The government in Hong Kong has suspended a planned bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. The climbdown follows huge demonstrations.
On the morning of 12 June, forty thousand Hong Kong citizens occupied the streets near Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and the government headquarters.
Most protesters were aged between 18 and 24.
Previously, on Sunday 9 June, an astonishing 1.03 million citizens joined the “No China extraction” mass demonstration. That was the biggest demonstration since Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997. On average, one in seven Hong Kong people joined the demonstration!
The official mainland China media said that demonstrations were surreptitiously engineered by Western powers. That is absolute nonsense.
The 12 June protest forced the delay of the Second Reading of the draft amendment to the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Bill – the extradition bill.
Currently Hong Kong is allowed to sign long-term fugitive extradition arrangement with all regions in the world except China. Hong Kong’s government wants to amend this bill so that the mainland authorities can extract suspects from Hong Kong.
The amendment would severely reduce Hong Kong’s autonomy. Due to the authoritarian regime of one-party rule in China, people lack protection from the law.
This would affect especially those who criticise the China government and leadership openly and those who organise the remembrance of the 1989 Tiananmen Incident every year, and Hong Kong citizens who have helped Chinese democratic activists to escape. All of these citizens would be in serious danger.
Hong Kong activists who have provided practical assistance to China’s labor, human rights, and social movement NGOs could also be extracted by the China government under the pretext of “endangering national security”.
The amendment would make Hong Kong citizens live in fear of “the consequence” of criticising the system and policies.
The police responded to the protests with violence. They not only employed tear gas and pepper spray but also fired bean bag shot and rubber bullets without warning. This resulted in 79 injuries, two of them very serious.
Both the Commissioner of Police and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam described the protest as a “riot”.
The protests against the Extradition Bill took place five years after the Umbrella Movement. The 81-day-long roads occupation for democratic elections in September 2014 ended in failure. This time, the protests have revived the morale of the masses to some degree.
People called for a workers’ and students’ strike last week.The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union and the Hong Kong Social Workers’ General Union showed support for it.
In addition, some young people established a picket line in the commercial district. Some suggested political strikes and this led to discussions on the internet. All these signs show that this movement has advanced in political consciousness compared to the Umbrella Movement.
It is not easy to mobilise a powerful strike in a short time. The socialist left of Hong Kong can push the discussions about political strikes toward a strategic conclusion that we need to establish mass self-organisation. It can also explain why the struggle for civil liberty is inseparable to the struggle for political democracy and economic equality.
Lam Chi Leung is a revolutionary socialist based in Hong Kong.