The evening of Oct. 29 there was a Global Passport Series event with panelists Jacques deLisle and Rushan Abbas, along with moderator and director Rebecca Clothey, to start a conversation about the contemporary issues of China from an academic and activist perspective. The annual series is organized by the Department of Global Studies and Modern Languages, with the end goal being to facilitate discussions about global issues here at Drexel and in the city of Philadelphia.
Jacques deLisle’s research and teaching focus on contemporary Chinese law and politics, including legal reform status of economic and political change in China. Along with being a professor of political science, deLisle is the director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Asia program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
He frequently serves as an expert witness concerning PRC law and government policies and is a common advisor for legal reform in China.
Kicking things off, deLisle began with a greeting. “I am grateful to be here and have an opportunity to talk about quite [a] difficult time in Hong Kong,” he said. “It has been a truly remarkable period that began several months ago…over troubles …in Hong Kong on governance and politics.” DeLisle also stated that over two million people have marched in protest, which has caused wars between police and organizers. As of mid-summer this year, organizers have formed a quasi-militia to protect themselves. This leads to the question as to why.
DeLisle explained that “it started with a minor start, a young Hong Kong couple went on vacation in Taiwan. They had a bit of a lover’s quarrel, and he killed her.” He continued the story, saying the man made it back to Hong Kong without getting caught. But it does raise the question as to whether or not the man should be sent back to Taiwan for prosecution.
While Hong King went back under China’s rule in the 1990s, it is semi-autonomous, thanks to the 1997 principle of “one country, two systems.”
As it was pointed out by deLisle, “people would not be extradited from Hong Kong and withstand trial in China due to Hong Kong’s policy that it would keep its own policy, law, social and economic systems in place for the next 50 years.”
Carrie Lam — the chief executive of Hong Kong — used the murder to push the 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill. The bill’s effect would make it so the people of Hong Kong could be handed back to the mainland or Taiwan, both designated parts of China. Lam pushed this bill through the legislators, and pushback began to pick up because the citizens believed it would worsen the criminal justice system in China. They believed the bill has the potential of having politically-motivated persecution, which could lead to unfair trials in mainland China along with Taiwan and Macau.
Protests in China have attempted to appeal internationally by waving the United States Flag and creating signs asking President Trump to aid their cause, the most notable being the June 9 protest, which included over 1 million protestors. However, China and Hong Kong both agree that the protests trying to appeal internationally is a violation of their domestic internal affairs and has nothing to do with foreign powers.
On July 1, students in Hong Kong forcibly moved fellow students and protestors out of the Chinese legislature complex after protestors occupied it for several hours on the anniversary of the 1997 convergence of Hong Kong and China.
After mass protests, the bill was removed Sept. 4 by Carrie Lam. However, the protests remain ongoing due to the other commands the protestors are asking for. The first demand, deLisle said, was “dropping charges against protesters who were arrested,” which is under the belief that citizens were exercising their right to protest. They are also asking for the use of calling their advocacy “protests” instead of the term “riots” by government officials. Using the correct term can save an individual up to 10 years in prison.
This five to six month protest has shown the endurance of the Hong Kong protests, and as deLisle pointed out, even with the increasing rate of “incarceration, physical harm and even death.”
After the extradition bill was withdrawn, the protestors have switched to advocating for a more democratic political system in Hong Kong while getting Carrie Lam to resign, with no signs of stopping until more change is made.