Since taking office, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has waged an ideological war against the influence of ‘Western values’ such as constitutional democracy, freedom of the press, judicial independence and universal human rights – concepts long cherished in Hong Kong and integral to its identity.
The city’s pursuit of full democracy, namely ultimately electing its leader through universal suffrage – a goal enshrined in its mini-constitution, the Basic Law – is viewed with particular suspicion by Beijing, which is concerned that a freely chosen leader could pose a challenge to his authority.
Umbrella Movement: In 2014, thousands of young protesters occupied major roads in the city’s financial center to demand “true universal suffrage” – rejecting a proposal by the Chinese parliament to pre-examine the candidates by a pro-Beijing commission.
The peaceful protests, known as the ‘umbrella movement’, ended after 79 days, without their demands being met.
Since then, Beijing has tried to exert more control over Hong Kong. During his first visit to the city as China’s leader in 2017, Xi warned that any attempt to “challenge the power” of the central government was “absolutely inadmissible”.
Running out of time: Beijing’s tightening grip has only fueled discontent in the city, especially among the younger generation – many of whom fear they will run out of time to fight for democracy before the 2047 deadline. autonomous city.
Some tried to effect change by joining the city’s legislature, but that too failed under mounting pressure from Beijing. A slew of pro-democracy lawmakers were disqualified over a controversy over taking an oath, while other candidates were ineligible for the office.
Protests 2019: The long-running tensions finally erupted in 2019. That summer, peaceful marches against a bill that would allow the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China quickly turned into sometimes violent protests against Beijing, pushing the city into months of social unrest. and her most tumultuous period since the handover.
National security law: On June 30, 2020, Beijing bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature to impose a national security law on the city, which critics say has been used to crush the opposition movement, overhaul the electoral system, silence the outspoken media and paralyze a once vibrant city. civil society. The Hong Kong government has repeatedly defended the law, saying it has restored order to the city after the 2019 protests.
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