In the last week, Blizzard suspended a pro Overwatch player for six months, an NBA team might lose $25 million in sponsorship money, and the Chinese government is denouncing politicians in Thailand. This is all because people spoke out in favor or against the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Clearly, these protests have gained a global reach since starting back in March.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

What sparked the protests?

Back in February, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam introduced a law that would allow anyone charged with a criminal offense to be extradited to mainland China. This would leave citizens and companies based in Hong Kong vulnerable to the full authority of the Chinese government and undermine the independence of  Hong Kong. Following the British handover in 1997, Hong Kong is bound by treaty to be governed as a special administrative region of China until 2047. This means the city is supposed to have its own separate legal system, freedom of speech and the press and democratic elections among other things — basically, Hong Kong is supposed to be run as an autonomous city independent from the Mainland government. But although 2047 is still years away, many are already concerned about the true autonomy of Hong Kong.

When the extradition bill was introduced, the people of Hong Kong were not having it. Initially, thousands protested the bill, but numbers grew over time. By June, hundreds of thousands (and maybe even millions) of citizens were taking to the streets.

Have the protestors made any progress?

Since the protests began eight months ago, there have been only a few concessions from the Hong Kong government. As for other impacts on the city, protestors shut down the airport in a sit-in protest and surrounded legislative buildings, refusing to let people in. In June, the protestors made history when almost two million people turned out to march to the Legislative Council, spilling out of the approved route into four different streets.

Does this impact anyone outside of Hong Kong?

Yes — It impacts so many people! Many businesses are based in China or rely on China for much of their manufacturing, so unrest in Hong Kong makes investors uncertain, driving stocks down. Additionally, it puts many businesses that like to portray themselves as progressive in a tough situation. If they show any support toward the pro-democracy protests, their Chinese backers could pull their support. This was the problem with the pro gamer and the NBA team; each of their parent companies have deep ties with China.

What’s happening now?

Recently, Lam withdrew the extradition bill; however, protesters are still dissatisfied. They have created a list of five demands: withdraw the extradition bill, stop referring to the protests as riots, release and clear the charges of those arrested in conjunction with the protests, investigate police behavior in the incident and implement universal suffrage in Hong Kong. The protestors do not believe the government has done enough to address these demands, so they continue to speak out, sit in, and march. Further, throughout the months of protests, violence and arrests have become commonplace, creating deeper divisions between the protestors and the Hong Kong government (this article has stats and a great timeline; go check it out)! Protests are not slowing down, and show no sign of ending in the near future.

Thumbnail courtesy of Creative Commons