What’s Actually Happening in Hong Kong

The situation in Hong Kong is serious and becoming more dire every day, yet the world is oblivious to this.

    Many Americans fail to understand the true history of Hong Kong and assume it is just a Chinese city. This is not true; Hong Kong was under British rule from 1841-1997 due to a post Opium War agreement. However, Britain essentially allowed Hong Kong to self govern, so the region had more independence than when it was part of China. The region flourished economically and came to develop a unique culture and identity, with people identifying themselves as not British or Chinese, but as Hong Kongers.

    In 1997, the British government negotiated with the Chinese to return Hong Kong to China, granting them complete rule by 2047. During these fifty years of transition, Hong Kong would be technically independent from both China and Britain by the policy known as “One country, two systems”. This policy establishes Hong Kong as part of China, but Hong Kong retains its own economic and government systems. However, Hong Kong will be under complete Chinese rule by 2047. There are quite a few issues with this fact alone, but the real problem is that the People’s Republic of China is breaking the agreement by imposing its rule on the region three decades too early.

    Perhaps the most obvious and controversial example of this was the 2019 proposal of an extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong officials to send citizens accused of crimes in China back to the mainland, where they could face huge penalties. The bill would apply to 37 crimes, including political ones, which is worrisome for pro-democracy activists in the region. The proposal of this bill, which has been shelved but never voted down, ignited massive protests across the region. These sorts of protests have been occurring since 2014, during what is now known as the Umbrella Revolution. When decisions were made regarding proposed reforms to the electoral systems that were deemed favorable to the Chinese Communist Party, thousands took to the streets to protest. Large scale pro-democracy demonstrations have been occurring ever since, and for good reason. Based on the actions the PRC has already taken in regards to Hong Kong, Chinese rule would mean the freedoms stripped away, halted economic growth, and forced abandonment of an entire culture. 

    World leaders have addressed the growing concerns in many different ways. The UK is allowing any Hong Kong citizen British citizenship if they move in the next five years. The US supports Hong Kong’s autonomy but has removed their special status. This isn’t enough. Any country claiming to be a democracy must step up and protect Hong Kong from China’s growing control. If we stand on the sidelines and do nothing, the next generation of Hong Kongers will watch their freedoms slowly disappear in front of their own eyes.