Hundreds of thousands of protesters marching on 9 June 2019 Hundreds of thousands of protesters marching on 9 June 2019 - ImagesGram

Hundreds of thousands of protesters marching on 9 June 2019

2019 Hong Kong protests

The 2019 Hong Kong protests, also known as Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill (ELAB) Movement, are an ongoing series of demonstrations in Hong Kong, China which began with the aim to oppose the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill proposed by the Hong Kong government. If enacted, the bill would allow local authorities to detain and extradite criminal fugitives who are wanted in territories with which Hong Kong does not have extradition agreements, including Taiwan and mainland China. People were concerned that the bill would subject Hong Kong citizens and visitors to the mainland Chinese jurisdiction, undermining the autonomy of the region and its civil liberties. As the protests progressed, the protesters laid out five key demands, including over the alleged police misconduct and democratic reform which has stagnated since the 2014 Umbrella Revolution. The Chinese central government has stated it is "the worst crisis in Hong Kong" since the handover in 1997.

Demonstrations against the bill began in March and April and turned into consecutive mass movements in June. Hundreds of thousands of people marched against the bill on 9 June. Protests on 12 June, the day on which the bill was scheduled for a second reading in the Legislative Council, marked a sharp escalation in violence. Riot police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets against groups of demonstrators, but protesters successfully stalled the passage of the bill. Organisers claimed two million attended, while the police reported that 338,000 people marched at its peak on 16 June, the day after Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended the bill.

On 1 July, the 22nd anniversary of the handover, hundreds of thousands of people participated in the annual July march. A portion of these demonstrators split from the march and broke into the Legislative Council Complex, vandalising central government symbols. Subsequently, the protests have continued throughout the summer, escalating into increasingly violent confrontations involving the police, activists on both sides, suspected triad gangs, rioters, and local residents in over 20 different neighbourhoods throughout the region. 21 July marked the Yuen Long attack where organised triad members assaulted on protesters and bystanders, which heightened the tension. Subsequent police operations and alleged misconduct prompted a general strike and a city-wide protests on 5 August. About 1.7 million people (organisers' estimate) also attended a rally condemning police brutality on 18 August. Inspired by the Baltic Way, an estimated 210,000 people created "The Hong Kong Way", a human chain 50 kilometres long. There were also pro-police rallies that attracted hundreds of thousands Hong Kong residents to attend.

Lam suspended the extradition bill on 15 June and declared the bill "dead" on 9 July, but fell short of a full withdrawal until 4 September. However, she refused to concede any of the other four demands, namely an independent inquiry on police brutality, the release of arrested protesters, a complete retraction of the official characterisation of the protests as "riots", and universal suffrage of the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive, and her resignation.