Hong Kong’s protests passed a notable milestone, and sensitive days lie ahead

Hong Kongers have long believed that it’s Beijing, and not chief executive Carrie Lam, who’s calling the shots on how to deal with the city’s ongoing protests. Her refusal to fully withdraw the extradition bill that first sparked the mass demonstrations—one of the protesters’s five core demands—was evidence in the eyes of some not of intransigence, but of powerlessness.

Those suspicions were confirmed today with a Reuters report that said Lam had in fact recommended withdrawing the bill she earlier “indefinitely suspended” as a way to defuse the city’s worst political crisis since it returned to Chinese rule. But Beijing wouldn’t allow it.

That news—and the events of recent months—are a reminder that the city’s lack of democracy is at the heart of both this summer’s protests, and the ones in 2014. Five years ago, China’s legislature handed down a decision that dashed hopes that Hong Kong’s future leaders would be chosen democratically, which kicked off the Umbrella Movement. The current protests have revived the call for genuinely democratic elections for the city’s leadership.

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