June, the government proceeded with the bill.[38][39] Protesters gathered outside the Legislative Council Complex to stall the bill's second reading on 12 June,[40][41][42][43] resulting in an intense standoff between the protesters and the police, who deployed tear gas and rubber bullets.[44] An even bigger march took place on 16 June, just one day after the suspension of the bill, as protesters insisted on the complete withdrawal of the bill and reacted to the perceived excessive use of force by the police on 12 June.[45] The anniversary of the handover on 1 July saw the storming of the Legislative Council Complex, which was largely viewed as a watershed moment for the protest.[46] Subsequent protests throughout the summer spread to different districts, and there were confrontations involving the police, activists on both sides, and suspected triad gangs.[47] The police's inaction when suspected triad members assaulted protesters and commuters in Yuen Long on 21 July[48] and the police storming of Prince Edward station on 31 August caused further escalation of the protests.[49]

Lam suspended the extradition bill on 15 June and declared the bill "had passed away" on 9 July, but refused to withdraw it until 4 September.[50][51][52] The bill was finally withdrawn on 23 October, but the government refused to concede on the other four demands. Large-scale demonstrations occurred on 1 October, the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. During a skirmish in Tsuen Wan, an 18-year-old protester was shot whilst swinging a rod at a police officer. Claiming to curb further protests, Lam invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance on 4 October to implement an anti-mask law, to counterproductive effect.[53] As the protests dragged on, confrontations escalated as both sides became increasingly violent. The number of police brutality and misconduct allegations increased,[54][55] with Amnesty International accusing the police of torturing some detainees.[56] Some protesters escalated their use of radical methods such as throwing petrol bombs[57] to confront the police.[54] Rifts within society widened as activists from both sides have assaulted each other,[58][59] in which hardcore protesters conducted vigilante attacks against perceived provocateurs in response,[59][60] and vandalised supposed pro-Beijing entities.[61] The deaths of students Chan Yin-lam in September and Chow Tsz-lok in November, as well as the shooting of an unarmed 21-year-old protester in November, further intensified the protests. Protesters have also occupied university campuses to block key thoroughfares. The police reacted by besieging the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) which resulted in a large number of injuries and arrests.[62]

The government and the police have received the lowest approval ratings since the 1997 handover in public opinion polls.[63][64][65] Their performance contributed to the unprecedented landslide victory of the pro-democratic bloc in the 2019 District Council election, which was widely viewed as a de facto referendum on the protest movement.[66] The Central People's Government has characterised the protests as the "worst crisis in Hong Kong" since the handover in 1997.[67] The protests, which continued through to 2020, have been largely described as "leaderless", though the Beijing government alleged that foreign powers were instigating the conflict.[68][69] The United States passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on 27 November to support the protest movement;[70] solidarity rallies were held in dozens of cities abroad. Counter-protesters have held several pro-police rallies.[71]

Since the protest movement began in June, there have been two deaths: Chow Tsz-lok, a student who fell to his death inside a car park,[65] and Luo Changqing, an elderly man who died after being struck in the head by a brick thrown by a protester during a clash between anti government protesters and local residents that were "trying to clear a roadblock"[72] in Sheung Shui.[73][74][72][75][76] In addition, public health experts have identified the protests as a significant stressor related to suicides and protesters have linked it to at least nine suicides.[77]


Direct cause

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.[35] 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.[78] 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.[35][79]

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.[80]

Underlying causes

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.[81] 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.[82] 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 extrajudicial detention.[83][82]

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[84] 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.[83] By 2019, almost no Hong Kong youth identified themselves as "Chinese".[85] 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.[81] For some protesters, the Umbrella Revolution was an inspiration that brought about a political awakening.[81] Others, who felt that peaceful methods were ineffective, resorted to increasingly radical methods to express their views.[7][86] Media has noted that unlike the 2014 protests, protesters in 2019 were driven by a sense of desperation rather than hope,[87][88] and that the aims of the protests had evolved from withdrawing the bill to fighting for greater freedom and liberties.[89]

The unaffordability of housing prices was also cited as an underlying cause of anger among Hong Kongers.[90][91] Hong Kong is "the world's most expensive city to buy a home".[92] This is because, unlike the comparable city-state of Singapore, Hong Kong has not secured affordable or public housing for the city's population.[93] That is due to the fact that since the colonial period, the city's politics have largely been ruled by the business elite.[94] 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.[95] Furthermore, a significant amount of the local government's revenue is made from land sales to developers.[96]

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客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Fán Sung Chûng Yun-thung