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Hong Kong: Democracy Vote Suspended

For WSJ, Isabella Steger reports: Four weeks after volleys of tear gas by police led thousands of protesters to seize control of streets across Hong Kong, the leaders of the pro-democracy movement are struggling to control its disparate groups as fatigue and frustration set in.

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On Sunday, a split among the protest groups led to the abrupt cancellation of a two-day vote on the latest offer by city officials, just hours before it was set to begin. Some protesters criticized the vote saying the groups organizing it didn’t represent them.

‘“In this movement, I’m motivated by myself, not the leadership.”’

—Bonnie Kong, 30

“I admit the [leaders] have made a mistake,” said Alex Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students. “We look forward to having more discussions with protesters in the three protest sites.”

A pro-democracy protester sits on a barricade at a protest site in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014. Four weeks after tens of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets demanding free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city, weary demonstrators remain encamped across several major roads.   AFP PHOTO / Philippe LopezPHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

A pro-democracy protester sits on a barricade at a protest site in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014.   Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

He linked hands with other key figures from the three groups leading the protests and bowed in apology. Joshua Wong, the 18-year-old leader of one of the two student groups, asked for protesters’ forgiveness, and all admitted that the decision to hold the vote was hasty and lacked preparation.

“Without [a united front] the protest groups can’t consolidate power and there is no structure for discussions, let alone making decisions.”

– Leung Kwok-hung, chairman of the League of Social Democrats

Bonnie Kong, 30, who works in media sales, said she accepted the leaders’ apology but said they didn’t represent her. “We don’t follow the leadership,” she said. “In this movement, I’m motivated by myself, not the leadership.”

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The city’s government, which has refused to meet their demands, is hoping that public opinion turns against the students. Groups of opponents to the protesters, wearing blue ribbons in support of the police, carried out a petition drive and held rallies over the weekend.

“The most resilient aspect of this movement is the unity of the protesters. There is no ‘organizer’ in this movement. Each time the crowds swelled, was it because ‘organizers’ asked people to come out or was it because of something the government did?”

– Keita Lee, 28, a cook, who expects the occupation of Admiralty to last at least until the Lunar New Year in February

On Sunday evening, Carrie Lam, the government official who led the one meeting with students, called for more talks. “Our community expects the government and the student representatives to hold more dialogues in order to as soon as possible get out of the current impasse,” Ms. Lam said in a TV interview.

Pro-democracy leaders (L-R) Benny Tai, Joshua Wong and Alan Leong arrive. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Pro-democracy leaders (L-R) Benny Tai, Joshua Wong and Alan Leong arrive. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Besides tear gas and pepper spray, the protesters have endured attacks from opponents and efforts by police and others to clear the roads they occupy in three densely populated districts of Hong Kong, including the main protest site surrounding the city government headquarters. Those actions have galvanized the protesters, drawing out large crowds whenever the movement was under attack.

But time is starting to take its toll. Read the rest of this entry »

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[EXCLUSIVE] Hong Kong Democracy Protests — Democracy, Strategy and Tactics

The Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters had planned to have some kind of vote yesterday on how they would go forward.  But they didn’t.  From the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s leading English-language newspaper:

Occupy Central protesters and observers yesterday backed an 11th-hour decision to scrap a poll on the way forward for the month-old sit-in, saying the move made it easier to enter into more talks with the government.

Protest leaders announced the U-turn hours before the electronic ballot was to start at 7pm and apologised for not having sufficiently discussed with demonstrators the poll’s methodology and objectives. But shelving it did not mean they had shifted their stance or intended to end the occupation, Federation of Students secretary general Alex Chow Yong-kang said.

Some protesters had said the poll was redundant. A huge banner that called for delaying the poll was hung from an Admiralty footbridge yesterday morning.

Occupy co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said: “The public may feel there are problems with the movement’s organisation and leadership, and we admit that … I promise that in the future, we will give sufficient notice to and discuss with protesters before making a major formal decision.”

