June 9 last year marked the start of anti-government protests that continued for months, becoming increasingly violent. That day, an estimated 1 million people took to the streets to demonstrate against an extradition bill which would have allowed fugitives to be sent to mainland China and other jurisdictions with which Hong Kong has no exchange arrangement. The protests became increasingly violent and continued through the rest of 2019. Police responded by firing 16,223 rounds of tear gas, 10,108 rubber bullets, 1,885 sponge grenades, 2,033 beanbag rounds and 19 live bullets between June 2019 and May 2020. A total of 8,981 people were arrested over that period for offences including rioting, common assault and arson. There was a brief respite from the unrest after the opposition camp swept district council elections in November, taking control of 17 out of 18 councils. For a few months in 2020, there were no protests as the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in January brought various measures to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, including social-distancing rules and restrictions on gatherings. Protesters were back on the streets in May but were often quickly dispersed by more forceful police action. What sparked the protests in 2019? It all goes back to the death of a young Hong Kong woman in Taiwan in February 2018. After her body was found stuffed in a suitcase left near a train station, Taipei detectives believed her boyfriend, Hongkonger Chan Tong-kai, 20, was the prime suspect. But he had already returned to Hong Kong and could not be sent to Taiwan to help with investigations because there was no extradition arrangement between the two jurisdictions. In 2019, the Hong Kong government came up with an extradition bill which, if passed, would have led to Chan being sent to Taiwan. However the bill drew widespread criticism because it also allowed extradition of fugitives to other jurisdictions, including mainland China. Alarmed critics said that could lead to white-collar suspects and others being sent to the mainland, where they would have no guarantee of a fair trial, given the opaque legal system. What started as largely peaceful street marches and demonstrations against the bill intensified over the second half of 2019, even after the government withdrew the detested piece of legislation. The protests were marked by increasing violence and vandalism of public property, businesses and banks. Masked, black-clad radicals stormed the legislature, disrupted operations at MTR stations, often trashing facilities, and brought Hong Kong International Airport to a standstill over several days in August, before moving on to occupy university campuses. Are protests still going on? The protesters vowed to continue pressuring the Hong Kong government to meet their demands, including holding an independent inquiry into police use of force and allowing universal suffrage in the city. The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic kept Hong Kong free of protests in early 2020. But as the health crisis eased, protesters returned to the streets in early May. This time, they opposed the national anthem bill , which outlawed misusing or insulting March of the Volunteers with fines of up to HK$50,000 (US$6,450) and three years in prison. The law, which critics said would erode freedom of expression , was passed amid chaotic scenes in the Legislative Council on June 4. Protesters also objected to Beijing’s move to introduce a national security law specifically designed for Hong Kong, to outlaw acts of “subversion, secession, terrorism or conspiring with foreign influences”. Tired of waiting for Hong Kong to draft its own national security law, as required under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini constitution, Beijing began drafting the law itself. It could be in place by as early as the end of June, and critics fear it will mean significant curbs on the activities of protesters and opposition politicians. How did the protests gain international attention? During the social unrest in 2019, protest leaders and pro-democracy figures lobbied western politicians, including in the United States, where they succeeded in gaining bipartisan support. Protesters in Hong Kong were also sometimes seen waving foreign flags, including the US and British flags. Last November, the US Congress passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act under which the administration must decide annually if Hong Kong still enjoyed sufficient autonomy from mainland China to qualify for special trade treatment. The US and Britain reacted strongly when Beijing announced in May that it was preparing a new national security law for Hong Kong. In the midst of a trade war and heightening tension between the US and China, the US declared that Hong Kong was no longer highly autonomous from Beijing. US President Donald Trump then announced he intended to strip the city of its preferential trading status. Britain, meanwhile, said the national security law went against the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984, before Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997. Under the agreement, China’s basic policies regarding Hong Kong would remain unchanged for 50 years after the handover, including promising the city a high degree of autonomy. Britain has said it will now make it easier for Hongkongers holding British National (Overseas) passports to move there if they wish. What have the protesters achieved? Protesters who have returned to the streets since May are often seen holding up their hands with outstretched fingers, reflecting their call for “five demands, not one less”. Through 2019, the movement went from seeking the withdrawal of the extradition bill to also demanding a commission of inquiry to investigate police conduct in the protests; amnesty for those arrested; a halt to characterising the protests as riots; and political reform to give Hong Kong universal suffrage. Only one of those demands was met when the extradition bill was formally withdrawn last September, after three months of protests. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor dismissed the demand for an inquiry into police action, preferring to leave the existing Independent Police Complaints Council to look into the force’s handling of protests. It concluded in late May that there was no systemic problem and officers only used force in reaction to violence. The report was widely criticised by opposition politicians and human-rights watchers. What lies ahead for the protest movement? Protesters insist that they will keep up their fight till all their demands have been met. This year they have come up against not only restrictions related to Covid-19, but also a change of tactics by police. Unlike last year when officers waited until violence and mayhem broke out before responding, the force is now pre-empting protesters. On May 27, protesters were called to action in various parts of Hong Kong, including outside Legco, to disrupt lawmakers from debating the national anthem bill. The protests failed to materialise as police stepped up their presence early, swarming the area around Legco and arresting hundreds of protesters at different locations. The force cited ongoing pandemic concerns and restrictions on the size of gatherings to ban large rallies, including the annual June 4 vigil to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing in 1989. Thousands of people defied the ban and turned up for the vigil. It is left to be seen if the new national security law by Beijing will affect Hong Kong’s protesters, and how. Critics expect that the law may be used against protest leaders and their supporters. Beijing has also indicated that when the law is in place, mainland agents may arrive in Hong Kong to help enforce it.