The Hong Kong protests: A crash course

Kathleen Keaveny


The protests are reaching their third week, yet many people are uninformed on the issue. Here is a quick crash course on what is happening in Hong Kong:


Control of Hong Kong explainedCIA-HongKong

In 1842, Hong Kong Island came under British rule after the Emperor of China and Queen of England signed the Treaty of Nanking, ending the first Opium War. Hong Kong remained under British control for 156 years.

In 1984, the Sino-British Joint Declaration is signed between Britain and China, declaring that China would receive sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997.

In 1997, Hong Kong was handed back to China and would be governed under the idea of “one country, two systems,” meaning that Hong Kong would be able to practice their capitalist economic policies, and not practice mainland China’s socialist policies. Expiring in 2047, Hong Kong is able to retain their systems under some degree of autonomy. This autonomy includes responsibility over domestic affairs, but does not include regional defense and diplomatic issues.

This autonomy also includes allowing Hong Kong to elect its chief executive in its first democratic election in 2017, this being a driving factor in the current protests.

Why are there protests?

Hong Kong protests beneath Chinese central government offices. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia)
Hong Kong protests beneath Chinese central government offices. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia)

The Chinese government informed Hong Kong that, for their first democratic election in 2017, the central Chinese government would have to approve chief executive candidates in August. Protesters, primarily students, took to the streets in peaceful protests in order to march for their right to a democratic election promised in 1997, in late September.

To the surprise of many, Hong Kong police cracked down on protestors with extreme force, carrying guns filled with rubber bullets, spraying tear gas and fighting with protestors in the streets. Because of these attacks on protestors by Hong Kong police, many civilians joined the protesters in their movement.

Why is this important?

With the protests initially beginning as a demonstration on the right of democracy to Hong Kong citizens promised in 1997 by the central Chinese government, it is now about much more.

With the violent crack down on protesters by Hong Kong police, memories of 1989’s Tiananmen Square massacre, where 2,600 Chinese civilians were killed in Beijing protests, are resurfacing. Fear that these protests may escalate to a similar event has many on edge.

After years of autonomy under “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong citizens fear that their freedom, flexibility and identity may be stripped from them, despite the promised 2017 democratic election.

They are protesting now to remain Hong Kong.


Collegian Interactive News Team Member Kathleen Keaveny can be reached at