The Hong Kong government needs to remember that its first priority is its own people

The situation in Hong Kong is complicated and there is no easy way out

Thousands of people participated in a protest on June 16 Photo Courtesy of Tyrone Siu via CBC

By: Tommy, SFU Alumni

Editor’s note: The author’s name has been redacted from this article.

Recently in Hong Kong, there were massive protests against the government’s proposal to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, also known as the extradition law. This law would  allow case-by-case extradition proceedings between Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China without review from the Legislative Council. However, due to the complicated history between Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan, the amendments have sparked renewed concerns over the erosion of Hong Kong independence and the extent of China’s authority.

Shortly after a protest march on June 9, in which more than one million people participated, the government released a statement saying it had no intention to suspend or withdraw the extradition bill, claiming that people did not understand the details of the amendments. This subsequently triggered more protests against the extradition law and the government. 

Only after the protest on June 16, in  which around two million people marched, did the government appear to shift its stance. The chief executive apologized to the public and suspend the amendments temporarily. 

The inaction of the Hong Kong government with regards to the protests and demands of the people perfectly sums up the unsettling impasse in Hong Kong at the moment.

The government has stated that the purpose of these amendments is to address a so-called “loophole” in the criminal justice proceedings between Hong Kong and Taiwan (Republic of China). However “loophole” isn’t an entirely accurate way to describe the situation. The British colonial government intentionally excluded China when drafting the original extradition legislation.

Nonetheless, this “loophole” prevents suspects who are arrested in Hong Kong from facing trial in Taiwan and China. The discrepancy was exposed when a resident of Hong Kong murdered his pregnant girlfriend while they were staying in Taiwan

Yet these amendments further allow for the delivery of fugitives to China, AKA People’s Republic of China, and Macau, which were not involved in this specific murder case, but which also are not covered in the existing law. This complication is created in part because they involve the complex issue of what exactly is meant by “China” — a definition that is further muddied by the contentious 1992 Consensus, which was supposed to settle the ambiguous relations between Taiwan and China. 

Taiwan has stated openly that it does not agree with these extradition amendments. Taiwan has asked the Hong Kong government to consider alternative agreements, but has yet to receive a response. Since Taiwan is unwilling to accept the murder fugitive under the proposed extradition amendments anyway, the government’s decision to push them forward is rendered moot.

The government has neglected the concerns and demands of the protestors, including the complete withdrawal of the bill and the resignation of the chief executive. It seems as though the government is not listening to its people in order to establish and maintain authoritarian power. This puts the role of the government and Hong Kong’s autonomy into question. The utter loss of such autonomy at this point in time would further jeopardize the rights of the citizens of Hong Kong to speak a diversity of opinions. 

We must, however, remind ourselves that it is often those times when we think no change is possible and no action is effective that allow us to imagine and innovate different ways of thinking and doing.