Thousands took the streets of Hong Kong to participate in a pro-democracy rally in the region.
The participants were also protesting the recent incarceration of activists.
Hong Kong is an autonomous territory that holds a separate political and economic system from China. Under the principal – One Country, Two Systems – it exercises its own independent executive, legislative and judiciary powers. However, it comes under China for foreign affairs as well as military defense.
Historically Hong Kong was part of Imperial China. In 1841, the last imperial dynasty, admitted defeat when the British Empire seized the Hong Kong Island. From 1842 to 1941, Hong Kong was formally ruled by the British. The lease stipulated that Britain would leave the territory in 1997 and the two countries signed Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984 negotiating the terms of this release. The “one country, two systems” infrastructure was thus established.
In 2014, there were a series of mass protests that took place in Hong Kong that came to be known as the Umbrella Revolution. Largely organized by students, it was against the kind of reforms that had been proposed for Hong Kong’s electoral system. Those protesting it claimed that was a move to curtail the region’s democratic values.
Carrie Lam, the current Chief Executive of Hong Kong was the China’s preferred candidate and won a highly restricted election. She has been criticized by detractors for being pro-Chinese government.
In August 2017, 20-year-old Joshua Wong, a pro-democracy activist was sentenced to eight months in prison for his role in the Umbrella Revolution. Along with him 23-year-old Nathan Law and 26-year-old Alex Chow have also been sentenced. The jail sentences will prevent these men from standing in the upcoming elections.
These indictments have served as a catalyst for the latest protest. According to estimates, this was the largest public protest since the Umbrella Revolution. Hong Kong police revealed that at least 22,000 people participated. Lester Shum, one of the organizers of the rally said this was a victory for democracy. He noted, “This shows that the Hong Kong government, the Chinese Communist regime and the Department of Justice's conspiracy to deter Hong Kong people from continuing to participate in politics and to protest using harsh laws and punishments has completely failed.”
The Hong Kong government has responded to the protests by stating that the Court’s decision to sentence Wong and the others was not politically motivated.
Chris Patten, who was Hong Kong’s last British Governor, wrote in a letter to the Financial Times stating, “The names of Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law will be remembered long after the names of those who have persecuted them have been forgotten and swept into the ashcan of history.”
Our assessment is that these protests show that the citizens of Hong Kong are actively fighting against Chinese government’s move to assume more control over the region. This is a stand for democracy. In Hong Kong people who served more than three months in jail are barred from holding political offices for five years. Imprisoning the three is definitely a strategy by the government to prevent them occupying public office.