Standoff in Hong Kong
2 min read

Standoff in Hong Kong: a domestic crisis affecting international actors

For several months Hong Kong has protested on an unprecedented scale. Initially sparked by the city’s government plans to amend legislation that would allow extraditions to Mainland China, demonstrations have turned into a movement against the growing influence of Beijing, with millions taking to the streets. The crisis challenges Beijing in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic.

From the onset of the protests our institute has engaged with experts on and from Hong Kong to get a better understanding of the events. MERICS Visiting Policy Fellow Benjamin Haas and my colleagues Mareike Ohlberg and Claudia Wessling have summarized our analyses in a MERICS Policy Brief: „Standoff in Hong Kong: a domestic crisis affecting international actors”.

The authors arrive at the following key findings and recommendations:

  • Five years after the umbrella movement, Hong Kong is experiencing demonstrations of unprecedented social mobilization with no end in sight. Protests against a proposed extradition law have developed into a wider anti-government movement and calls for electoral reform.
  • The protesters have said they are fighting a final battle for the future of Hong Kong, one that will decide if it maintains its freedoms (i.e. rule of law, freedom of the press etc.) or is placed firmly under Beijing’s authoritarian control.
  • China’s reaction to the protests has demonstrated Beijing’s failure to assess and incorporate the Hong Kong people’s sentiment towards the mainland.
  • Despite a few concessions and offers for dialogue, neither the Hong Kong nor the Beijing government have any intention of bowing to the substantive changes to the political system the protesters demand.
  • The continuing crisis challenges Europe politically and economically: China’s handling of the crisis has brought to light that the politicization of business is increasingly becoming a tool to enforce interests.
  • European governments need to actively work with companies to be prepared if this kind of undue Chinese pressure affects them.

The MERICS Policy Brief is a publication tailored to the needs of policy and decision makers focused on China. If you would like to read the full Policy Brief, please contact Claudia Wessling, Director Publications MERICS (claudia.wessling(at)