Protests in Hong Kong

June 18, 2019
Allison Singer with TIME reporting
TAKING A STAND Protesters gather in Hong Kong on June 16.
CARL COURT/GETTY IMAGES

There have been massive protests on the streets of Hong Kong this month. It’s estimated that about 2 million people have taken part. That’s more than a quarter of the country’s population.

Protests began on June 9. Organizers say about a million people showed up that day. People are protesting a bill. They don’t want the government to make it a law. If it does become a law, people in Hong Kong who have been accused of crimes could be sent to other countries to stand trial. This process is called extradition. Protesters are worried that mainland China would use this law to imprison people from Hong Kong who act or speak out against the Chinese government. Doing so is legal in Hong Kong. In mainland China, it’s not.

On the night of June 9, Hong Kong’s government issued a statement. It said the plan to move forward with the bill would continue despite the protests. This angered many people. There were confrontations between protesters and police. Some turned violent. Protests continued throughout the week. More and more people joined in.

Many of the protesters are students. One of them is 14-year-old Anna So. “I think it’s important that I am here to support the demonstrations,” she told TIME at a gathering on June 13. “I want to protect Hong Kong. I don’t want Hong Kong to lose its freedoms.”

APOLOGY Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's top government official, speaks during a press conference on June 18.

CARL COURT/GETTY IMAGES

Carrie Lam is Hong Kong’s top government official. She has led the charge to pass the bill. On Saturday, she announced that the bill would be suspended. On Sunday, and again on Tuesday, she apologized to the people of Hong Kong. But the protests continue. Why? Protesters don’t feel that suspending the bill for a time is enough. They want it permanently withdrawn. They also want Lam to resign.

Joshua Wong is a well-known political activist in Hong Kong. “It is going to be a long battle for us to fight for our democracy under the Communist Party of China,” he said. “I’m not sure how many months this battle will take.”

Hong Kong was a colony of the United Kingdom until 1997, when it was returned to China. Since then, Hong Kong and China have existed according to a “one country, two systems” agreement. This agreement allows Hong Kong to be part of China while having its own government and courts, as well as control of its own economy. People in Hong Kong want to make sure this agreement stays in place.

Shanice Yu is a 14-year-old protester. “I feel I have the responsibility to fight for our city’s freedoms,” she told TIME on Monday.

Olivia Ho, 15, agreed. “I have a test tomorrow,” she said. “But this is about Hong Kong’s future and my future.”