For me, the lesson in this story is that “democracy” is not a self-executing political panacea. Democracy has a value — a high value — as ONE element of a fair and well-ordered society. But democracy can only serve its proper function as a check on the tyranny of the state when it operates within a system of well-defined and transparent laws and institutions. It is not surprising to me that the vote called by the protesters did not happen. There was no framework of law and institutional operation within which it could happen.

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Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters still occupy the ground in front of the main government offices — but what do they do now?

The smartest lawyers and statesmen in the rebel colonies worked for many months to draft the Constitution of the United States before it was finally implemented. Doing this created the framework of laws and institutions in which democracy operated as only one dynamic part of a system that was crafted after extremely careful deliberation by some of the wisest men who have ever considered these issues. The Framers of the US Constitution did their work after putting in place a temporary structure — the Articles of Confederation — to ensure a stable environment for long enough to work out the permanent “political operating system” for their country. They did not do their work in the heated stress and passion of an armed rebellion against the Crown. They first made an imperfect compromise in the Articles of Confederation to buy themselves the time they knew it would take to work out a truly well-ordered system. My advice to the protesters: study history.

“For me, the lesson in this story is that “democracy” is not a self-executing political panacea. Democracy has a value — a high value — as ONE element of a fair and well-ordered society.”

The problem, of course, is that there is no time for study.  The pro-democracy protesters have been improvising and responding to the largely pro-Beijing government’s actions from the beginning.  They are working from a base that is fueled by legitimate passion for liberty and fear of tyranny, but without a well-established leadership operating within a widely-recognized and accepted organizational structure.

“But democracy can only serve its proper function as a check on the tyranny of the state when it operates within a system of well-defined and transparent laws and institutions.”

In any conflict, all things being equal, the side with the more easily achieved strategic goal and the larger number of tactical options will prevail. For better or worse, in this situation, the side with both of these advantages is the pro-establishment side. For the pro-Beijing Hong Kong government, the strategic “victory condition” is maintaining the status quo, and they have a broad range of tactical options along the spectrum of patiently waiting out the protesters on one end to forcefully removing them on the other. I fear the pro-democracy side may not really realize this or, if they do, can think of no tactical response other than “keep doing what we’re doing.” Without regard to the merits of either side’s goals, this makes the pro-democracy side’s strategic and tactical position very weak. Unless they realize this and adjust their strategy and tactics accordingly, the outcome for them does not look good.

“In any conflict, all things being equal, the side with the more easily achieved strategic goal and the larger number of tactical options will prevail. For better or worse, in this situation, the side with both of these advantages is the pro-establishment side.”

This grim picture is playing itself out in a situation where the largest number of the anti-establishment protesters are high school and college students, without strong and experienced leadership that has been tested over time, and without any organizational infrastructure to support the building of strategic or tactical consensus.  Unless this situation changes, it looks increasingly unlikely that the pro-democracy movement will put itself into a situation where it can achieve a real “victory.”  If their only tool is a “passion for democracy,” they cannot prevail.

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Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement is fenced in by its own passions.


Hong Kong Readies for Protester Vote

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City Calm Ahead of a Vote Organized by Pro-Democracy Protest Leaders

Chester Yung, Fiona Law and Prudence Ho reporting: Hong Kong was calm Sunday ahead of a two-day vote organized by protest leaders—an attempt to seek popular legitimacy for a pro-democracy movement that for almost a month has clogged the city’s main arteries.
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Crowds grew Saturday at the downtown protest site, as they have during other weekends, though there were no reports of clashes between demonstrators and police as on other recent evenings.

The student-led protesters want anyone to be able to stand for Hong Kong’s first ever public ballot for chief executive in 2017. China’s government in August ruled a selection committee largely loyal to Beijing will select those who can stand, sparking the protests.

People listened to talks between student leaders and senior government officials as they were broadcast live at a protest site in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Oct. 21, 2014. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

People listened to talks between student leaders and senior government officials as they were broadcast live at a protest site in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Some local citizens—who have taken to wearing blue ribbons—are angry that students have shut down parts of the city over the issue. On Saturday night there were reports that some blue ribbon demonstrators had attacked journalists covering their counter protests in Kowloon.

