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Causes of the 2019 Hong Kong protests

There are many causes behind the 2019 Hong Kong protests. The immediate cause of the protest was the proposed legislation of the 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill. However, other causes have been pointed out, such as demands for democratic reform, the Causeway Bay Books disappearances, or the fear of losing a "high degree of autonomy" in general.[1] Subsequent actions by the police, as well as what was perceived to be an illegitimate legislative process of the bill, sparked additional protests throughout the city.


Democratic reformEdit

One underlying cause of the protests could be what people consider to be slow pace of democratic reforms.

At the time of the protests, half of the lawmakers of the Legislative Council (LegCo) were directly elected as geographical constituencies, while the rest were returned by functional constituencies, where only selected parts of the electorate had a vote. This ran counter to a section of the Hong Kong population's ongoing demand for universal suffrage since the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. Indeed, the ultimate aim of achieving universal suffrage is stated in the Article 45 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's de facto constitution:

…The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.

That said, the 2014–15 Hong Kong electoral reform was voted down.[2] That froze the number of members of the Election Committee, the organ that selects the Chief Executive, or the leader of the city, to 1,200, out of a population of over 7.5 million. Nevertheless the proposed reform only turned the aforementioned Election Committee to a nominating committee for the "universal suffrage" election of the Chief Executive.

In the 6th Legislative Council, a few opposition lawmakers were disqualified after they were elected, namely Yau Wai-ching, Sixtus Leung, Lau Siu-lai, Yiu Chung-yim, Nathan Law and Leung Kwok-hung. These figures did not include a people who were disqualified to be a candidate, such as Agnes Chow and Ventus Lau. They were seen as ineligible to stand for the by-election for the vacant seats due to the aforementioned disqualification. The court later overturned the disqualification of Agnes Chow and Ventus Lau, years after the by-elections.

The Economist stated Hong Kong people are disillusioned with the promise that "the [Chinese Communist Party] eventually fulfil [sic] its pledge to give them more democracy", as after the 2014 Umbrella Movement and the 2014–15 electoral reform, "[the] promise would only mean only the chance to vote for someone the party considered royal".[3] While the Financial Times, on 12 June 2019 (date of an anti-bill protest), stated, "Most people in Hong Kong, however, find it hard to believe that Ms Lam brought this crisis [editor note: extradition bill] upon herself with no help whatsoever from Beijing".[4]

Fear of losing rights and freedoms as well as the "high degree of autonomy" atmosphere enjoyed by HK citizensEdit

Causeway Bay Books and Xiao Jianhua disappearancesEdit

Even before the proposed 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill, Hong Kong citizens suspected that mainland Chinese personnel engaged in extra-judicial renditions in the Special Administrative Region (SAR), despite such actions being a breach of Basic Law.

In late 2015, Chinese government agents kidnapped the owner and several staff members of Hong Kong-based Causeway Bay Books, a bookstore that sold politically sensitive publications, to the Mainland as suspects in breaking Mainland law. Lam Wing-kee, who was held in solitary confinement for five months and unable to make any phone calls, claims that he had no choice but to co-operate in reading a scripted forced confession of guilt. He was denied legal representation, forced to implicate others in bookselling crimes, and requested to turn over information about anonymous authors and customers. "They wanted to lock you up until you go mad," he said. Upon his release to Hong Kong he went public with the media to tell his story.[5] Because he had no family in mainland China who could be punished, Lam said that it was easier for him to come forward. He said that he had to be courageous: "I thought about it for two nights before I decided [to] tell you all what happened, as originally and completely as I could ... I also want to tell the whole world. This isn't about me, this isn't about a bookstore, this is about everyone."[6]

In 2017, Xiao Jianhua, a billionaire from Mainland China who had resided in Hong Kong, had also been abducted and disappeared.[7]

These incidents are considered as one of the contributing causes of the protests.[8][9][10] Critics have stated that the Central Government is "chipping away the independence of [Hong Kong]'s courts and news media." There is also fear that "the authorities will use [the bill] to send dissidents, activists and others in Hong Kong, including foreign visitors, to face trial in mainland courts, which are controlled by the party."[11]

Legislative process of 2019 Hong Kong extradition billEdit

The Government attitude on legislating the Hong Kong extradition bill was directly attributed to the spark of the protests. The Government was seen as unwilling to budge, despite opposition from various sectors of the community.

For instance, businessmen usually in support of the local government opposed the bill.[12] One example was Michael Tien, a Legislative Councillor. He openly urged Chief Executive Carrie Lam to withdraw the bill in May 2019. He also proposed an alternative to handle the Murder Case of Poon Hiu-wing [zh],[nb 1]. He claimed that his proposal received support from the business sector.[13] However, the government proceeded to move the bill forward.

