Ever since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, its people have been on the lookout for signs that Beijing is dismantling its unique status as the freest city in China—and reneging on the terms of the territory’s handover from Britain. Under the “one country, two systems” framework, Hong Kong was supposed to enjoy a large degree of autonomy from China for 50 years, until 2047.
Hong Kong doesn’t get to choose its own leader. Rather, a committee of 1,200 people representing different interest groups chooses the chief executive. As a result, Hong Kongers can’t just vote out a person whose leadership they oppose. Instead, they take to the streets when they think something is going seriously wrong in the city—and particularly in its carefully calibrated relationship with Beijing. In 2014, thousands of people occupied streets to protest a long-awaited plan for universal voting that came with too many strings attached.