How an Extradition Bill Became a Red Line for Hong Kongers

On the podcast: A former China correspondent traces Beijing’s gradual effort to erode human rights in Hong Kong.

By , the executive editor for podcasts at Foreign Policy.
Protesters attend a rally against a controversial extradition law in Hong Kong on June 9.
Protesters attend a rally against a controversial extradition law in Hong Kong on June 9.
Protesters attend a rally against a controversial extradition law in Hong Kong on June 9. DALE DE LA REY/AFP/Getty Images

The mass protests in Hong Kong in recent weeks have focused largely on one thing: an extradition bill that would send lawbreakers to face trial in mainland China. But the issue is emblematic of a broader trend that worries many Hong Kongers: China's steady erosion of civil rights in the territory. When the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, Beijing pledged to allow the region relative freedom and independence for 50 years. To most China experts, that promise seems no longer credible.

Our guest this week is Frank Langfitt, an NPR correspondent who covered events in China on and off for the past two or so decades, including during the Hong Kong handover. Langfitt is the author of the new book The Shanghai Free Taxi: Journeys With the Hustlers and Rebels of the New China.

The mass protests in Hong Kong in recent weeks have focused largely on one thing: an extradition bill that would send lawbreakers to face trial in mainland China. But the issue is emblematic of a broader trend that worries many Hong Kongers: China’s steady erosion of civil rights in the territory. When the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, Beijing pledged to allow the region relative freedom and independence for 50 years. To most China experts, that promise seems no longer credible.

Our guest this week is Frank Langfitt, an NPR correspondent who covered events in China on and off for the past two or so decades, including during the Hong Kong handover. Langfitt is the author of the new book The Shanghai Free Taxi: Journeys With the Hustlers and Rebels of the New China.

More from Foreign Policy

A closeup of Russian President Vladimir Putin
A closeup of Russian President Vladimir Putin

What Russia’s Elites Think of Putin Now

The president successfully preserved the status quo for two decades. Suddenly, he’s turned into a destroyer.

A member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police is seen in front of an electoral poster of President Emmerson Mnangagwa
A member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police is seen in front of an electoral poster of President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Cafe Meeting Turns Into Tense Car Chase for U.S. Senate Aides in Zimbabwe

Leading lawmaker calls on Biden to address Zimbabwe’s “dire” authoritarian turn after the incident.

Steam rises from cooling towers at the Niederaussem coal-fired power plant during the coronavirus pandemic near Bergheim, Germany, on Feb. 11, 2021.
Steam rises from cooling towers at the Niederaussem coal-fired power plant during the coronavirus pandemic near Bergheim, Germany, on Feb. 11, 2021.

Putin’s Energy War Is Crushing Europe

The big question is whether it ends up undermining support for Ukraine.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres attends a press conference.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres attends a press conference.

A Crisis of Faith Shakes the United Nations in Its Big Week

From its failure to stop Russia’s war in Ukraine to its inaction on Myanmar and climate change, the institution is under fire from all sides.