Hong Kong: Timeline of extradition protests

  • Published
Protester throwing a tear gas can back at the policeImage source, AFP
Image caption,
The protests have often escalated into violent clashes

Since June, Hong Kong has been rocked by protests that show no sign of dying down.

What started as demonstrations against an extradition bill have since taken on a much wider scope and are now demanding full democratic rights for Hong Kongers.

On 3 April, Hong Kong's government introduced plans for changes to legislation that would allow for criminal suspects to potentially be extradited to China.

Critics warned the bill could undermine Hong Kong's legal freedoms and might be used to intimidate or silence dissidents.

This is a timeline of what happened next and how the movement evolved.

The first big protests

On 9 June, an estimated one million people marched to the government headquarters to show they were against the proposed bill.

Media caption,

Critics say the plan will erode the city's judicial independence

It was largely a peaceful rally, though some small skirmishes broke out.

Three days later, on 12 June, a fresh demonstration took place at which police fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

Media caption,

Police use tear gas on protesters

The stand-off developed into the worst violence Hong Kong had seen in decades.

Carrie Lam delays the bill

Another three days later, on 15 June, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam issued a dramatic reversal, saying she would indefinitely delay the extradition bill.

Media caption,

Carrie Lam expressed 'deep sorrow' over extradition law controversy

Despite this, an estimated two million people took to the streets the following day, 16 June, demanding the bill be withdrawn completely and calling for Ms Lam's resignation.

Media caption,

Protesters took to the street despite Carrie Lam's announcement

Over the next days, anger grew towards the police and on 21 June, protesters blockaded police headquarters for 15 hours.

They now demanded that protesters who were arrested during previous protests should be exonerated.

More links on Hong Kong protests

Image source, Reuters

Protesters storm parliament

On 1 July, the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from the UK to China, the Legislative Council (LegCo) building was stormed by protesters who sprayed graffiti on the walls, displayed the colonial-era flag and defaced Hong Kong's regional emblem.

Media caption,

Protesters describe their ransacking of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council one month on

One week later, on 7 July, tens of thousands marched in Kowloon - an area popular with mainland tourists - in a bid to explain their concerns. Until this point the protests had received little if any coverage in state-run mainland media.

On 9 July, Carrie Lam reiterated that the extradition bill was "dead" urging protesters to stop their actions. She still refrained from fully withdrawing the bill.

On 21 July, protesters defaced China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong.

That same night, mobs of men wearing white-shirts attack commuters in Yuen Long underground station - near mainland China- in a new escalation of violence.

Some suspected these were members of gangs called triads and pointed out that police arrived very late to stop them.

Media caption,

A large group of masked men in white T-shirts stormed Yuen Long station

On 27 July, thousands demonstrated in Yuen Long condemning the station attack. Police responded by firing tear gas at the unauthorised protests.

On 2 August, even civil servants - supposed to be politically neutral - joined demonstrations in their thousands.

It's not just about extradition any more

By this point it had become clear the protests had evolved well beyond the initial demand of the withdrawal of the extradition bill.

Some protesters said it was now about what they saw as the erosion of the special freedoms Hong Kong has.

A former British colony and now part of China, Hong Kong is run under a "one country, two systems" agreement that guarantees it a level of autonomy, its own judiciary and a separate legal system from the mainland.

But there was also a lot of anger towards how the police had handled the situation, and their use of force.

Violent clashes become the norm

On 3 August, protests took place for the ninth consecutive weekend.

Police again fired tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds at protesters, something many had now come to expect. By this time protesters were wearing masks and protective gear at every demonstration.

Media caption,

Protests take place in Hong Kong for the ninth weekend - for and against the authorities

On 5 August, yet another city-wide strike was held, bringing services across Hong Kong to a standstill. Carrie Lam gave her first media address in two weeks, saying Hong Kong was "on the verge of a very dangerous situation".

Media caption,

Stephen McDonell's gas mask face visor was smashed by a projectile

On 6 August, China warned the protesters not to "play with fire," not to "underestimate the firm resolve [of] the central government" and not to "mistake restraint for weakness".

It was one of the strongest warnings Beijing had issued over the protests.

Airport shut down by protesters

Protests moved into a 10th week without showing signs of dying down.

On 11 August, police stormed enclosed railway stations, firing tear gas at protesters, leading yet again to dramatic scenes of confrontation.

Media caption,

Violence erupts in HK train stations

During the violence that Sunday, one protester was injured in her eye - it remains unclear how - becoming a symbol of the protest movement.

The next day, on 12 August, protesters gathered at the airport, leading to hundreds of flights being cancelled.

The protest again saw violent clashes between the activists and police and China condemned them as "behaviour that is close to terrorism" - in a sign of Beijing's rhetoric hardening.

Media caption,

How Hong Kong got trapped in a cycle of violence

As the airport standoff was under way, Hong Kong police admitted deploying officers disguised as anti-government protesters during the unrest the previous day.

Some officers disguised themselves as "different characters", a spokesman said, adding that the "decoy operation" had targeted "extreme violent rioters".

The targeting of suspected under cover officers at the airport by protesters, one of whom turned out to be a reporter, tarnished the image of the protesters.

The first peaceful weekend...

One week after the airport clashes, a new rally took place on 18 August.

Amid reports of Chinese police and military gathering across the border in Shenzhen, tensions were high.

But the protest remained peaceful, and for the first time in weeks, there were no major clashes between police and activists.

... but not for long

Violence resumed the following weekend, with police using tear gas and water cannon against protesters, who returned fire with projectiles, including bricks and petrol bombs.

Media caption,

Hong Kong police fired a gunshot and used water cannon during Sunday's protests

For the first time in the unrest police fired a live round.

Several days later a number of prominent pro-democracy activists and lawmakers were arrested by police in Hong Kong.

Another weekend of worsening violence followed, with police accused of brutality on the city metro and activists closing roads to the airport, a major transport hub.

Finally, the bill is withdrawn

On 4 September Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam announced she would withdraw the highly controversial extradition bill which had started the protests.

Media caption,

Ms Lam announced four steps to help ease tensions - footage courtesy of ICABLE NEWS

She also unveiled other measures that appeared to be designed to soothe unrest, but her opponents said it was too little, too late.

What the protesters want now

The movement is largely leaderless and not everyone has the same end goals. Over the weeks, new demands have been added.

By this point, here is what protesters still want:

  • The withdrawal of the "riot" description used about the 12 June protests
  • An amnesty for all arrested protesters
  • An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality
  • Universal suffrage in elections for Hong Kong's chief executive (the territory's leader), and Legislative Council

Some are still calling for the resignation of Carrie Lam, whom they view as a puppet of Beijing.