A few days have passed since police in Hong Kong cleared the streets around the city’s government headquarters of nearly all pro-democracy protesters. Since then, the movement has quickly began to fizzle away, so much so that there were just a handful of protest sites on the streets of Hong Kong by Monday, which local authorities promptly cleared out.
Hundreds of police descended upon one of the last remaining band of protesters at the Causeway Bay neighborhood in the early hours of the morning. Where hundreds of people once gathered to demand a more democratic government, free from the manipulation of the Communist government that controls mainland China, only a dozen or so tents remained.
Scores of protesters were ousted from the entrance to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, an area that the council itself has designated as a public demonstration area, on orders from a handful of pro-government lawmakers who oversee the council’s operations. In response, the protesters simply moved their camp to the sidewalk adjacent to the legislature, an area that falls just outside its jurisdiction.
“This undermines the constitutional independence of LegCo,” said legislator Kenneth Chan, shortly before sitting down in the road in the Causeway Bay protest site with a dozen other demonstrators, awaiting officers to move in and make arrests. “LegCo is a place for people to express their opinions politically.”
Hong Kong was actually a British colony for most of its existence, but was given over to China back in 1997. Given the uniqueness of city’s position, however, Hong Kong was given special privileges that aren’t enjoyed by local governments on the Chinese mainland under a framework that’s known as “one country, two systems.”
The city is governed under a mini-constitution called the Basic Law, and is able to maintain a semi-autonomous democratic government while still being a part of Communist China. However, the mainland government laid down a strict framework for Hong Kong’s 2017 elections which required that candidates for the city’s top leadership position be approved by Beijing first.
Outraged, many people saw this as a direct attempt by mainland China to undermine Hong Kong’s democratic system and exert more control over the city. Tens of thousands of citizens, most of which were students, crowded the streets in late September and early October to protest, but efforts by local lawmakers and police have managed to shrink the protests substantially.