101 days have passed since the people of Hong Kong took to the streets to protest against the now-shelved extradition bill to Mainland China. They insist on having all five demands fulfilled in a continued wave of demonstrations.
On Sunday, the ongoing protests in Hong Kong escalated after police refused to authorise their pre-planned demonstration. This, however, did not stop them from taking to the streets anyway as demonstrators believed their freedom of speech was under threat and the refusal seemed to only exacerbate their discontent.
In typical Hong Kong fashion, the protesters responded to the police’s tear gas with… tear gas, while setting fire to… water guns.
One Country – Two Systems?
Some of them gathered at the British Consulate appealing to the UK government to insist on the validity of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which had set the “one country, two systems” framework after China resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong – a former British colony – in 1997. The same message was echoed earlier at the G7 assembly.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region in the PRC that benefits from a series of facilities, freedoms and increased autonomy, which its residents insist is not the case anymore.
Citizenship Options for Hongkongers
The instability in the region has seen many seeking a legal Plan B, such as second – or alternative – citizenship.
Hongkongers born before June 30, 1997, could apply for a British Overseas Territories (BOTC) passport which the British authorities estimated in 2015 to count 3.4 eligible applicants. A BOTC passport allows 6-month access to the UK per year, but no right of abode.
In August, the Chinese Ambassador in London, Liu Xiaoming, warned the British authorities not to “interfere”, accusing them of “still” treating Hong Kong as “part of the British Empire”. Last week, around 130 British MPs petitioned the UK Foreign Minister to discuss allowing Hongkongers to obtain UK citizenship as an “insurance policy” during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda next year.
Meanwhile, alternative citizenship routes like Citizenship by Investment (CBI) in other Commonwealth countries are also considered a viable and faster option for the people of Hong Kong. Amid rising tensions, a legal “Plan B” executed within 3-4 months in exchange for a contribution that starts at US$100,000 is seen a worthwhile and stable investment for individuals in uncertain regions like Hong Kong.
What Do Hong Kong Protesters Want?
In April, a new bill was introduced in Hong Kong that would allow extradition to mainland China of those thought to have committed a crime against the country, which Honkongers believed undermined freedom of speech and encourage political persecution. This sparked a mass protest movement that called for the withdrawal of the bill – in which they succeeded earlier in September – along with another four demands:
- for the protests not to be labelled as “riots”;
- launch an investigation into allegations of police’s use of force;
- releasing all detained activists;
- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to resign and allowing independent elections.
Beijing insists the protests have been violent, while the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association is granted in Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Over the past three months, Hong Kongers attracted significant international attention especially for their creative ways of protesting. Notable examples included withdrawing large amounts for money from cash machines, sit-in demonstration at the international airport or university boycotts.