Why did the protests at Hong Kong that took a toll on people start?

Hong Kong has been a ground for protests since the past few days which has been difficult for the people. Hong Kong is a special administrative region located on the south coast of China. It is under the fundamental policy of “one country, two systems” with Hong Kong having a high degree of autonomy in spite of being a part of China. At the beginning of 2019, the country witnessed peaceful rallies, which soon turned into violent protests, in opposition to a bill named the Fugitives Offender’s Amendment Bill, which was introduced by the Hong Kong government. The bill proposed the extradition of criminal fugitives to mainland China (and Taiwan too), with which Hong Kong has no formal extradition agreements. The provisions that were laid down by the bill were disregarded by the masses on the claims that the bill oppressed the residents and subjected them to unfair trials in the name of jurisdiction.

hongkong location of the protests
Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica

Fear of the masses:

The residents of the country wanted to fight the political situation which posed a threat to their civil rights and autonomy. The masses feared that the bill would allow the Chinese government to detain any individual and transfer the person to mainland China where jurisdiction is mainly based on the orders of the Communist Party. So, the prosecution of dissidents by the Communist Party is very common in the juridical system of China. Furthermore, the bill allows very little or no freedom to the local leader of Hong Kong to reject an extradition request appealed by his/her superior. Thereby, the people of Hong Kong refuse to get themselves mingled with such juridical system and wishes to get back the autonomy of their own jury. This can be seen as a justification for hong kong protests taking a toll on the people.

The claims of the protestors:

The protestors have five demands in general. They are:

  1. Complete withdrawal of the bill.
  2. Not to characterize the protests as ‘riots’.
  3. Release of the arrested protestors.
  4. A thorough investigation of the alleged police brutality and proper jurisdiction of the same.
  5. Resignation of Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.  
Hong Kong protesters and their claims
Hong Kong protesters and their claims

Escalation of the protests:

The fire that was sparkled among the citizens grew and rose further because of the immense police brutality.

  • There is myriad evidence of police brutally hitting protestors with batons and sexually assaulting the detained ones.
  • On June 12, the police used beanbag shots, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse a crowd.  Amnesty International called this an “unnecessary and excessive use of force by police” on “largely peaceful protesters.”
  •  As if deploying of tear gas and rubber bullets weren’t enough, an 18-year-old was shot in the chest whilst swinging a rod at a police officer. The officer in charge was not held accountable instead the student was charged with ‘rioting’.
  • On November 8, a student who was injured while trying to flee away from tear gas succumbed to his injuries and passed away.
  • Apart from this, a 21-year-old front-liner was also shot in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. 
  • Also, the government refused to hold the police accountable for any case and instead only the protestors have been put to blame for the destruction of the city.
Massive outburst at Hong Kong as protesters ask for their claims
Massive outburst at Hong Kong as protesters ask for their claims

Therefore, the initial peaceful rallies soon transformed into violent ones when the protestors saw that not only were their protests falling on deaf ears, but they were also being subjected to immense police brutality. Protestors started using petrol bombs and Molotov cocktail on the police. The protestors stopped behaving rationally and the mob took a violent turn. Luo Changqing, a 70-year-old man, died when he was hit in the head by a brick thrown at him by an anti-government protester.

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Economic impact:

Hong Kong has been a site of tourist attraction for ages. The main source of income mainly comes from visitors. Since the protests have been rising, shops are being shut, restaurants are being closed, employees are working yet they do not receive their due payment, employees are fired without any warning, local people hardly have enough food to feed themselves, people are struggling to pay their rents and the list goes on and on.

Condition of the market:

  • Since the number of tourists visiting the city has been cut down, prices of things have also risen by around 10%.
  • The Jumbo Kingdom, a sprawling floating eatery with traditional decor & Cantonese cuisine dismissed almost half its staff and has been remaining closed on Mondays.
  • Prada SpA and LVMH’s Louis Vuitton are planning to close their stores situated in Causeway Bay. This area was considered to be one of the most expensive commercial estates in the world.
  • Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Ltd. And Sa Sa International Holdings Ltd. are closing 15 and 30 stores respectively. 
  • Horizon Plaza, a luxury mall in southern Hong Kong has reported that there has been a decline of 60% in their sales and revenue.

Apart from these, around 5600 people have lost their jobs (according to recent reports).

The food and beverage sector faced a terrible hit compared to the drugstore and supermarket sector. However, official unemployment statistics in the retail industry and the food & beverage sector is at 5.2% and 6.2% respectively. Overall unemployment is said to be at 3.3%. The entire economy has shrunk down to 1.2% and GDP shrank 2.9% in the fourth quarter.

Now what?

To prevent these Hong Kong protests from taking a toll on people, it is highly uncertain as to what the upcoming days might bring to the city and even the economic outlook is subjected to high uncertainties. Although the bill has been withdrawn, protests might only cease after all the demands of the protestors have been adhered to, including thorough investigation of police brutality and resignation of Carrie Lam. Also, Some local people have reported that they do not have any interest in the political situation and just wish to return back to their normal lives while few others claimed that “this is the time to fight for democracy. Hong Kong needs a revolution”.

What Else?

Another challenge that the economy of Hong Kong will be facing is from the coronavirus. Schools and other educational institutions have been cancelled for days and civil servants are being ordered to work from home. Consequently, the condition of the economy will keep on deteriorating if the concerns of the common people are not fulfilled. Also, it can worsen if these protests are not ceased. Furthermore, staving off this dangerous epidemic is also something that the city has to do. If they plan on to improve their affected economy within the next 2 – 3 years.