“I agree with the students’ goal. Who doesn’t want a democratic society?” 

– Tung Chee-hwa

Radio Television Hong Kong and Television Broadcasts Ltd. issued statements complaining their journalists had been pushed and kicked by blue ribbon protesters. Police haven’t made any arrests.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying reiterated Saturday he won’t resign, saying the protesters’ demands aren’t in accordance with the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] J.P. Morgan Banker Video-Bombs Live Interview With Hong Kong Protesters

“Hong Kong has many people who are against Occupy Central. The fact that a majority of people are against Occupy…but that you guys continue to occupy the sites, that’s most undemocratic of all.”

– David Lau, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. banker, corporate finance division

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For WSJ, Prudence Ho reports: A senior J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. banker walking to lunch on Wednesday interrupted a live roundtable webcast on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests to express his frustration over the continued street blockage.

“Do you think you’re being democratic? There’s a show going on and then you just come in to interrupt us.” 

– Martin Lee, founding chairman of Democratic Party, who was one of the guests

J.P. Morgan said Thursday that Mr. Lau’s comments were his own personal opinions and don’t represent the bank’s views.

J.P. Morgan said that Mr. Lau’s comments were his own personal opinions and don’t represent the bank’s views.

David Lau, who heads the U.S. investment bank’s China corporate finance division, walked into the interview with protest leaders and a democracy advocate that was being streamed by local paper Apple Daily, live from the Admiralty protest site.

“People are trying to get to work, and you’ve blocked off the streets. That’s not democratic either, is it?”

– David Lau, who didn’t realize his comments were being streamed live

“Hong Kong has many people who are against Occupy Central,” said Mr. Lau, who was wearing a blue shirt. “The fact that a majority of people are against Occupy…but that you guys continue to occupy the sites, that’s most undemocratic of all.”

[Follow Pundit Planet's EXCLUSIVE coverage of the Hong Kong protests]

He ignored attempts by the program’s host to stop him, and continued speaking for nearly two minutes, though he never lost his cool during the interruption. Read the rest of this entry »


Nude Celebrity Leak Panic on Horizon as Mainland China Attacks Apple’s iCloud

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Apple iCloud users in mainland China have a cyber issue on their hands as the service is hit by an attack that could allow access to personal data

WSJ‘s Scott Thurm reports: Apple Inc. ’s iCloud service for users in mainland China has been hit by an attack that could allow perpetrators to intercept and see usernames, passwords and other personal data, activists and security analysts said.

“It’s evident that it’s quite massive.”

—Erik Hjelmvik, analyst

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“That’s what she said.”STAMP-panic-red

– Primatologist

Though the perpetrator’s identity was unclear, the attack came as tensions between the U.S. and Chinese governments have simmered over accusations of cyberespionage and hacking attacks.

The online censorship watchdog GreatFire.org claimed Chinese authorities were behind the attack, though other experts said the source couldn’t be determined. A spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry said she was unaware of the matter and reiterated Beijing’s position that it opposes cyberattacks.

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Apple said in a statement on its website that it is aware of “intermittent organized network attacks” aimed at obtaining user information from iCloud.com. The company added that the attacks don’t compromise the company’s iCloud servers and don’t affect iCloud sign-in on Apple devices running its iOS mobile software or Macs running OS X Yosemite using its Safari browser.

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Apple said users should not sign into iCloud.com if they receive a warning from their browser that it is not a trusted site. This suggests that the user has been compromised.

Apple did not mention China in its statement. Read the rest of this entry »


Beijing Artists Designs Wedding Dress Made of Anti-Pollution Masks to ‘Marry the Sky’

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Photos of Beijing Bride’s Anti-Pollution Lingerie Not Available

A woman wearing a wedding dress made out of 999 anti-pollution masks with a 10-tumblr_ndsucerAFz1som6aeo4_250-1meter long trail drew crowds recently in Beijing.

