Listen: Hong Kong erupts over China extradition bill
"We're looking at Hong Kong, which has been the scene of mass street purchase and indeed pitched battles with police triggered by a proposed new law, which would make it easier to extradite suspected criminals to mainland China. Joining me to discuss this here in the studios. James king, global China editor and on the line from Shenzhen just across the border from Hong Kong and mainland. China is our correspondent there, sue Lynn Wong James, first of all these scenes are pretty unprecedent, don't they, it's more than twenty years since the handover has anything like this happen for there hasn't been anything on this scale there was in two thousand fourteen a major movement in Hong Kong, the umbrella movement. But this is a clips that in scale there were about a million people on the streets of Hong Kong last couple of days and you know what happened today is also rather different from what happened in two thousand and fourteen with the police. Really getting heavy with the protesters using tear gas and rubber bullets. And there are some very disturbing videos that have appeared on Twitter and other forms of social media of police rushing at unarmed demonstrators, and beating them up with truncheons as they lay on the floor. This is also rather uncharacteristic of how demonstrations of this type are normally handled in Hong Kong, and different, again, from what we saw in the umbrella movement of two thousand fourteen so we are in slightly new territory with this one, and the other thing about this demonstration is that it's absolutely clear that Beijing wants this extradition law to be passed by the Hong Kong authorities, and it's equally clear that a very large majority of Hong Kong, people are implacably opposed to it. So there is an ongoing standoff right now and it is difficult to know how this will play out, but it does feel as if Beijing. Normally fairly in control has has lost control of events in a way that must be very worrying to them. This is the thing about Beijing, and Beijing track record when it comes to dealing with opposition. Of course, let's not make too much parallel with thirty years ago that TNN crackdown, the massacre in tenement square which you covered at the time, which I did cover at the time, but I would say that there could be a parallel in one regard, only, and that is that when Beijing is backed into a corner, it can decide to take uncompromising measures. I'm not from minute suggesting that there will be violence on the type of scale that we saw thirty years ago. But the records to strong arm tactics that we've seen with rubber bullets and tear gas and beating up demonstrators has I think, surprise people and this has happened fairly early on the hallmark of the umbrella movement of two thousand fourteen was the restraint with which the Hong Kong police dealt with the demonstrators. Those. Demonstrations went on for weeks were very prolonged indeed. And eventually kind of petered it out. So we are in different territory this time. And soon, you're just across the border in mainland China is this being reported that are people aware of what's going on. Everyone working two inch engine which is just across the border from Hong Kong has no idea, what currently happening didn't know that a million people to shape of Hong Kong on Sunday. There are few postal social media from pro-beijing newspapers, which characterize the protesters evil and being used by foreign forces, but on Chinese social media, almost everything has been censored, it's extraordinarily isn't it because the interaction between the two cities must be quite intense. I mean there's a lot of business going one way or another presumably the secret count kept for very long. Yes, so ironic in a way because Beijing is really pushing this new greater bay area, which is trying to increase connectivity between mainland China and Hong Kong Macau. And yet, obviously, when it comes to increase information sharing on sensitive topic or topics that Beijing insensitive like the. The protests that you something that is not happening at all between Hong Kong and Xinjian and other parts of mainland China. No. You both spent a great deal of time in Hong Kong being based there. You're currently base there. Now, James could you see this coming, suppose, is the question I'd like to ask both of you James, I, I left Hong Kong few days ago, and obviously, that was before these demonstrations have taken place. But in the run-up the extradition law was definitely a very strong topic of conversation in the business community, and among ordinary Hong Kong people. There was a great sense of pessimism. I would say among the business community and I was talking to some very senior. Longstanding members representing big western and Hong Kong companies there. There was a great sense of pessimism that the high degree of autonomy, which the mainland Chinese government has signed up to, to preserve in Hong Kong until twenty forty seven that was under the terms of the handover between the. U K. A and China back in one thousand nine hundred seven there is a great deal of pessimism these days, that high degree of autonomy is being eroded. And in particular, the rule of law, which is essential to the operation of Hong Kong is being eroded. People are even getting concerned about, you know, in the future. We'll contracts be enforceable in Hong Kong or will. They always be enforceable because effectively, what this extradition law can mean is that if China decides it doesn't, like somebody in Hong Kong, it can get that person extradited back to the mainland, and it's quite possible based on recent experience that that person could be a dissident or could be somebody with whom China has some kind of commercial dispute. So it's really hard to overestimate, the sense of