Photo/IllutrationPolicemen stand guard on a road as protesters march toward the Legislative Council after they continue to protest against the extradition bill in Hong Kong on June 17. (AP Photo)

I still recall how excited I felt the first time I read “Shingeki no kyojin” (Attack on Titan), an enormously popular Japanese manga series.

Humans reside in uneasy peace in a community protected by three enormous walls. Outside the walls is a wasteland swarming with giant humanoid creatures called Titans that devour people.

When the walls are finally broken, people band together to fight back against the gigantic monsters.

In 2014, Hong Kong's youth apparently found an intriguing analogy between them and the embattled humans in the manga series.

Some of the young people who took part in the pro-democracy demonstrations that year against Chinese efforts to tighten control over the former British colony referred to episodes of the manga.

Tens of thousands of people joined the Umbrella Movement protests, using umbrellas to shield themselves against police tear gas and pepper spray, and occupying major roads for almost three months.

Five years later, Hong Kong is being roiled again by large-scale, spirited demonstrations, described as a reincarnation of the movement.

This time, people in the city are fighting the so-called fugitives bill, designed to enable authorities to extradite criminal suspects to China.

Critics fear Beijing could use the proposed legislation to seize anyone in the territory at will and whisk them off to China on trumped-up charges for trial in the country's Communist Party-controlled courts.

For anyone who has read “Attack on Titan,” this prospect is likely to conjure up images of giants dragging humans off to the wasteland they inhabit.

Under the so-called “one country, two systems” governance model, freedom of speech is guaranteed in Hong Kong, where the judiciary is supposed to be independent of politics.

But the bill is threatening to break one of the walls that protects freedom in Hong Kong.

For the Chinese authorities, the walls are nothing but obstacles to their political agenda. But they can also serve as mirrors that reflect the absurdities of the dictatorship in China.

The wave of protests is putting huge pressure on Hong Kong’s government. Chief Executive Carrie Lam on June 15 promised to suspend efforts to pass the bill.

But Hong Kong citizens don't seem ready to settle for anything short of the bill's outright withdrawal.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 16

* * *

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.