Hong Kong Legislators Resign in the Continuous Fight for Independence

Since the beginning of protests in March of 2019, Hong Kong’s struggle to maintain its sovereignty under the “One Country, Two Systems” model has intensified, and the region’s independence is slowly dissipating. In the most recent sign of defiance to Chinese annexation and dominance, the last 15 pro-democracy members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council resigned after four of their colleagues were barred from re-election and ultimately disqualified and removed by the government. This was done under the orders of China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee, which ruled that any lawmaker that supports Hong Kong’s independence, is pro-democracy, or calls for foreign interference poses a threat to Chinese national security – a clear declaration of the Chinese Communist Party only wanting their loyalists in the city’s legislative body.

Photo by Vincent Yu from AP Photo

 The ongoing situation in Hong Kong stems from the Fugitive Offenders Amendment, a bill proposed in the Legislative Council that would have allowed criminal extraditions from the city to mainland China. The bill was met with massive civil resistance, which led to a sit-in during March,  the storming of the legislature, and massive protests attended by hundreds of thousands, reaching a height of 2 million at the June 16th Anti-Extradition Bill protest. As the protestors continued these manifestations, they made five demands: 

  1. Withdrawal of the bill
  2. Investigations into police brutality and misconduct
  3. The release of protestors who had been arrested
  4. The resignation of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Chief Executive, Carrie Lam 
  5. An end to classifying protests as riots.

Of these five, only the bill’s withdrawal was achieved in October; and instead, a mask mandate calling for removal of masks was enforced, as opponents widely believe, to easily identify protestors. Furthermore, rather than crackdowns on dissidence being laxed, tensions only escalated as both law enforcement and protests became increasingly violent. Protestors began using petrol bombs, throwing bricks, and continued to vandalize pro-Beijing buildings, businesses, and signs – especially on the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. 

On the other hand, law enforcement unleashed tear gas, rubber bullets, and on some occasions, live rounds into the masses, which resulted in some deaths. Protests persisted into November of 2019, when protestors took control and occupied both the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, leading to a month-long siege of both campuses by the police. During the siege, elections were held, which saw massive voter turnout in favor of pro-democracy legislators in the District Council.

Nearing the end of 2019 and through April 2020, protests died down due to the coronavirus outbreak. But arrests of activists persisted, as well as several bombings of police stations and patrols. In May of 2020, a new National Security Law bypassed the local legislature, which threatened a life sentence for anyone guilty of secession, terrorism, subversion, and pursuing foreign interference in Hong Kong against the Chinese central government. In June, the law’s passage prompted international backlash from Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, most of Western Europe, New Zealand, and, most importantly, the United Kingdom – Hong Kong’s former colonizer until handing it back to China in 1997. As of now, with the resignation of those 15 pro-democracy legislatures, it seems only a matter of time before China strips Hong Kong of their autonomy.