How did the protests start?
Hong Kong introduced a bill in April that would allow people accused of crimes against mainland China to be extradited. Critics said those sent to the mainland could face an unfair trial and violent treatment under China’s court system. They said it could put activists and journalists at risk. They also argued the bill would give China more control over Hong Kong.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of the city to demand the extradition bill be pulled. Following weeks of protests, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam confirmed in July that the bill would be suspended.
What are the protesters’ demands?
The suspension of the bill did not impress the protesters who called for it to be shelved completely amid fears it could be revived. The protesters’ demands have changed since the beginning of the protests and they are now calling for:
Complete withdrawal of the extradition bill
Withdrawal of the “riot” description used about the 12 June protests
Amnesty for all arrested protesters
An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality
Universal suffrage for the Chief Executive and Legislative Council elections
And some also want the resignation of Carrie Lam, who they view as a puppet of Beijing.
What is Hong Kong’s status?
Hong Kong is a former British colony and now part of China. It is run under a “one country, two systems” agreement that guarantees it a level of autonomy.
It has its own judiciary and a separate legal system from mainland China.
Rights including freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are protected. It is one of the few places in Chinese territory where people can commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Now, Why Airports?
Hong Kong’s international airport — one of the busiest in Asia — had emerged as a key protest target before today’s mass gathering, as anti-government demonstrators looked to take their message directly to the international community.
At the airport over the weekend, leaflets in Chinese, English, French, Korean, Japanese and other languages were handed out to arriving international visitors, explaining the causes of the unrest — as protesters see it — and the demands of the opposition movement.
Showcasing the slick design that has characterized the protests, other pamphlets and posters also advertised planned demonstrations as “new tourist spots,” and advised tourists what to do if they were caught in the protests during their visit.
On Monday, almost 200 flights were cancelled to and from Hong Kong as thousands of pro-democracy protesters shut down the airport following violent clashes with police over the weekend.