It was apparently in a move to bring more attention to environmental protection. The “bride” was a Chinese artist who had designed her wedding dress to ‘marry’ the sky, according to Chinanews.

Many Chinese on social media gave a thumbs-up to the artist’s creativity… (read more)

This is the most fun we’ve had with festive wedding gowns since this popular item from our October 2013 edition:

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Wedding dress made of “cups, plates, and plastic utensils…”

[Best Day of the Dead Costume Ever, Oct 31st, 2013]

 


Chinese Christians passionately support Hong Kong protesters

Originally posted on Vancouver Sun:

A vigorous debate between Chinese Christians in Canada has been taking place on this blog, The Search, in the last couple of weeks over whether to fully support the Hong Kong protests.

In this installment more than two dozen Chinese Christians with roots in Vancouver passionately stand up for the pro-democracy protesters, who are in the third week of a stand-offwith troops and politicians over their dogged push for free elections in Hong Kong.

Their critical aim is focussed on Jonathan Chan, executive director of the Company of Canadians, an ethnically diverse B.C.-based Christian ministry that counts some of the city’s 100,000 Chinese Christiansamong its members.

(For the record, Chan has never claimed to me to represent the views of all or most Chinese Christians in Vancouver. But, since the writers of the public letter below have made that question a centre of their argument, I will leave…

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Hong Kong has too many poor people to allow direct elections, leader says

Originally posted on Quartz:

HONG KONG—Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement protesters have been demanding that the city’s top official, CY Leung, step down for weeks now. They may soon be joined by many more of the city’s 7 million residents, after a controversial interview last night in which Leung suggested that election reforms sought by the protestors would invite undue influence from the city’s poor.

Speaking at his official residence, a colonial-era mansion set above the city—it’s furnished with crystal chandeliers and guarded by massive stone lions—Leung addressed three foreign newspapers that target Hong Kong’s wealthy international community. Allowing the entire voting population of Hong Kong, some 5 million people, to directly nominate candidates for the city’s top official position would be a mistake, Leung said:

“If it’s entirely a numbers game—numeric representation—then obviously you’d be talking to half the people in Hong Kong [that] earn less than US$1,800 a month. You would end…

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Hong Kong Protest and Social Media: Man Arrested Over Online Messages

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HONG KONG — Gillian Wong reports: A man was arrested on suspicion of posting messages online that urged people to gather and agitate at a protest site, police said Sunday.

“The arrest marks a relatively new tactic in Hong Kong police’s attempts to curb the demonstrations that have paralyzed key sections of the city for weeks.”

The move—one of the first such arrests during three weeks of d”emonstrations here—could potentially chill the protesters’ use of the Internet and social media to mobilize large crowds.

[Follow Pundit Planet's EXCLUSIVE coverage of the Hong Kong Protests]

The Hong Kong Police Force said in a statement on its website that a 23-year-old man had been arrested Saturday on suspicion of “accessing a computer with illegal or dishonest intentions” and illegal assembly.

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A preliminary police investigation revealed the man had posted messages on online discussion boards urging others to go to Mong Kok—one of three main protest sites—to “join an illegal assembly, attack police and paralyze subway lines,” the statement said. The man, who has been released on bail, is separately accused of illegal assembly in Mong Kok, the statement said.

The police declined to give further information about the man or say whether he has retained a lawyer. Attempts by The Wall Street Journal to contact the man have been unsuccessful. Read the rest of this entry »


HK: Dueling Definitions of Democracy

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Rhetoric aside, China has always retained the final say on how the city’s leaders would be chosen. That power was enshrined in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, by giving Beijing the right to final interpretations, including on elections.

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Martin Lee, a leading democratic activist and former legislator who sat on the law’s drafting committee.

“There was no doubt in our minds that Beijing was quite prepared to give us democracy or universal suffrage as everybody would understand it to be.”

