Tuesday, June 9, saw thousands of protesters on the streets of Hong Kong. The protesters were commemorating the anniversary of the start of protests against a new extradition bill. Protesters gathered in the streets in defiance of official restrictions over COVID-19.
The crowd clashed openly with riot police who were in the streets. Despite the massive turnout, the crowd was dispersed by police. Some people were arrested for violating the city restrictions. Organizers of the rally asked city officials to repeal COVID restrictions since the city has had very few recent cases of the novel virus.
Protesters Feel China Is Smothering Them
Control of Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997. Prior to this, the city was part of the British Empire, and people who lived there enjoyed freedoms that people in mainland China do not. Part of the Chinese government’s agreement with the city was that they would continue to enjoy those freedoms.
Recently, moves like the controversial extradition bill last year have undermined Hong Kong’s trust in Beijing. A recent national security law that Hong Kong passed even outlawed any form of speaking against the Chinese government. This has upset democracy advocates in the city, who feel as though their rights are being eroded.
COVID Offers Excuse
Currently, the Chinese government has banned Hong Kong from having any outdoor gatherings larger than eight people. Ostensibly, this is to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, Hong Kong has had very few recent cases of the coronavirus. As such, many protesters feel as though China is using COVID as an excuse to quell protests.
Many pro-democracy advocates have asked city officials to repeal the ban on large crowds. However, the mostly pro-China city government has not granted these requests. Protests have continued in spite of this, however. Demonstrations in the city openly defy the city officials and Chinese government.
Hong Kong Fights for Freedoms
Last year’s June 9 demonstrations numbered over a million protesters. They were demonstrating against a highly controversial extradition bill that would allow the mainland to extradite people from Hong Kong. Seeing this as chipping away at their freedoms, protesters were quick to decry the bill.
Their outcry was so intense that Beijing made the rare move of backing off of proposed legislation. However, their recent national security law has struck many in the city as being retribution for the embarrassment the government suffered at the hands of the protests. Now, many pro-democracy advocates are calling for a judicial divorce from the mainland and independence for the financial hub city.