What are the ongoing protests in Hong Kong about?

Why are authorities in Hong Kong clashing with pro-democracy campaigners?

Press Association
Last updated: 14 August 2019 - 6.11pm

Pro-democracy protesters and authorities have clashed in recent weeks in Hong Kong in what has proven to be a fiery summer in the territory.

– What has prompted the clashes?

Police in riot gear march on a street as they confront protesters in Hong Kong
Police in riot gear march on a street as they confront protesters in Hong Kong (AP/Vincent Yu)

The Hong Kong government put forward controversial extradition proposals that would have allowed some suspects to be sent to mainland China for trials.

This led to fears of Hong Kong’s independent legal system being bypassed, with people being pulled into China’s legal system – which can involve television confessions and a lack of judicial safeguards seen in Hong Kong and the UK.

What happened to the proposals?

The government suspended the planned legislation although protesters have pressed on with broader calls for it to be scrapped entirely along with demands for democratic reforms.

What is Britain’s interest in Hong Kong?

Then-governer of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, alongside the Prince of Wales, leaves on the last day of British rule on June 30, 1997
Then-governer of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, alongside the Prince of Wales, leaves on the last day of British rule on June 30, 1997 (John Stillwell/PA)

The city is a former British colony which was returned to China in 1997.

It was first ceded to the UK by China in 1842 after the first Opium War and further territory was added in 1898 – on a 99-year lease.

The Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984 paved the way for the handover.

Why is Hong Kong not part of China’s legal system?

Hong Kong is designated as a special administrative region of China, which gives it a greater degree of autonomy.

The 1984 declaration also established the principle of one country and two systems and stated Hong Kong would enjoy a “high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs” and be “vested with executive, legislative and independent judicial power”.

Has this approach been respected by China?

The UK believes the declaration is a legally binding treaty although China has challenged its status, with foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang saying “Hong Kong affairs have become purely China’s internal affairs after July 1 1997”.

He also said the UK should not be “interfering” in Hong Kong.

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