Yes and no.
Hong Kong is a territory (made up of the island of Hong Kong and other small islands) and lies to the south of China. Hong Kong used to be a British colony and was given to China in 1997 but only under the condition that it would become a special administrative zone aka. I make my own rules! When we refer to China, we are probably talking about mainland China, which Hong Kong is technically not part of. Neither is Taiwan by the way.
Though the area is Chinese territory, when it comes to law making it’s easiest to think of Hong Kong as similar to a state in America, for example like Ohio…
China agreed to govern Hong Kong as “one country, two systems” – meaning Hong Kong get to make their own laws, up to a point. Hong Kong has its own legal system but mainland China is in charge of the big issues like defense and international affairs.
The main city in the territory, also called Hong Kong, is where the local laws are made.
So, is Hong Kong part of China? Yes, as a territory, but with some control over their own laws. One of the times they have major dealings with mainland China is when there are elections…
Democracy = system of government where the people rule, either directly or through an elected government
Does Hong Kong have one? Another, yes/no answer I’m afraid…
Hong Kong’s leader is called the Chief Executive and is elected by a committee made up of 1,200 chosen members who are elected from the constituencies in Hong Kong.
The winner is then appointed as leader by the Central People’s Government (the main government in mainland China). The election committee is thought to be Pro-China…
Hong Kong’s legislative council is made up of 70 members – 35 elected from geographic constituencies, five elected from district councils across the country and 30 voted in by organisations and big corporations. Complicated, much?
Pro-Democratic groups joining the Hong Kong protest have been arguing for a fairer election system for decades. They call the current system a “fake democracy”.
Mainland China had promised reform to the current system: offering direct elections for the Chief Executive in 2017. Fair enough?
However in August last year China ruled out open nominations and stated that voters will have a choice between only two or three potential candidates. Any candidate wishing to stand would have to get support from at least 50% of the committee. Better get schmoozing.
The problem: Democracy activists say this will allow mainland China to screen out candidates it disapproves of. Not the fairest of systems then…
Democracy groups such as Occupy Central and the student group Hong Kong Federation of Scholars and Students have been staging rallies pressing for political reform since the proposal was put forward. They ran an unofficial referendum on reform, and ran a pro-democracy march which tens of thousands turned out for. It was called the “Umbrella Revolution” – because protesters used their brollies to protect themselves from pepper spray being fired by the police. Neat. Students have also been staging walk outs in protest and other protest marches across the city.
Not everyone backs the Hong Kong protest. Silent Majority for Hong Kong and Caring Hong Kong Power are just some of the Pro-Beijing or Pro-China groups. They argue that civil disobedience and opposition to mainland China will only damage Hong Kong, both economically and politically.
Hong Kong’s government has now put forward proposals agreeing with mainland China’s ruling. Despite pro-democracy law-makers walking out in disgust and ever more people joining the Hong Kong protest it’s looking more and more likely that the new Chief Executive will not be voted in by the majority of the people. Bad times.