For over 2 months, Hong Kong has been experiencing the largest and most sustained series of protests in its history. Initially the movement was sparked by the proposal to amend the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation in the Legislative Council of Hong Kong on March 29, 2019. If enacted, the bill, among other mechanisms, would have made it possible to extradite fugitives to mainland China, an eventuality to which citizens of Hong Kong from varying segments of society took exception.
After starting as limited protest actions, the movement rapidly grew in size and public participation, resulting in June 9’s march of over 1 million people. At the time, it was the largest public demonstration to occur in Hong Kong, though subsequent marches have been larger. As a result of public disapproval over the violent handling of the protests by the police and the perceived indifference of the local government, the demonstrations continued to expand, leading to the suspension of the bill in the Legislative Council on June 15 and a public apology by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
An escalation of violence in July and early August has shaken Hong Kong to its core, with local police employing tear gas and rubber bullets resulting in grave injuries to protesters and exposure of ordinary citizens to tear gas in largely residential areas. The expanded goals of the movement now consist of a five-point list of demands: completely withdrawing the extradition bill from the Legislative Council, retraction of the categorization of the protests as “riots,” exoneration of arrested protesters, an inquiry into police actions regarding their handling of the protests, and the resignation of Carrie Lam as well as enacting universal suffrage for the selection of Legislative Council members and the chief executive.