Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong this past weekend. The backlash came after a move by the semi-autonomous city-state’s government to enact a law that would enable them to extradite people to countries that Hong Kong has no official treaty with. This would include mainland China.
The government of Hong Kong claimed that the proposed policy would make it easier for the government to hand over dangerous criminals. However, many fear that the law would actually be used to deport critics of the Chinese government to the mainland. While Hong Kong is a part of China, the city enjoys a degree of autonomy.
Still, that autonomy has waned in recent years. In 2014, the Chinese government pressured Hong Kong into allowing communist officials to first vet candidates for the city’s CEO position. A few years earlier, in 2012, the mainland forced a “patriotic” school curriculum onto the city-state.
That being said, Hong Kong has remained a bastion of free media. On the mainland, the media is tightly censored and many news organizations are directly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. Still, Hong Kong is home to many critics of the CCP who have remained vocal despite the mainland’s massive influence.
That’s not to say that everyone is safe. In 2015, five people who were associated with a Hong Kong bookstore that distributed materials critical of the CCP went missing. They later turned up in custody of the government on the mainland. If the new extradition rules come into effect, it’ll be easier for the CCP to demand that Hong Kong hand over critics.