For the past 10 weeks, Hong Kong has been in the midst of ongoing protests that have taken to the streets and, most recently, the local airport. The demonstrations were spurred by a controversial bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China where the courts are controlled by the Communist party. Since this time, however, the protests have grown into a larger, all-encompassing pro-democracy campaign.
Hong Kong is technically a special administrative region that has its own government and economic systems. As one of the world’s most expensive and densely populated cities, it is technically separate from mainland China; however, in recent years, Beijing has exerted more influence over Hong Kong. Activists, for example, have been imprisoned and pro-democracy lawmakers have been barred from running or holding office. This has even trickled down to independent booksellers. These purveyors have disappeared from the city only to resurface on the mainland and face criminal charges.
The loss of a “high degree of autonomy” over time has fanned the flames of public anger and encouraged millions to demand change at the risk of personal safety. There have been aggressive tactics used by police against protestors including tear gas and rubber bullets. On July 21, gangs of men attacked activists and commuters at a transit station, and on August 12, a woman was hit in her eye (by a beanbag or rubber bullet) by police. Pro-democracy protesters, however, have committed to keeping this movement going until their demands are met and the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, resigns. Through it all, both professional and amateur photographers have been documenting this significant moment in history, capturing the passion and chaos of a nation at a potential turning point.