Hundreds of thousands have rallied against legal changes that imperil the region’s freedoms. They deserve support, even if China’s leaders are unlikely to shift course
Imagine that 5 to 10 million Britons took to the streets to attack new legislation. Imagine that the previously cautious, passive or politically conservative came out, including lawyers and church congregations. Then imagine that – even with further protests pending – the government said they just didn’t understand the issue, and vowed to ram through changes within days.
This is what Hong Kong has just seen. As many as a million residents, equivalent to one in seven of the population, marched against extradition changes. The turnout, astounding even to organisers, reflected the understanding that these amendments are the latest and most decisive breach of China’s commitment to maintain Hong Kong’s way of life for 50 years after its handover from Britain in 1997. By removing the firewall between the legal systems, the changes expose both Hong Kong residents and those who travel there to the whims of the Chinese Communist party, which controls the mainland’s courts and is handy at mustering convenient legal cases.