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Hong Kong is facing its worst political crisis in a generation.
In June, upwards of two million people took to the streets to protest a proposed extradition law that would ship accused criminals to mainland China for trial in Communist courts.
Critics, including Cdl. Joseph Zen, denounced the bill, fearing it would allow Beijing to silence political opponents and mark the end of Hong Kong's political autonomy.
Popular outcry forced local authorities to suspend the extradition bill, but dissent continues, with demonstrators now demanding full democracy.
"People should be independent and free, and we should have our own rights," said one protester.
Meanwhile, heavy-handed crackdowns by police are intensifying, and the once-peaceful protests have turned increasingly violent, with flights canceled, trains disrupted and shops and businesses shuttered.
The protests are seen as a direct challenge to the rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping who, on Wednesday, met with Communist leaders to address the growing crisis.
Xi reportedly discussed intervening directly to quash the protests, referencing former Chinese dictator Deng Xiaoping who, in 1989, crushed pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, killing thousands.
Fears are growing that in reaching for greater freedom, the citizens of Hong Kong may trigger backlash from Beijing and come under total Communist control.