– Martin Lee

When China and the U.K. began negotiating the transfer of Hong Kong in the early 1980s, both sides spoke optimistically about elections. Promises for future balloting were embedded in documents signed at the time to guide Hong Kong after its return to Chinese control in 1997.

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For WSJ Ned Levin, Charles Hutzler and Jenny Gross: In recent months, arguments over the meaning of those promises have helped to propel increasingly confrontational protests over how the city will choose its next leader in 2017. Beijing says that it has honored its commitment to provide universal suffrage; pro-democracy activists say that China has trampled those promises by insisting that candidates be approved by a committee whose members are largely pro-business and pro-Beijing.

“No one told Hong Kongers when they were assured of universal suffrage that it would not mean being able to choose for whom they could vote.”

Rhetoric aside, China has always retained the final say on how the city’s leaders would be chosen. That power was enshrined in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, by giving Beijing the right to final interpretations, including on elections.

“They can interpret white as black, yellow, green or red. And tomorrow, they can interpret back to white,” said Martin Lee, a leading democratic activist and former legislator who sat on the law’s drafting committee. He resigned after China’s bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

The agreement to return Hong Kong to China was signed by U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang in 1984. During a tense 1982 trip to China, Mrs. Thatcher tripped and stumbled on the steps of the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Clashes in Hong Kong: Cops Mix it Up with Protesters in Tunnel, Streets

Pro-democracy activists clashed with police and barricaded a tunnel near Hong Pro-democracy activists clashed with police and barricaded a tunnel near Hong Kong’s government headquarters overnight on Tuesday, expanding their protest zone again after being cleared out of some other streets in the latest escalation of tensions in a weeks-long political crisis.

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The demonstrators blocked the underpass with tyres, metal and plastic safety barriers and concrete slabs taken from drainage ditches. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Want Your Avoid Having Your South Korean Citizenship Application Rejected? Be Prepared to Prove You Can Sing This Song

Can’t Sing the National Anthem? No Passport For You

Should you have to prove you can sing the national anthem of a country if you want it to make you a citizen?

In the U.S. the answer is no, but in South Korea it’s a clear yes.

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Chinese Woman Denied South Korean Citizenship Because She Couldn’t Sing the National Anthem

That’s what a 52-year-old Chinese woman found out when she failed to pass an interview in November to become Korean.

“At the test, we don’t expect the applicant to sing in perfect tune, but we expect to hear the right lyrics. If the applicant fails at the first try, we give one more chance to sing in thirty minutes or an hour. She failed both.”

According to the Justice Ministry, the woman, known only by her Korean surname Choi, flunked three tests; singing the national anthem, understanding the ideas of free democracy and basic knowledge about South Korea.

Seoul’s education office in August provided a new version of the song in a key two steps lower than the original composition, after complaints were raised that high notes in the song make it difficult for students to sing, particularly boys going through puberty.

Ms. Choi then filed a complaint with the Seoul Administrative Court, which ruled on Sept. 30 that the ministry’s decision was legitimate as it followed due process in a fair and valid way. Read the rest of this entry »


Would You Like Pepper With That? Hong Kong Protesters Return to Mong Kok District

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HONG KONG—Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators swarmed back to a protest site Friday night that police had cleared earlier in the day, clashing with officers yet again on the streets of a city struggling to find a way out of a deepening political crisis.

“Apparently their action has triggered more people to occupy Mong Kok again. It’s totally congested with protesters who are forced by police to block the sidewalks and we couldn’t move at all.”

— Lisa Wan

Crowds swelled in the city’s Mong Kok district, one of Hong Kong’s three main protest sites, chanting “open the way” as police in riot gear linked hands to block people from crossing into the area’s main streets. People who were being held back by officers spilled onto side streets and onto already-packed sidewalks, as crowds shouted and jeered.

[Follow Pundit Planet's EXCLUSIVE coverage of the Hong Kong Protests]

Police used pepper spray on several protesters and detained a number of people, including acclaimed international photojournalist Paula Bronstein. A representative for Getty Images said Ms. Bronstein was on assignment for Getty to shoot the protests in Hong Kong and was awaiting more information.

