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TFK Explains: Hong Kong Protests

GATHERED TOGETHER Protesters march toward the United States consulate in Hong Kong on September 8. They are calling on the U.S. Congress to support them in their struggle for greater political freedom. CHRIS MCGRATH—GETTY IMAGES

It has been more than three months since protests started in Hong Kong. Here, TFK explains.

Why did the protests begin?

On June 9, hundreds of thousands of people joined a march. They did it to oppose oppose MARTINE DOUCET—GETTY IMAGES to resist; to disagree with (verb) Most students oppose the school's efforts to shorten recess. a bill. The bill would have made extradition extradition RICH LEGG—GETTY IMAGES the act of sending a person who has been accused of a crime to another state or country for trial (noun) The suspect will stand trial after extradition. legal in Hong Kong. That means people could be sent from Hong Kong to mainland China to be tried in court. Protesters worried that China would use extradition to punish people who speak out against the Chinese government. Protesters wanted the bill withdrawn. They demanded that Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, leave her job.

What is Hong Kong’s relationship with China?

Hong Kong was once a colony of the United Kingdom. In 1997, it was returned to China under a special policy. The policy is called “one country, two systems.” This means Hong Kong is part of China, but it has its own courts and government.

But Hong Kong is not a full democracy. Many of its leaders are not elected by citizens. For instance, Lam was appointed by a committee that is loyal to the Chinese government. People in Hong Kong want this system changed.

Why have protests continued?

Protesters are committed to their cause. At a June 12 march, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Lam put the extradition bill on hold. But she did not withdraw it completely. Protesters were not satisfied. They demanded an investigation into police actions. They wanted protesters who had been arrested to be released. Again, they called for open elections and for Lam to leave her job.

Since then, demonstrations have grown. They have blocked roads. They have shut down the airport. Most have been peaceful. Some have turned violent. “It is going to be a long battle . . . to fight for our democracy,” says activist Joshua Wong.

How have the two governments responded?

Lam officially withdrew the extradition bill on September 4. Protesters say they will continue demonstrating. They say they won’t stop until all their demands are met.

Some fear that China’s leaders will use military force to stop the protests. More likely, they are waiting for protesters to give up. For now, China is standing firm. In a speech, President Xi Jinping said, “On matters of principle, not an inch will be yielded.”

Stop & Think! Why do you think TFK wrote this news story in a question-and-answer format? In what other ways could the story have been told?