I hope it ends well

When Hong Kong was “handed over” to China on July 1st, 1997, the plan was that the city, now a Special Administrative Region, would retain its independent laws and institutions for 50 years, and it would have elections with universal suffrage (one person one vote). In 2007, it was decided that universal suffrage would start in 2017.

Discussion on how to regulate the 2017 elections has been going on for the last several months. A coalition of pro-democracy groups ran an informal referendum on the preferred system of election, gathering about 800,000 votes, or a fifth of the registered electorate. All the options in the referendum assumed no vetting process for the candidate, contrary to Beijing’s stance that any system for the 2017 election would only allow candidates pre-approved by the mainland government.

Afterwards (this happened during the summer), the pro-democracy groups organized an enormous rally, which had hundreds of thousands of participants, and announced plans to “occupy Central with love and peace” (Central contains the financial district) on October 1st if the Hong Kong legislature passed an election law in which candidates could run only with Beijing’s approval.

This was followed by an anti-democracy rally, partly attended by people bused in from across the border, which is a rather surreal notion; it’s like people are saying “we want our voices heard about the fact that we do not want our voices heard.”

A few days in advance of October 1st, a group of university students, some of them associated with group scholarism started a sit-in at a government building. Scholarism made news three years ago, when it (successfully) fought the proposal to introduce a “patriotic education” curriculum in grade school.

central-umbrellas

People have been facing the police with umbrellas and goggles to protect themselves from pepper spray.

central-2

The plaza in front of the government building, where the sit-in started, has been cleared, but for the whole weekend both Central and the neighboring district of Admiralty have been filled by thousands of protesters, day and night.

central-people

There is a petition at whitehouse.gov that has already exceeded the threshold required to receive a response, but that people might want to sign on.

Considering how the Chinese government feels about students rallying for democracy, there is reason to be worried.

disperse-or

[photos taken from Facebook, credits unknown]

3 thoughts on “I hope it ends well

  1. Thanks for the post! As a current Hong Kong resident who watched the live thread all yesterday, I’m also deeply concerned. One correction though (with all due respect) :

    – The follow-up rally is about anti-occupy-central, because it’s unlawful. Many of my colleagues at HKU attended the rally. I agree that those who cross the border from mainland may have other objectives in mind, but it’s far from fair to call it an anti-democracy rally.

    Do I agree with the vetting system?

    No, for obvious reasons.

    Do I agree with occupy central?

    No. Hong Kong people have fought for their rights lawfully and successfully many times, even after “handed over” to China. I don’t see why this time it has to be in such a chaotic manner. It’s hurting Hong Kong economy. It’s making the lives of many other Hong Kong residents extremely inconvenient. Most importantly, it will not help getting what they want. The only way Beijing would allow universal suffrage without vetting is to establish trust between Beijing and the pro-democrats. This protest can only destroy trust.

    All in all, the chaos has begun and I don’t see any easy way out of this. All I can do is to keep my fingers crossed and, like you said, hope it ends well…

    PS. The informal referendum is rather surreal imho: it’s like we will have a strict vetting process in the referendum so that there will be no vetting process in the options.

  2. The protests are necessary precisely because the authorities in Beijing will *not* change their mind. Whoever they happen to appoint as a leader now will have little legitimacy among the Hong Kong population.

    Paralyzing the city is a brilliant strategy. It hits the mainland apparatchiks at their core. The only reason Chinese officials are “concerned” about Hong Kong is because much of their corrupt gains are laundered as investments in Hong Kong property. (Nice places for the mistresses to stay on their shopping sprees too.) Let the prices go down and they may well change their tune.

    Most of all, I am awed by all the students who stood up for their beliefs.

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