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Hours earlier, before dawn Friday, protesters voluntarily left the Mong Kok encampment after hundreds of officers descended on the site and ordered the crowds to pack up and leave. Police were able to reopen traffic on one of the major thoroughfares in the area for the first time in days. But later in the morning, protesters started to rebuild their camp, again closing one lane of traffic. Tents re-emerged and trolleys of water and food were carted in as police lined the block and watched.

By Friday evening, thousands of protesters were again trying to fully close the entire street as police struggled to keep them at bay. Traffic was snarled throughout the area, and police tried to move demonstrators out of the way of city buses that had been caught up in the standoff. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Protesters Stage Another ‘Umbrella Marathon’ Run

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Gregor Stuart Hunter reports: For protesters sleeping on the streets of Hong Kong, the past three weeks have at times felt like a marathon. Now, they have a real one. Sort of.

“At a dire time like this, when we’ve been camped out for 19 days, this really helps boost morale.”

On Thursday night, runners returned for the second “Umbrella Marathon” following Sunday’s inaugural event, and named after the symbol of the city’s pro-democracy protests. The route is on downtown roads that are temporarily pedestrianized as a result of the sit-in, and just 2.5 miles compared to a regular marathon’s 26.2-mile slog.

Participants ran waving illuminated mobile phones in the nighttime air and cheered “Hong Kong, Hong Kong” as the students watching from the surrounding tent city broke into applause.

“Running is synonymous with freedom.”

“At a dire time like this, when we’ve been camped out for 19 days, this really helps boost morale,” said Nikki Lau, one of a handful of volunteers who organized the event in a single day after being inspired by a blog post.

The event drew a wide mix of Hong Kong society, including professionals and expatriates who said they had been looking for a role to play in supporting Hong Kong’s democratic aspirations. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong: Love in the Time of Protests


Hong Kong Protests: The Power of Ridicule

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For Hong Kong Protesters, Ridicule Proves an Effective Formula

On the streets of Hong Kong, protesting students have found a novel way to assail their opponents. They sing “Happy Birthday.” As the WSJ’s Andrew Browne writes in this week’s China’s World column:

Lusty choruses of the song—in English—rang out in the working-class neighborhood of Mong Kok last week when thugs descended to try to break up the sit-in demonstrations there. The crowds would engulf a hostile interloper and strike up the melody.

It was musical mockery; the equivalent of the medieval pillory designed to publicly embarrass and humiliate. Read the rest of this entry »


State Department Concerned About Spying at Waldorf Astoria: Investigating Sale to Chinese

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The State Department said it is reviewing the sale of the hotel to Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group, and that it may stop leasing space for the U.S. ambassador to the UN or the General Assembly. Anbang is reportedly linked to China’s Communist Party, which has overseen a massive effort to use cyberspying to steal U.S. trade and military secrets.

The NYDaily News‘  reports: The sale of the Waldorf Astoria to a Chinese insurance giant is really bugging the State Department.

Grand plans by Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group “to restore the property to its historic grandeur” has some Washington diplomatic and security insiders wondering if the Chinese will be adding more than a view to kill for.

Officials said Monday they are reviewing the sale — and implied the glittering renovation scheme for the iconic Park Ave. hotel may mask a nefarious purpose: espionage.

State Department officials said they are reviewing the sale of the famous hotel to a Chinese insurance company with possible ties to the country's Communist Party. JUSTIN LANE/EPA

State Department officials said they are reviewing the sale of the famous hotel to a Chinese insurance company with possible ties to the country’s Communist Party.  JUSTIN LANE/EPA

“We are currently in the process of reviewing the details of the sale and the company’s long-term plans for the facility,” said Kurtis Cooper, a spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

The State Department said it may end a 50-year practice of leasing a residence at the hotel for the U.S. ambassador to the UN.

