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Hong Kongers fought and won


The anti-government agitation by Hong Kongers against China's attempts to take away the autonomy rights guaranteed at the time of the independence of the colony from British rule, can be said to have clinched a victory. 

At the culmination of demonstrations held by thousands of red shirt protesters all these days with the slogan 'Free Hong Kong',  the administration of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong decided to withdraw for good the controversial extradition bill.  Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam admitted to yielding before the protests against the proposed legislation -  which provided for extraditing to China lawbreakers in Hong Kong,  the island state that became part of China on its  becoming independent from British colony rule.   Earlier when the protests intensified,  the administration had become willing to make amendments in the bill.   But the demonstrators persisted with the demand that the bill should be totally scrapped and the chief executive of the regional legislative assembly, Carrie Lam should resign.

When Britain handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997 after its colonial rule for 156 years,  an agreement was reached between the two countries that the law of Hong Kong would continue to be in force for another 50 years,  as part of the 'one country, two systems' principle.  Accordingly what the Special Administrative Region was granted was a 'higher grade autonomous' status where the capitalist economic system and English law would be allowed to stay.   But,  Chinese president Xi Jinping, after he got well-entrenched in power two years ago,  had made it clear that nothing against the national, read Chinese,  interest would be allowed in Hong Kong either.   This naturally raised the apprhensions among the Hong Kongers that sinews of the Chinese deep state was extending to Hong Kong too.  And Chinese interventions like banning some activists from election,  arresting leaders of protesters,  and banning the pro-independence political party,  were enough to strengthen the fears.  In fact,  Hong Kongers who work in different parts of China and take part in business enterprises there,  have been enjoying  the benefits  of both  the freedom and democratic rights of their own region and financial opportunities within China.  What pushed the 7.5 million-strong Hong Kong population to an uncompromising strike was the fear that this dual comfort would be withdrawn and they would come under the yoke of Chinese regime.

The trigger of the new developments was the incident in which a 16-year old Hong Konger, killed his 20-year old pregnant girl friend during a holiday in Taiwan last February.  When the accused escaped from Taiwan and reached his home country,  Taiwanese authorities demanded that Hong Kong hand him over  for trial.   But in the absence of an extradition treay,  Hong Kong cried off.  Although Hong Kong has such an extradition treaty with 20 countries including USA and Britain,   such a treaty could not be reached with mainland China, Taiwan or Macao,  despite negotiations over the past two decades.   Given this situation, the treaty imposed in the wake of the February incident spurred popular anger.  But with the protests getting out of hand and the demonstrations leading to smashing the property of the legislative assembly and resultant police action,  the authoritites relaxed their stand.   As part of this,  financial crimes like tax evasion,  were taken out of the scope of the new law. New amendments were also added that extradition requests would be subject to the final decision by Hong Kong court and imprisonment longer than seven years will not be allowed.  The take of the administration was that the bill was essential to make the country free from criminal acts like murder and rape.

But critics of the proposed legislation alleged that this would set the stage open for China's communist regime to round up any civil rights activists and dissidents in the name of the new law.   And the bill was framed in such a way that not only Hong Kongers,  but any foreigners resident in Hong Kong,  and even tourists passing through Hong Kong would fall within its jurisdiction. 

Therefore, the protesters perceived the new law as a move to bring under Beijing's control the prosperou small island,  where unlilke in China with its iron curtain,  freedom and prosperity prevailed.   When they saw that China with the same iron curtain was covering up the protests happening in its next door neighbour Hong Kong,  extended the peaceful march of millions across the 'border' the other day.   It would be relevant to recall that in 2003 when China introduced in the curriculum certain lessons that glorified the Chinese Communist Party,  the protests against that had led to the resignation of the then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa.   However, a student strike in 2014 that occupied the streets,  had to be called off after 70 days.   But this time,  the determination of Hong Kong people not to surrender democratic rights before the Communist autocratic obduracy to close the light and air of freedom,  has won a victory;  although it cannot be predicted for how long.

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