For the past four years, the Chinese security services, when they felt suitably provoked, have been snatching people out of their offices, or in one case, out of his hotel room in Hong Kong and taking them off to detention in Mainland China.
Book publishers whose authors said cheeky things about Chinese President Xi Jinping, and a mysterious billionaire, apparently with mysterious enemies, were in Hong Kong one day, and somewhere in China the next, never likely to trouble the security services or their masters ever again.
To the leadership in Beijing the end result of these kidnappings may have been satisfactory, but the process was too public, too messy, too thuggish to sustain. So now, the Chinese government has apparently decided its “extraditions” should be made legal, and it tasked its hand-picked chief executive of the of the Hong Kong Legislative Council to make it so. Carrie Lam says she proposed the extradition law without prompting from Beijing, but the result has been catastrophic.
Carrie Lam’s draft law which my old boss at the journalism school at Shantou University in southern China Yuen Ying Chan said in the New York Times “would allow citizens and foreign residents and even visitors to be extradited to mainland China,” sent hundreds of thousands, then millions of Hong Kongers into the streets, in the biggest and most protracted public protests in years.
Ying Chan, my one-time dean, and a highly respected Hong Kong-based journalist and teacher, and a former sub-editor at the New York Daily News, said in her op-ed in the Times, what accounts for the size, intensity and duration of the extradition law protests is that, “for Hong Kong, this battle, more than the protests that have come before, feels like a last stand.”
For what and for whom is this a last stand for Hong Kong?
Ying Chan is old enough to have known Hong Kong when it was still shaped by British rule and the “Western values” expressed in the American Bill of Rights: “the rule of law, an independent judiciary, free speech, press, association, impartial police, a neutral civil service.”
But, the one word used in almost all description of the protesters of 2019 is “younger”; younger than the protesters of 2003, 2014 or even, just three years ago, 2016. Most of these youngsters weren’t born in 1997, when the United Kingdom handed over power in Hong Kong to China.
So, what is it about legalizing extradition that they so strongly object to? And why are they getting such widespread popular support?
Joseph Yi-Zheng Lian frequently offers op-ed comments on economic and political issues for the New York Times. He had been a regular columnist for the Hong Kong Economic Journal, but was fired after writing critically about the Beijing Government’s interference in Hong Kong local politics