Other sectors reacted, as well. A record breaking number of lawyers participated in a silent march to protest against the bill on 6 June.[14]

On 9 June, reportedly over a million of citizens demonstrated, when the Legislative Council was about to resume the process of the second reading. The demonstration took place since pro-government (and pro-Beijing) lawmakers held a majority in the Legislative Council and would mean the ultimate passage of the bill.[nb 2] The proposed resumption of the second reading sparked the 12 June protest that became a civil conflict.[15] On 15 June, Carrie Lam declared the indefinite suspension of the legislative process.[16][17] However, from 15 June until 4 September, Lam refused to withdraw the bill. Her reluctance stood against the protesters' demands.

Accusation of police violence on 12 June protest and subsequent events that related to the policeEdit

A range of sectors find the police response to protests to have sustained the movements. These include participants of subsequent protests (those after 9 June),[18] as well as many pan-democrats lawmakers,[19] academicians[20][21] and critics,[22][23][24], although they differ in attributing the size of the responsibility to the force.[21][24]

Moreover, even Pierre Chan, a legislator that declared his neutrality between the police and protesters in July,[25] participated in an assembly of physicians and nurses that condemned excessive use of police force in August 2019.[26]

Protesters and others highlighted instances where the use of police force was considered excessive.

For example, on 12 June, even though protesters gathered around CITIC Tower, an area where protests were theoretically legal with the issuance from the police of a permit that known officially as the Letter of No Objection,[27] the police still used tear gas pellets.[28] Councillors of the Independent Police Complaints Council later stated that if the use of tear gas was indeed proved, it was unsatisfactory (Chinese: 不理想).[27] The actions of the police, at least in part, contributed to the large turnout of the subsequent protest. The organiser claimed that 2 million citizens participated in the march on 16 June, although other sources estimated smaller turnouts. Nevertheless, most sources concluded that it was an all-time high record.[29][30]

Meanwhile, the negligence of the police and the accused collusion with the criminals during Yuen Long attack on 21 July, had spread the protest into Yuen Long, a satellite town in the New Territories. Under Public Order Ordinance, protests are required to obtain the Letter of No Objection to stage a rally or protest. However, the police instead issued a Letter of Objection days before, declaring any such protests illegal . Nevertheless, many citizens still gathered there. They expressed their criticisms of the police by visiting Yuen Long with excuses such as shopping.[31] Some of the protesters engaged in violent actions during 27 July protest. However, when the protesters were leaving and retreating upon police request, the police also used force to try to arrest protesters. Once again, pan-democrats lawmakers had signed a petition to condemn the violence of the police and accuse the force used by the police during the clearance of the location of nearly engaging in a revenge (Chinese: 近乎報復).[32] They also stated that issuing Letters of Objection would create a vicious circle that only would instigate more citizens to protest.[32]

Indeed, protests did not cease. More and more tear gas were used by the police, as well as the use of bean bag rounds and Rubber bullets. Not only on the Hong Kong Island, the use of force by the police had spread along with the protests, which police had used tear gas in most of the satellite towns of the city. On 5 August protest along, the police had used around 800 rounds of tear gas. Many organisations have criticised the actions of the police from that single day.[33][34]

The Hong Kong branch of Amnesty International condemned the police behaviour during the events. For example, on 12 August, after more than 2 months of the protests (since 9 June, or more than 2 months if counting April protests) and right after the 11 August protests, the branch had declared "Hong Kong police have once again used tear gas and rubber bullets in a way that have fallen [sic] short of international standards. Firing at retreating protesters in confined areas where they had little time to leave goes against the purported objective of dispersing a crowd".[35]

Arrested protesters have alleged sexual violence by police officers. Some assembly of the protests were dedicated to the theme of protesting police sexual violence.[36]

Allegations of foreign influenceEdit

The Chinese Central Government accused the protests of being affected by foreign influence.[37][better source needed] Ip Kwok-him, a former pro-establishment lawmaker of the LegCo and a standing Executive Council member, also made a similar accusation.[38] A senior officer from the HKPF told the CNN that "they have seen no evidence that foreign governments financed or inspired the protest movement." in August, during a background briefing to a group of journalists.[39]


After the June demonstrations, protesters had stated their 5 key demands. One version contained "Implementation of genuine universal suffrage",[40][41] despite some reported version in June, substituted "universal suffrage" to "Carrie Lam resign"[42] or the reported version just had 4 key demands.[43]

The other 4 key demands were "withdraw the extradition bill"; "officially retract characterisation of the protests as a riot"; "drop charges against protesters"; as well as "launch an independent commission of inquiry into matters relating to the anti-extradition bill protests".

