Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China located on the Eastern Pearl River Delta of the South China Sea. From 1842 to 1997, the region was under the control of the Britishers.
In 1997 the sovereignty of Hong Kong was transferred to China with the principle of “one country, two systems” which provided some degree of autonomy for Hong Kong. This system was supposed to be in force for a period of minimum fifty years from 1997 to 2047. However, under President Xi Jinping, China has been aggressively making such rules and regulations which increase the influence of mainland China on administration of Hong Kong.
In June 2020, China started implementing a new national security law for which potentially severely limits the independence of the judiciary of Hong Kong. Under the proposed law, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, who is answerable to Beijing, gets the power to appoint judges for specific security cases. It also calls for setting up a security agency in Hong Kong to resolve existing conflicts and challenges faced by Beijing with respect to Hong Kong.
China defended the law by citing that it would prevent and punish secession, subversion as well as foreign infiltration. Beijing has argued that these three factors are responsible for fuelling unrest in the city since last year. Critics however have very different opinions regarding the law. For them this law directly attacks the relative autonomy granted to Hong Kong after Britain handed it back to China in 1997.
The law can potentially be employed to target anti-government protests and other forms of dissent in the region of Hong Kong. It has instilled fear in the minds of the Hong Kong residents that the Chinese Communist Party is trying to curb the freedom of speech and protest in the region in an effort to bring Hong Kong under its authoritarian rule.
Many protesters are of the belief that the local governments of Hong Kong are no longer autonomous and act on the whims of Beijing. They accuse the city's top leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who is appointed by Beijing, of acting only in the interest of mainland China while ignoring to safeguard the autonomy of Hong Kong.
The protests Hong Kong witnessed in May 2020, were quite similar to the ones the city witnessed almost a year ago when China proposed an extradition law for Hong Kong. The law was eventually scrapped after a flurry of protests. However the protest against the territory’s existing leadership turned into a protest against Chinese ruling party’s efforts to merge Hong Kong with mainland China.
At its core, the protest movement is aimed at protecting Hong Kong’s autonomy and resisting encroachment from the mainland. However, China’s adamant approach in bringing Hong Kong under the mainland amidst a falling economy and rising agitation and police brutality has had a negative impact on the residents.
Many Hong Kong protesters have started moving to countries who are willing to adopt them over fears of being under scrutiny from the Chinese government. Many of the skilled workers are now looking at ways to exit the city and move to better alternatives. More than half of the people from the age group of 18 to 24 are considering options outside of Hong Kong owing to the uncertainty surrounding the region’s fate.
Despite the protest by citizens and condemnation and actions by the US, Britain and other Western countries, it seems unlikely that China is going to halt its efforts to dismantle the autonomy of Hong Kong and effectively merge it with the mainland China.