More than three months of dramatic public protests throughout the summer of 2019 have shaken Hong Kong, bringing huge demonstrations onto the streets – on occasion numbering well over a million people – and at times escalating into violent confrontations between police and activists.
The protests began in June in response to the government’s plans to amend Hong Kong’s extradition law amid widespread fears that, if the legislation were enacted, anyone suspected of breaking the law in the territory could be sent to mainland China to face trial.
But they soon took on a broader pro-democracy theme.
Initially, the protests echoed the events of 2014 when hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers occupied key roads for 79 days in a largely peaceful show of civil disobedience that came to be known as the Umbrella Movement. But then, they took on a distinct and arguably more effective character, as this latest generation of protesters started to flex their muscles and targeted government buildings (including the Legislative Council chamber, which was briefly occupied), the airport, train stations and other key parts of Hong Kong’s infrastructure.
In doing so they also expanded their list of demands to include not just the withdrawal of the controversial bill but also the resignation of Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, and an investigation into police conduct and the use of force during the protests.
How all this will be resolved remains to be seen.
Despite the hardening police response, the protesters so far remain uncowed and have already won some important concessions; Lam was quickly forced to postpone the proposed extradition bill – and most recently has announced it will be retracted altogether.
Yet there is also increasing speculation about how these events have been viewed in Beijing and if, when and how the Chinese government might intervene.
Some analysts believe that the mainland authorities will be desperate to see the protests end, one way or another, before October and the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.
A team from People & Power has been following these events for many weeks. In a two-episode special report, filmmakers Lynn Lee and James Leong have been tracing the causes and possible consequences of Hong Kong’s Summer of Defiance.