What began in early 2019 as peaceful marches against a bill to allow extraditions to mainland China exploded by mid-year into a direct challenge to Beijing’s grip on Hong Kong that has carried into 2020. The local government eventually withdrew the legislation but calls for greater democracy gained impetus. Violence erupted in the streets, subways and airport, while clashes between riot police and black-clad protesters hurling Molotov cocktails resulted in clouds of tear gas and more than 7,000 arrests. Some protesters were shot by police. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has long warned that challenges to China’s rule won’t be tolerated, said “restoring order is Hong Kong’s most important task.”
Yes, but officially it’s a “special administrative region.” The city of 7.5 million people was an outpost of the British Empire for 156 years, during which time it developed into a global business hub. In a 1984 joint declaration, the British agreed to give it back in 1997 and China promised to allow a “high degree of autonomy” for 50 years -- until 2047 -- including guarantees of free speech and a free press, capitalist markets and English common law under a “one country, two systems” arrangement.