The Extension of Hong Kong Territory took place in 1898 following The Opium Wars, which leased the territory to the British for 99 years. It looked like the sun would never set on the British Empire, however the last bastion of the British Empire finally fell when Hong Kong has handed back to China in 1997. It is often the case, when it comes to former colonial processions, that they are left unstable and plagued with infighting often leading to civil war. Hong Kong is an exception to this trend. Not only was it a powerhouse in terms of trade before it was handed back to China, but it has remained one the main economic hubs in world. When Hong Kong was given back to China, rights including those of freedom of the press and assembly were safe guarded under the new administration.
While the current protests in Hong Kong are in retaliation to the failed 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill; civil unrest is not something new for the “Special administrative region.” Hong Kong has a unique form of government; their Chief Executive is voted in by universal suffrage, selected by a small committee and then approved by china. Hong Kong’s law-making body – “The Legislative Council” has 70 seats, which is split between pro-democracy and pro-Beijing parties. However, when the citizens of Hong Kong go to polls, they elect 40 seats out of the 70. With the rest chosen by the business community. When the territory was handed over the China there was an agreement that eventually all the seats in the legislature would be chosen via universal suffrage. Which has resulted in Pro-Beijing parties having control over the legislative despite never winning for than 50 per cent of the popular vote. Hong Kong was also rocked by Protests in 2014 when there were attempts to reform the electoral system.
What makes the protests around the failed extradition bill different from protests seen in the past, is the level of participation in these protests. Various diverse groups like students, and those in the legal sector took part. Many saw the bill as the last stand against Beijing accreting more control over Hong Kong. This has once again highlighted many of the concerns that where raised when Hong Kong was handed back to China, that slowly over time rights would be taken away and Hong Kong would be like any other part of China. The international community has also weighed, for example the UK has considered offering people from Hong Kong British citizenship. In the most recent turn of events, Beijing has imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong in the wake of the wake of the most recent protests.
There is uncertainty surrounding the future of Hong Kong. Under the terms of the hand over in 1997 Hong Kong would remain under the system of the “one county two systems” frame. Whereby Hong Kong would keep the current system for 50 years until 2047. Evidence shows that China is attempting to bring Hong Kong back under its full control well before 2047, a violation of the handover agreement. It remains to be seen if China will push ahead with its policy of further alienation or will those fighting for their democracy overcome this hurdle. One thing is for sure, the protests against the extradition bill is a turning point; For what, still remains to be seen.