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Another massive demonstration is taking place right now outside Hong Kong's government HQ, blocking traffic as protesters did in the 2014 Umbrella Revolution where protesters called for freer elections. Here's (probably more than) what you need to know about the protests:
Let's start with the bill at the center of the protests this week. Hundreds of thousands of people marched on Sunday to protest a bill that will change Hong Kong's laws to make two things possible.
1. Allow the Hong Kong government to send people wanted in China*, among other places that Hong Kong has no existing surrender deals with, to face the Chinese legal system.
*China as in mainland China, which has a separate legal system from Hong Kong's. Hong Kong is part of China, but Beijing promised it considerable autonomy and independent courts when it took over the city in 1997 from the colonial British government.
2. Allow other governments to ask Hong Kong to freeze or confiscate assets of people in the city to help with a foreign investigation. Again, China is the focus here; the protesters are cool with Hong Kong assisting other jurisdictions – other than China – in criminal matters.
The legal analysis in this thread is largely based on a guide published by Hong Kong Bar Association. PDF:…
In short, the bill will, for the first time ever, let Hong Kong transfer people to stand trial in Communist Party-ruled China or go to jail there. E.g. If you're in Hong Kong and are somehow wanted by Chinese law enforcement, the bill will create a mechanism for your removal.
Now, note that the Hong Kong government – which answers to Beijing and is not popularly elected – is well aware of people's mistrust of Beijing.
After all, Chinese leaders have repeatedly and openly rejected "Western" ideas of the separation of powers and an independent judiciary.
Beijing believes in its special "socialist" system; Hong Kong was promised that it wouldn't have to adopt this system for at least 50 years since the 1997 handover.
This idea, you may know, is called "one country, two systems." It's also something that Beijing hoped Taiwan would accept one day.
Back to Hong Kong and the so-called extradition bill. Hong Kong has tried to quell fears that Beijing would abuse the proposed arrangement and use it to extract people from Hong Kong on extraneous, maybe political grounds. Those people don't have to be Hong Kong citizens.
They can be anyone in the city, and that's why some foreign business groups are also worried that the bill would expose their workers in the city to China's legal system. That's partly why Hong Kong scaled back the bill to exclude some financial crimes.
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's leader, has promised a rigorous process that guarantees no one will be transferred to China on political grounds.
The Hong Kong government has said the bill only covers serious crimes that exist in the laws of both Hong Kong and China, and these crimes will have nothing to do with the freedom of speech, of assembly, etc.
It's also stressed that any transfer of suspects can also be challenged in Hong Kong's courts. But the courts have no power to examine whether they are guilty and whether they will face a fair trial in China to determine whether they would green light a transfer.
They can only look into whether a transfer request fulfills the conditions laid out in the extradition bill.
By the way, the people who would be transferred under the plan are sometimes referred to "fugitives," but this can be misleading. The Hong Kong government has branded the bill as a way to prevent the city from becoming a haven for criminals.
But the subject of transfer doesn't necessary have to be someone who "has escaped from captivity or is in hiding," the dictionary definition of the word. You may not know at all that you're wanted in China before you're transferred there for trial.
So why is Hong Kong pushing the bill in spite of the massive opposition to it? The official reason is that it wants to transfer a man in Hong Kong suspected of murder in Taiwan to face justice there.
To be clear, the protesters, including pro-democracy lawmakers, are fine with Hong Kong working out an agreement to send this man to face trial in Taiwan. But the Hong Kong government has dismissed the idea.
For one thing, China doesn't recognize Taiwan as a country. Making a deal with Taiwan alone is about the last thing the Hong Kong government would want to do.
Taiwan is willing to work with Hong Kong on the murder case, but it said Hong Kong didn't even respond to its requests to talk. Taiwan is a touchy diplomatic subject to broach and official communications between the two places are largely limited to trade and tourism.
For now, the Hong Kong government has given no indication that it would stop pushing the bill, even as the city's legislature postponed a scheduled debate today amid the huge protests outside.
Lastly, the anger of the crowd stems from a deep mistrust of Beijing's authoritarian ways and values. Hong Kong has been a safe harbor for Chinese political dissidents, including those wanted after the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. Many people want to keep it that way.
You can follow @InkstoneNews's coverage of Hong Kong by subscribing to our newsletter: (We publish our newsletter – and stories – once a day.)

For real-time updates, check out @SCMPNews's excellent live blog…
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