One year in: What to know about Hong Kong's year of protests
One murder might not seem like enough to spark an entire democratic movement, but that’s exactly what happened in Hong Kong, a province of China with a high degree of autonomy. A couple from the city took a Valentine’s Day trip to Taipei in February 2018. Poon Hiu-wing never returned home, but her 19-year-old boyfriend Chan Tong-kai did. He would soon confess to Hong Kong police that he left a suitcase containing her body near a Taipei subway station after strangling her. He also used Poon’s ATM card to withdraw more than $3,000 from her bank account in Taipei and Hong Kong.
Hong Kong authorities prosecuted him for money laundering, but they lacked the jurisdiction to charge him with murder. The crime occurred in Taipei, and there was no extradition treaty between Hong Kong and Taiwan. That’s when Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam stepped in to fast-track a new bill that would allow the city to send suspected criminals to Taiwan, along with mainland China. Critics slammed the proposed legislation as a threat to the “one country, two systems” arrangement Hong Kong has had with China since 1997. Mass protests against the proposal broke out in March 2019.
While the demonstrations initially just called for a withdrawal of the extradition bill, protesters eventually expanded their calls to “five demands, not one less.” They wanted the government to reject a characterization of their demonstrations as riots, provide amnesty to arrested activists, allow for an independent investigation of police brutality, and implement universal suffrage. Only one of their needs—withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill—has been met, and activists are continuing to fight for the other four demands to the present day.
So what’s happened during Hong Kong’s protests over the last 15 months that have brought the city where it is today? To find out, Stacker looked at news reports from domestic and international publications including The New York Times, CNN, the South China Morning Post, Time, BBC, Reuters, and the Associated Press on protests in Hong Kong. The result is a fascinating timeline of important events—ranging from activists singing in unison and a peaceful march of more than 1 million demonstrators in the pouring rain to brawls between lawmakers and the use of hundreds of rounds of tear gas against protesters.
Keep reading to find out what you should know about Hong Kong’s year of protests—and what it means for the state of the city’s autonomy.
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1997: ‘One country, two systems’
Control of Hong Kong reverted from the British to China on July 1, 1997, after more than 150 years of colonial rule. Under the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, the handover included a “one country, two systems” understanding that would allow Hong Kong to maintain its economic and legal system for the next 50 years.
[Pictured: Signing the draft agreement of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong.]
2015: The Causeway Bay Books disappearances
Five people associated with Causeway Bay Books, a bookstore in Hong Kong that often sold literature on Chinese politics that wasn’t available on the mainland to Chinese tourists, disappeared in 2015. It was later discovered that the Chinese government was responsible for at least some of the kidnappings.
[Pictured: Books about Chinese politics are displayed in a bookstore in Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong on Jan. 5, 2016.]
2017: The kidnapping of billionaire Xiao Jianhua
Unidentified captors, believed by many to be Chinese agents, abducted Chinese-born billionaire Xiao Jianhua from the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong on the morning of Jan. 27, 2017. The removal of Xiao, a Canadian citizen who had connections with China’s political elite, from Hong Kong seemed to violate the “one country, two systems” policy, according to Michael Forsythe of The New York Times.
[Pictured: A member of staff walks outside the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong on Feb. 1, 2017.]
2018: The murder of Poon Hiu-wing
Chan Tong-kai, a man from Hong Kong, confessed that he had murdered his girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing, also a Hong Kong resident, in a Taipei hotel room while on vacation in February 2018. Without an extradition pact with Taiwan, Hong Kong could not seek justice for Poon. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam began pushing for new laws that would give the city authority to send people suspected of crimes to Taiwan and mainland China for trial.
[Pictured: Chan Tong-kai is seen outside Pik Uk Prison in Hong Kong on Oct. 23, 2019.]
February 2019: The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation proposed
The Hong Kong government proposed the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation in February 2019 in an effort to create a way for the city to extradite suspected criminals to Taiwan, Macau, and mainland China. The bill was met with widespread criticism at home and abroad.
[Pictured: Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu seen at the LegCo for the first reading of the bill about the proposal.]
March 15, 2019: The first protest against the extradition bill
Pro-democracy group Demosisto held a sit-in at the Hong Kong government headquarters on March 15, 2019, in protest of the recently proposed extradition bill.
[Pictured: Joshua Wong, co-founder of the Demosisto political party protesting on June 21, 2019.]
April 28, 2019: Second protest march
Fifty pro-democracy groups under the umbrella organization Civil Human Rights Front held a protest march through Hong Kong on April 28, 2019. It would be their largest march to date in five years, drawing an estimated 130,000 people to the city’s streets, according to Demosisto, via CNN.
[Pictured: Hong Kong Island.]
May 11, 2019: A fight in the Hong Kong legislature
Tensions over China’s role in Hong Kong got physical in the city’s legislature on May 11, 2019, when pro-democracy and pro-Beijing politicians fought to take over the chairperson’s seat for an important legislative committee. Some lawmakers were injured, while others were escorted from the room by security.
[Pictured: Legislators attend a reading of the National Anthem Bill at the Legislative Council (LegCo) in Hong Kong.]
June 6, 2019: Lawyers march in protest
Dressed in black, legal professionals and law students staged a silent protest march to the Central Government Offices from the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong on June 6, 2019. The anti-extradition-bill demonstration included around 25% of Hong Kong’s legal professionals.
[Pictured: Legislator Eddie Chu is seen being pulled from his chair inside Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo) on May 11, 2019.]
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June 9, 2019: Tensions heightened with largest protest to date
Hong Kong had one of its largest protests ever on June 9, 2019, when more than 1 million people flooded the city streets, according to the march’s organizers Civil Human Rights Front. Police clashed with some remaining protesters after midnight, firing pepper spray and striking them with batons near the legislature.
[Pictured: Lawyers march during a protest from the Court of Final Appeal to the Central Government Complex on June 6, 2019 in Hong Kong.]