Further readingsEdit

  • Chan, Anson (14 June 2019). "The Drum Friday June 14". The Drum (TV production and interview). Interviewed by Ellen Fanning. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The panel discusses young protesters continue to rally in Hong Kong in attempts to protect their freedoms,…
  • Saich, Anthony (9 July 2019). "Simmer nears boil in Hong Kong | Harvard China expert examines what's behind the protests". The Harvard Gazette (Interview). Interviewed by Colleen Walsh. Harvard University.


  1. ^ The murder of Poon in Taiwan, was the excuse of the government to revise the existing extradition bill in order to extradite the suspect from Hong Kong to Taiwan.
  2. ^ Despite the pro-government has a majority, it was after the disqualifications of lawmakers and re-election of some of the seats. Moreover, they has a majority in functional constituencies, but almost the same number of seats from geographical constituencies. 5 out of 6 disqualified lawmakers (see above section) were from geographical constituencies. Lastly, Michael Tien was a rouge member of the pro-government camp in the legislation of the extradition bill.


  1. ^ "Hong Kong riot police clash with airport protesters". The Guardian. 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019. What are the Hong Kong protests about?
  2. ^ Kwok, Donny; Lee, Yimou (18 June 2015). "Hong Kong vetoes China-backed electoral reform proposal". Reuters. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Unrest in Hong Kong | China's chance". The Economist. Vol. 431 no. 9148. 22 June 2019. p. 9.
  4. ^ Mitchell, Tom (12 June 2019). Written at Beijing. "Hong Kong risks becoming pawn in trade war with extradition bill". Financial Times. London. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  5. ^ Wong, Alan; Forsythe, Michael; Jacobs, Andrew (16 June 2016). "Defying China, Hong Kong Bookseller Describes Detention". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 August 2019. Months after he and four other booksellers disappeared from Hong Kong and Thailand, prompting international concern over what critics called a brazen act of extralegal abduction, Mr. Lam stood before a bank of television cameras in Hong Kong and revealed the harrowing details of his time in detention. 'It can happen to you, too,' said Mr. Lam, 61, who was the manager of Causeway Bay Books, a store that sold juicy potboilers about the mainland’s Communist Party leadership. 'I want to tell the whole world: Hong Kongers will not bow down to brute force.'
  6. ^ Joseph, Elizabeth; Hunt, Katie (16 June 2016). "Missing Hong Kong bookseller: I was kidnapped by Chinese 'special forces'". CNN. Retrieved 28 August 2019. Defying China, Lam Wing-kee, who resurfaced earlier this week, spoke publicly about his detention by Chinese authorities at a surprise news conference, according to Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK. Lam said he was taken by 'special forces' after crossing the border into mainland China from Hong Kong eight months ago and detained in a small room. A confession he made on Chinese state television was scripted and edited, he added. He said he had been told to return to mainland China on Friday with evidence about to whom his bookstore had been sending banned books. But he said he had decided not to go back and wanted to speak out about what had happened.
  7. ^ Lee, Martin (15 May 2019). "This may be China's worst assault yet on the rule of law in Hong Kong". The Washington Post. Retrieved 4 September 2019. ... in January 2017, Chinese Canadian billionaire businessman Xiao Jianhua was abducted in Hong Kong from the Four Seasons Hotel by mainland agents, spirited off to China and not seen since. In 2015, five Hong Kong publishers vanished ... Why were these people abducted? Because there is no extradition law between Hong Kong and China. There is no extradition law because there is no rule of law in China, where the Chinese Communist Party dictates who is innocent and who is guilty. For the same reason, the United States has no extradition arrangements with China (though it does with Hong Kong).
  8. ^ Victor, Daniel; Yuhas, Alan (8 August 2019). "What's Going On in Hong Kong? What To Know About the Protests". New York Times. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  9. ^ Li, Jeff (16 June 2019). "China's history of extraordinary rendition". BBC News Chinese. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Surveillance-savvy Hong Kong protesters go digitally dark". Hong Kong: France 24. AFP. 13 June 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  11. ^ Ramzy, Austin (9 June 2019). "Hong Kong March: Vast Protest of Extradition Bill Shows Fear of Eroding Freedoms". New York Times. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Unrest in Hong Kong | Carrie on, for now". The Economist. Vol. 431 no. 9148. 22 June 2019. pp. 23–24.
