Hong Kong Protests Explained: Why The Agitation Was Launched And How China Has Responded So Far
Hong Kong police fire tear gas to disperse protesters | (Photo Credits: AFP)

Since June 9, thousands are on the streets in Hong Kong protesting against Fugitive Offenders Ordinance Amendment Bill being tabled for passage by the government which will allow criminals to be extradited to mainland China for trials. The law, if passed, would allow China to seek extradition of political dissidents and subject them to torture, critics allege.

Over the last 70 days, the agitation has intensified, with people from all walks of life -- activism, judiciary, academia and labour -- joining the demonstrations targeted against Beijing. A recent study conducted by ‘Onsite Survey Findings' has found that the maximum protesters are in the 20-25 years age group, and most identify themselves as "middle class". Hundreds of Pro-Democracy Protesters Stage New Rally at Hong Kong Airport

Hong Kong Protests: Why The Agitation Was Launched

The agitation was triggered after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam opted for the ordinance route to pass her controversial bill rather than debating on the same in the Legislative Council.

The protest was initially called by group of lawyers who alleged that any suspect or criminal being extradited to China would "not face a genuine trial" as Beijing adheres to the "least standards" of judiciary.

Further, they claimed, China subjects prisoners to "extreme level of torture" which would be a violation of human rights. Hong Kong, the group of lawyers pointed out, has maintained a history of upholding human rights and preventing atrocities in the name of law.

A 59-year-old protester, while speaking to reporterssaid the bill would be the fatal blow on Hong Kong's already struggling autonomy. This would turn the country into an "extended colony of China", another demonstrator added.

How China Has Responded So Far

The Communist Party of China (CPC) initially maintained a distance calling it a "domestic issue" of Hong Kong. After the protests visibly turned into a mass movement, the Xi Jinping government issued statements expressing solidarity with Carrie Lam.

Beijing has supported the Bill moved by Lam, claiming that it would permanently rid the city of criminals who are able to slip the law.

Further, the Hong Kong government has assured that China would not be handed over any accused who is at risk of political and religious persecution.

Despite the repeated pleas, the Church groups in Hong Kong have not withdrawn their support to the agitation, claiming that both - the government in their country as well as the mainland China - cannot be trusted. The religious factions have cited the alleged atrocities committed by China against people adhering to various faiths, including Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, as the reason for backing the protest.

Meanwhile, China has ruffled feathers of the international community by placing its military unit Shenzhen, located close to Hong Kong. In case of the People's' Liberation Army's intervention, the result is feared to be the same as it emerged in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, where the Chinese forces had brutally crushed down the pro-democracy protesters.