Evan Vucci/ASSOCIATED PRESSIt remains to be seen if President Obama (with daughters Sasha, left, and Malia) will continue staying at the Waldorf's presidential suite during his trips to New York City.

It remains to be seen if President Obama (with daughters Sasha, left, and Malia) will continue staying at the Waldorf’s presidential suite during his trips to New York City.  Evan Vucci/ASSOCIATED PRESSI

Also at stake is the department’s rental of two floors of the Waldorf during the annual UN General Assembly.

The White House declined to say if President Obama will continue staying at the hotel’s presidential suite during trips to New York. Every commander-in-chief since Herbert Hoover has stayed there. Read the rest of this entry »


Paris Soutient La Révolution De Parapluie

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Just Happened: Protesters Successfully Hold off Riot Police in Lung Wo Road with Umbrellas, Barricades


EXCLUSIVE: Hong Kong Democracy Demonstrations, Day 17 — The Empire (sort of) Strikes Back (Hong Kong Style)

Starting this morning, Hong Kong police executed an operation to clear street barricades on Queensway Road and other major arteries in Hong Kong.  It’s unclear to me how the clearing has gone in Causeway Bay and on Nathan Road on the Kowloon side. But in the Admiralty district immediately in front of my office, I’ve been taking periodic trips downstairs to see and photograph the police work methodically all morning and into the afternoon to push protesters back out of the road and systematically dismantle and clear the barricades they had built.

I saw NO violence.  The vast majority of the police wore empty holsters — only very senior officers carried their sidearms.  No riot weapons (shotguns, tear gas grenade launchers) were evident, but other riot gear was visible — small clear plastic shields and helmets (although none of the police were wearing helmets).

A few students were standing on the sidelines weeping, while others had pulled back to the barricades that protected the approaches to the main protest site in front of the government offices, a block away.  Police were making no attempt to clear those barriers.  During one phase of the clearing, the police formed a cordon to allow protesters to retrieve their tents and other personal items from the underpass where they’d been camping.

At one key point along Queensway, students were sitting in the streets leading to the main road.  A line of police standing at the edge of Queensway faced off against this group to keep the students from moving back into the main road.  As of now (1:30 PM Hong Kong time) that is the only large group of police still present on the main road.  I suspect this may stay this way to keep the protesters from trying to re-block Queensway.

All of this was done in what I think of as “Hong Kong style:” Compared to anywhere else in the world (including definitely anywhere else in China), everyone was incredibly polite on both sides, there were a minimum of raised voices, and the police force was professional and outright courteous to the protesters and curious passersby and people who work in the area who had to navigate the work of barricade clearing that was underway all along the road. I saw no arrests and have heard of none.  I spoke with one police officer who told me that no arrests were planned.  The entire operation was very well organized and executed in a very efficient manner — typical Hong Kong.

Now the big question is how the pro-democracy demonstrators will react.  Over the last week or so, they have proved themselves to be a largely leaderless movement.  Will they try to move back onto the main roads and block them again?  If they do, I fear they may lose significant popular support — and that the police response might not be so polite next time.

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Police blockade of area where protesters had encamped under a road crossing.

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Police line blocking access to the protester camp under a road crossing on Queensway.

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Police lines blocked access to the blockade-clearing operation.

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Police carried out the clearing operation with precision and . . . politeness.

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After yesterday’s tense confrontation with the “Antis,” the protesters had reinforced their barricades with bamboo fencing. That didn’t last long.

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Police cordon through which protesters retrieved personal items left at their encampment when the clearing operation had begun earlier in the morning.

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Exclusive PunditCam aerial view of police action on Queensway.

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Police line opposite students sitting in access road.

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Police and democracy demonstrators face off at the edge of Queensway.

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By early afternoon, a few umbrellas are all that was left of the protester encampment in front of the Bank of China Tower.

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Students pushed out of the encampment discussing their next steps.

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Demonstrators at one of the barricade sites still surrounding the main protest area in front of the central government office.

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The main protest site was undisturbed.


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