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A nation must think before it acts.
Proposed legislation that would permit extraditions to Mainland China sparked sharp opposition and street protests that led to perhaps the most serious political crisis in Hong Kong since the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997, including large-scale police violence, increasingly radical tactics by some protesters, and growing concerns that China would forcibly intervene. The clash over the extradition bill echoed many earlier conflicts over intertwined legal and political issues. These controversies were part of a long-running struggle over autonomy, democracy, and the rule of law for Hong Kong. They reflected and partly arose from two opposing camps’ fundamentally conflicting conceptions of domestic law and governance for Hong Kong that date to the pre-reversion period and that have persisted and evolved in Hong Kong under Chinese rule. Like earlier controversies, the conflict over the extradition bill also reflects two sides’ incompatible conceptions of international law and sovereignty that trace back to the 1980s and 1990s. Although there is, thus, much continuity in the legal-political confrontations that have roiled Hong Kong, changing political and social contexts may be making the conflicts more severe and intractable.