The fight rages on in Hong Kong
Since early 2019, massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have challenged China's grip on the prosperous island nation. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic which diverted international attention and put mass-demonstrations on hold, the situation remains unpredictable.
With a comprehensive timeline of events, though, we hope to shed some light on how the conflict in Hong Kong has developed recently, where the situation now stands, and where it may be headed next.
After gaining control over its domestic COVID-19 outbreaks, China sought to aggressively reassert itself abroad, starting in Hong Kong with the proposal of new, wide-reaching national security legislation. When hundreds took to the streets on May 24th to protest the proposal, Police fired on them with tear gas.
Two days later on the 26th Hong Kong's chief executive sought to reassure those fearing that the law would imperil Hong Kong's autonomy. Yet, by the very next day, the US had announced that it would no longer regard the island nation as autonomous. The legislation was also criticized by the UK, who vowed to expand Hong Kongers' visa rights if such a law were implemented.
On the 31st anniversary of China's actions in Tiananmen square, fueled by what they saw as China's continued anti-democratic actions, thousands defied the law in order to gather publicly in Hong Kong to hold vigil, at which many were arrested. Only two weeks later, on the 18th, it was announced that China's national legislature had passed its first draft of the security law.
A week later on the 25th the US Senate agreed unanimously to a series of sanctions on Chinese businesses and officials who they deemed were actively destroying Hong Kong's autonomy.
Undeterred, China began its review of the national security law, which it promptly passed a few days later on the 29th. In response, the US swiftly announced a hold on defense exports to Hong Kong, and some in the UK argued that China had now breached its 1997 commitment to respecting Hong Kong's autonomy.
Given how aggressively China has pursued its new national security law, it's likely that it will use its provisions to clamp down on Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters. With Europe and the United States still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic (and associated economic consequences), international support for the island, especially when it means direct conflict with mainland China, may dwindle as politicians focus their attention toward domestic policy at the expense of foreign affairs.