Explained: Hong Kong political crisis


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Decolonization of Asian countries and its aftermath


  • Hong Kong held one of its biggest rallies in recent years earlier this month to honor the hundreds or possibly thousands killed in the army assault.
  • The events in the former British colony mark possibly its biggest political crisis since its handover to Chinese rule in 1997.
  • The demonstrations follow the 30th anniversary of China’s bloody suppression of the student-led pro-democracy protests centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
  • This march for democracy poses a profound challenge to Chinese rule under Communist Party.

About Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong is an autonomous territory, and former British colony, in southeastern China.
  • It became a colony of the British Empire at the end of the First Opium War in 1842.
  • Sovereignty over the territory was returned to China in 1997.
  • As a special administrative region, Hong Kong maintains governing and economic systems that are separate from those of mainland China.
  • The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration guarantees the Basic Law for 50 years after the transfer of sovereignty.
  • It does not specify how Hong Kong will be governed after 2047, and the central government’s role in determining the territory’s future system of government is the subject of political debate and speculation.

The controversial legislation

  • The furious mob broke out against the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 proposed by the Hong Kong government.
  • Concerns are raised over the removal of the firewall of the legal systems between Hong Kong and Mainland China.
  • With the law being passed, Hong Kong citizens and foreign nationals passing through the city could fall victim to the Chinese legal system where the courts are under political control.

A scuffle with West

  • The disturbances pose a challenge to Western governments at a particularly fraught moment in global affairs. Relations between the US and China are on a knife’s edge over trade and other issues.
  • This includes sales of sophisticated weaponry to Taiwan, tightening sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, moves to bar the telecommunications supplier Huawei from building 5G networks of US allies, including Australia, and a confrontational approach to China in Washington more generally.

Chinese stance

  • China perceives these activities to be foreign-inspired.
  • Beijing’s moves to tighten its grip over Hong Kong which was promised the right to maintain its own political, economic and social institutions for 50 years following the end of British rule.
  • Be it human or political rights issue is very much contested in China.
  • Certain controversial events and political movements are often described by China as the “subversion of state power” and “protection of state secrets”.
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