  13. ^ 【逃犯條例】田北辰推「港人港審」建議不設追溯期 稱商界反應正面. Topick (in Chinese). Hong Kong Economic Times Holdings. 3 May 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  14. ^ "'Record 3,000' Hong Kong lawyers in silent march against controversial extradition bill". South China Morning Post. Hong Kong. 6 June 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  15. ^ 反修例變佔鐘 警開槍射膠彈 林鄭月娥重申不撤回. Ming Pao (in Chinese). Hong Kong: Media Chinese International. 13 June 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  16. ^ "Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam suspends extradition bill, but won't apologise for rift it caused or withdraw it altogether". South China Morning Post. Hong Kong. 15 June 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  17. ^ "Hong Kong to suspend controversial extradition bill after widespread protests". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 15 June 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  18. ^ 香港抗议:示威者集会“遍地开花”,多地区再现警民冲突. BBC News Chinese (in Chinese). protesters as interviewees. 5 August 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.CS1 maint: others (link)
  19. ^ 旺角驅散示威者 警方泛民議員互指責. Bastille Post (in Chinese). Hong Kong. 9 July 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019. …二十四名民主派議員則發表聯署聲明,強烈譴責警方前晚於旺角一帶嚴重失控、缺乏操守、濫用武力及故意挑釁示威者的行動,指事件已引發新一輪公憤,警方及政府必須立即追究濫武及違例警員的惡行,並向公眾道歉。
  20. ^ 吳倬安 (13 August 2019). 【8.18遊行】學者料警方拒批不反對通知書 指遊行人數已非關鍵. Hong Kong 01 (in Chinese). Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  21. ^ a b 蔡子強 (4 August 2019) [First published on Ming Pao on 31 July]. 公僕倒戈ㅤ衝突加劇ㅤ林鄭鴕鳥ㅤ北京該考慮換特首. Stand News (in Chinese). Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  22. ^ 李怡 (24 July 2019). 暴力. 世道人生 column. Apple Daily (in Chinese). Next Digital. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  23. ^ 劉細良 (29 July 2019). 共產黨要同香港攬炒. Apple Daily (Opinion) (in Chinese). Next Digital. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  24. ^ a b 劉銳紹 (29 June 2019). "決策無度 進退失據──《逃犯條例》引致的管治危機". Ming Pao Monthly (in Chinese). Vol. 2019 no. July. Media Chinese International. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  25. ^ 【逆權運動】陳沛然:林鄭再不解決困局 憂衝突升級有人犠牲. online "real time" edition. Apple Daily (in Chinese). Hong Kong. 20 July 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  26. ^ 陳沛然:白色恐怖感真確. online "instant news" section. Hong Kong Economic Journal (in Chinese). 14 August 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019. 律敦治及鄧肇堅醫院一批醫務人員,中午靜坐抗議警方濫權,有份參與的律敦治醫院內科副顧問醫生陳沛然表示…
  27. ^ a b 示威者稱遭催淚彈圍困中信大廈 監警會:如屬實不理想 (in Chinese). Radio Television Hong Kong. 18 June 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  28. ^ 中信示威者夢見催淚彈驚醒. Ming Pao (in Chinese). Hong Kong: Media Chinese International. 20 June 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  29. ^ 示威者叫下台 林鄭發稿道歉 黑衣白花 百萬人喊撤回 民陣稱近200萬人 警稱約33.8萬. Ming Pao (in Chinese). Hong Kong. 17 June 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  30. ^ 香港逃犯条例游行:民阵称近200万人参与,再次破纪录. BBC News Chinese (in Chinese). 17 June 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  31. ^ 市民擲磚圍警車 警用催淚彈海綿彈 與示威者衝突7小時 警入元朗站棍扑人. Ming Pao (in Chinese). Hong Kong: Media Chinese International. 28 July 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019. 抗議7.21白衣人施襲,並表達對警方的不滿
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  33. ^ 【八五罷工】警昨放800催淚彈160海綿橡膠彈拘148人 記者讀聲明譴責警察濫暴 (17:11). online "instant news" section. Ming Pao (in Chinese). Hong Kong: Media Chinese International. 6 August 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
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  36. ^ "30,000 protest police sexual violence: organisers". Radio Television Hong Kong. 28 August 2019. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  37. ^ 2019年8月2日外交部发言人华春莹主持例行记者会 (Press release) (in Chinese). Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China. 2 August 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
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  43. ^ "Tamar siege on Friday if demands ignored: students". RTHK. 19 June 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.