Hong Kong Protesters Return to the Streets

The Corona Virus Outbreak ended months of demonstrations on the streets of Hong Kong, but the protesters returned en masse at the weekend, with video showing entire boulevards collapsed.

The protests have been hailed as demonstrations for freedom — especially with American flags being hailed — starting in June 2019 after plans were announced that would allow extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China.

Opponents of the extradition bill said that Hongkongers risked exposure to unfair trials and violent treatment if they were allowed to be extradited to mainland China.

Protests continued for months after the bill was introduced and Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong finally said the bill would be suspended indefinitely.

As the Corona Virus took hold at end-2019, many watchers saw the virus as being used as an excuse to get the protesters off the streets of Hong Kong and were concerned that dissidents were being arrested without anyone noticing them gone.

The virus stopped the protests for about 10 weeks, but as restrictions have been lifted, people flooded the streets again.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that was returned to China in 1997. Hong Kong has its own judicial and legal system, separate from mainland China.  When Brittain handed Hong Kong to China after 99 years, the foundation of the relationship was based on the principle of “one country, two systems.”

The rights under this system include freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.

These freedoms are known as “The Basic Law” and will continue for 50 years, through 2047. Once this law expires, it is unknown what the status of Hong Kong will be.

While the “one country, two systems” has proven successful, there are increasing national security risks. Even Xinhua, the Chinese state owned news agency, said it’s a “prominent problem” and these ”activities have seriously challenged the bottom line of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, harmed the rule of law, and threatened national sovereignty, security and development interests.”

Before Britain won the right to control Hong Kong at the nineteenth century, it had been awarded the city-state as a spoil of the Second Opium War. This dark period of history, leading up to the First opium War, which Britain also won, came about also through a trade war. After delivering ships full of Chinese tea to its shores, the British were angry that the Chinese refused to refill the ships with British merchandise for the captains to deliver on the return trip. The solution: find something even more addictive than tea to sell into that market, illegal or not. 

Whose idea was to fill a ship with Turkish opium for the trial run was the first Lord Sassoon, who controlled Indian textile mills and opium fields, and whose heir, the Barron, is still the wealthiest man in Britain’s House of Lords. 

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