The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 was proposed by the Hong Kong Government on February 13th, 2019. The bill is designed to cover jurisdictions that do not have an extradition agreement with Hong Kong, allowing for the transfer of criminal suspects from China, Macau, and Taiwan to mainland China. It prompted widespread criticism, fearing the weakening of Hong Kong’s judicial independence under China’s “one country, two systems” rule. On March 31st, the pro-democratic camp of Hong Kong launched its first demonstration of the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement. Initially referred to as the “Anti-Amendment Movement” by the media, the movement underlined the public’s distrust in China’s judicial system, and soon adopted the shorthand name “Anti-Extradition Movement .”
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the pro-Beijing legislators forced the first reading of the bill and, in protest, an estimated 1 million demonstrators took to the streets of Hong Kong on June 9th, three days before the scheduled second reading at the Legislative Council. Later that evening, violent clashes broke out between police and protesters, turning public opinion against the administration. The movement progressed into series of weekly demonstrations, occupy actions, roadside and building barricades, general strikes, non-cooperation movements, and attempted suicides. Police brutality redirected an initially peaceful demonstration into violent confrontations between the people and the law enforcement, threatening Hong Kong’s longstanding status as the top financial center in Asia.
Insisting on a “no leader (無大台)” form of protest amidst escalating tension, activists made the Five Demands. The movement has also inspired supporters to voice their opinions creatively. Artists, designers, and cultural organizations initiated projects to back the demonstrations, and Hongkongers conjured a variety of PR materials, flooding city streets and social media with protest slogans, posters, independent zines, and other spontaneous actions. First created during the Umbrella Movement in 2014, Lennon Walls, city walls covered in post-it notes bearing pro-democracy messages, popped up around the city as the movement gained supporters worldwide. In Taiwan, for example, Lennon Walls appeared in various academic and public institutions, and the “929 Taiwan with Hong Kong” rally took place in 5 different cities in September, all in solidarity with Hong Kong. In addition, exhibitions such as Lightbox Photo Library and Zine Coop’s Hi Freedom: Stand with Hong Kong at G20 Newspaper Exhibition as well as fundraisers and drives for safety gears were organized in support of the Hong Kong cause.
The Anti-Extradition Movement brings into mind the series of large, organized civil movements in Taiwan after the lifting of the Martial Law in 1987. These acts of resistance represent the public’s pushback against authoritarianism and injustice. Transforming ideologies into creative action, they call for a freer, more righteous, and more advanced democratic society. The 318 Movement (Sunflower Movement) in 2014 was initially driven by the controversial passing of a trade agreement with China. It quickly became a student-led movement that featured an abundance of protest materials such as artistic posters, flyers, postcards, installations, and original songs. Built upon the legacy of Taiwan’s revolutionary moments, a more organic and creative kind of protest emerged. In 2019, same-sex marriage was finally legalized after a 30-year-long campaign; the same year, flight attendants of a major international airline, EVA Airways, went on a historic strike. Meanwhile, the demand for transitional justice has grown to be a part of the public consciousness as dark revelations about the authoritarian regime are being made public. In 2019, The National Museum of Taiwan History presented Oppression & Overcoming: Social Movements in Post-War Taiwan. The exhibition showcased objects and documents of civil discontent, offering an alternative way to confront and reflect on Taiwan’s collective struggles. Taiwanese people have learned to face a trauma from the past with wit and creativity. Powerful “arts in action” painted a landscape of resistance in Taiwan.