pessimism. That's being felt in Hong Kong with regard to this extradition law and ceiling. That's I guess the view from the boardroom in a way if you like, but the umbrella movement in two thousand fourteen was very much a young person's moving. It was led by. People like Joshua Wong who had teenagers at the time. What's the mood among the young in Hong Kong? Some people said, after the umbrella movement that it had faded away again. But this would suggest known. So I think the pretend is possibly could really come as surprise, because there's widespread agreement that the umbrella movement ended in failure, the purchasers didn't get genuine universal suffrage what they were fighting for. And since then we've seen freedoms in Hong Kong slowly eroded by the government. And a lot of young people have been very despondent about what they see is the future direction of Hong Kong. And yet this week, we've seen a real shift in mood, and an outpouring of anger and frustration on the streets of Hong call. And the overwhelming feeling is that this might be the last chance to really take a stance and to really protest. Because if the expansion Bill does get passed which, like will get passed through parliament, a lot of people fear that it will become too risky for them to publicly protest during just to put to you against the Beijing response, and indeed, the Hong Kong government response as I understand. That they say this is all over done. This extradition thing was partly result of a murder suspect, not being able to be extradited in this would only apply to very serious crimes. It wouldn't necessarily affect freedom of speech anything in that. Well, I mean, obviously, we should pay attention to what the Hong Kong government is saying, but recent history shows that China extradites all kinds of people, there was the case of a famous mainland. Chinese businessmen who was sitting in the four seasons hotel with an all female bodyguard, that was literally snatched from the poolside and taken back to China, admittedly. He was a mainland citizen, but people have looked at that and drawing their own conclusions. We had the case of the booksellers booksellers were take an either from Hong Kong, or from other countries in the region and take him back to China in one case, the case of gleaming. Hi, this is a Swedish citizen, who has basically hardly been heard of since. And so people do. To appear to be extradited from Hong Kong on a non legal basis. And then they tend to sort of disappear within the security system in China, I won't call it the legal system in China because quite often these people are not actually charged. So I think there's a whole nexus of concerns that people feeling right now and ceiling again, one of the cliches about Hong Kong. Get sometimes hear from people, you know, top levels of business owners that it's a business city people don't really care about these political issues as long as prosperity is guaranteed. But again, that doesn't seem to be the case at the moment. That's a very important point in all of this. Unlike other protests for exactly the umbrella movement, where it was mostly after the who were fighting for democracy, or even previous protests before that. This is different because there's a real sense that the extradition law ethics everyone, it's not just about the activists so the young people it cuts across the board. It impacts the business community impacts the pro establishment community and the people who often often pathetic to Beijing, because they're the ones who have a business in China and could very much be targeted through the extra to law and James taking steps back, what's changed. You think because as I say, it's now twenty two years since the hand over the first ten years or so, you know, I'm a tasteful visits to Hong Kong, a lot of the liberals were actually pleasantly surprised and said Beijing not being too heavy handed. You still have things like the commemoration of Tiananmen Square every year. And. Hong Kong, which thinkable in the mainland, but they don't seem to be in a shift in attitude, in China in the sense that they're now suddenly pushing for things like this new extradition law. What do you think's changed? I think there's been a couple of changes one is the big climate of the Chinese government. You know, it does appear that the authorities in Beijing of become more hard line in recent years. We've seen several cases of dissidents that have been locked up or had their movement, restricted even more than in the past. We've seen an erosion of the very tenuous freedoms of the press in the mainland. It's rather difficult. These days to find any kind of dissenting voice, certainly not on politics and even on economics, these days within the mainland itself. I mean this is effectively a shift towards author terrorism as controlled by CD ping, the Chinese general secretary of the communist party. So that's the big climate. The small climate is Hong Kong itself, and I think. Quite a lot of the analysts, I've been speaking to in Hong Kong say that the mainland took fright at the umbrella movement. They saw that many people on the streets of Hong Kong. They sold the aspirations of the younger generation of Hong Kong has four direct suffrage, and they thought this is an exit stencil threat. You know, Beijing has a completely different type of governance system and they thought we need to nip this in the bud. We need to get tough with this, and quite a lot of analysts in Hong Kong believe that that is, what is playing out today with the increase strong arm tactics of the Hong Kong police. Okay. Well, it's obviously moving situation in both senses of the word something, I'm sure return to quite soon. But for now that's it until next week goodbye. But thank you very much indeed, to James king here in the studio and to sue in one insurance on."