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Beijing Could Weigh In on Hong Kong Pro-Independence Lawmakers’ Oaths Row

Beijing could throw its weight behind attempts by the Hong Kong government to bar two democratically elected independence activists from taking up their seats in the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo), the city’s leader has indicated.

Chief executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday that he may ask Beijing to “interpret” the city’s miniconstitution, the Basic Law, if a court review of the lawmakers’ status doesn’t go the government’s way.

Sixtus “Baggio” Leung and Yau Wai-ching of the localist group Youngspiration, who were elected to LegCo in last September’s elections, used their swearing-in ceremony last month to pledge to represent the “Hong Kong nation,” inserting swear-words, slurs, and pro-independence slogans into their oaths.

They were unable to take up their seats, as their oaths were deemed invalid by LegCo chairman Andrew Leung, and the government sought their removal from office with a judicial review in the High Court, which will be decided on Thursday.

Sixtus Leung, 30, and Yau, 25, later attempted to re-take their oaths, but were thwarted by a mass walkout of pro-Beijing LegCo members, rendering the ceremony invalid.

Leung told reporters on Tuesday that he could ask China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), to use its ultimate power to interpret the Basic Law.

“We hope to do our utmost to resolve it within Hong Kong, but we cannot rule out this possibility,” Leung said.

“Apart from the case in court….there is a high possibility that other things might be triggered by their oaths and their words and actions afterwards,” Leung said, who recently postponed a trip to Beijing pending the court’s decision. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Mysterious Disappearance Chills Hong Kong 

A fifth person affiliated with a bookstore that sells books critical of China’s government went missing last week, raising concerns over Hong Kong’s freedoms.

Fiona Law reports: Hong Kong police are investigating the disappearance of the co-owner of a bookstore specializing in works critical of the Chinese government, that has prompted local lawmakers to voice fears that mainland Chinese law-enforcement agencies crossed the border to detain him.

Police are also investigating three other disappearances related to the bookstore, said John Lee, acting head of Hong Kong’s Security Bureau.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Hong Kong and foreign media  have reported that the wife of Lee Bo, a shareholder of Causeway Bay Books, told police on Friday that Mr. Lee had gone missing and that four people who worked for the bookstore or a publisher affiliated with it have gone missing in recent months, including one who disappeared in Thailand.

[Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

“It is terrifying,” said Albert Ho, a pro-democracy lawmaker. “So the mainland police can publicly arrest people in Hong Kong?”

On Sunday, a group of lawmakers and activists marched to the central Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, demanding answers about the missing people. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Occupy Hong Kong: Dreams Deferred 

For more than 10 weeks last fall, thousands of protesters occupied Hong Kong’s streets and demanded true democracy. A year later, the movement appears to have stalled.


[VIDEO] End of the Umbrella Revolution: ‘Hong Kong Silenced’


In September 2014, VICE News documented the birth of the so-called Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. When students organized a weeklong strike to protest China’s handling of the local election process, the government responded with tear gas.

Thousands of Hong Kong residents took to the city’s streets in solidarity with the students and the protesters occupied several major roads for weeks on end.

[Read more about the Umbrella Movement at punditfromanotherplanet.com]

Nearly two months into the occupation, the demands and resolve of the protesters remained unchanged. They started to become fatigued and divided against each other, however, and public support for their cause began to decline. The movement was under immense pressure to either escalate their action, or to retreat and give back the streets.

When VICE News returned to Hong Kong near the end of 2014 to check in on the protesters, we witnessed the final days of the Umbrella Movement’s pro-democracy demonstrations.

Watch “Hong Kong Rising

Read “Hong Kong Leader Warns Concessions Could Lead to ‘Anarchy,’ as Scuffles Break Out in ParliamentRead the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Democrats Unite

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The territory blocks Beijing’s preferred election law

Hong Kong democrats celebrated Thursday as the city’s legislature blocked passage of the Beijing-backed election law that sparked last year’s 75-day mass protests. Not that this was a surprise. Beijing’s vision of democracy—a rigged election in which Hong Kongers could vote only for candidates chosen by a small pro-Beijing committee—was politically dead on arrival.

“All 27 pro-democracy legislators voted no and even picked up a vote from outside their caucus. The pro-Beijing camp staged a disorderly last-minute walk-out, leaving only eight votes in support of Beijing’s proposal. The veto would have held either way, but the scene was an appropriate end to the government’s attempt to subvert universal suffrage.”

Democrats in the legislature had the votes to block Beijing’s plan since it was announced last August. Then came the protests, during which democrats displayed greater numbers and determination than anyone expected. Public opinion, long critical of the government but divided on the reform vote, increasingly came to favor veto. Outside the legislature on Thursday, democrats outnumbered nominal pro-Beijing demonstrators, who wore matching shirts, refused to speak to the media and spoke Mandarin, not Hong Kong’s dominant Cantonese language.

“Unless Beijing puts forward a more acceptable plan, Hong Kong’s next leader will be selected in 2017 like the last, by a 1,200-member committee of the territory’s elite.”

All 27 pro-democracy legislators voted no and even picked up a vote from outside their caucus. The pro-Beijing camp staged a disorderly last-minute walk-out, leaving only eight votes in support of Beijing’s proposal. The veto would have held either way, but the scene was an appropriate end to the government’s attempt to subvert universal suffrage. Read the rest of this entry »


Isabella Steger: Hong Kong Votes Down Beijing-Backed Election Plan

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For the Chinese government, the defeat was a blow to its effort to integrate Hong Kong into the mainland. And it was a rare defeat for the country’s Communist Party

HONG KONG — Isabella Steger reports: Hong Kong’s legislature rejected a Beijing-backed election-reform plan, ending a year of turmoil in the city and dealing a setback to the former British colony’s relationship with mainland China.

The outcome was expected, but the vote was called abruptly amid the second day of debate for the package, which would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to vote for their leader for the first time but required that candidates be vetted by a pro-Beijing committee.

“After about 20 months of intense political wrangling, many people feel fatigued. No matter what the result today, society needs some time to calm down and reflect on what has happened over these past 20 months, and think about the future direction of Hong Kong.”

— Carrie Lam, the city’s No. 2 official who has spearheaded the effort to sell the electoral overhaul plan

Pro-government lawmakers walked out of the legislature before the vote, leaving the chamber filled with mostly opposition lawmakers, who had vowed to reject the plan. The vote was 28 against and eight in favor, with 34 not voting. The vote would have required a two-thirds majority to pass.

“After about 20 months of intense political wrangling, many people feel fatigued,” said Carrie Lam, the city’s No. 2 official who has spearheaded the effort to sell the electoral overhaul plan, in concluding remarks in the legislature just before the vote. “No matter what the result today, society needs some time to calm down and reflect on what has happened over these past 20 months, and think about the future direction of Hong Kong.”

Pro-democracy lawmaker Charles Mok is surrounded by veto signs during his speech in Hong Kong’s legislature on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Pro-democracy lawmaker Charles Mok is surrounded by veto signs during his speech in Hong Kong’s legislature on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

“We used our sacred vote today to veto a fake universal suffrage proposal. We helped Hong Kong people send a clear message to Beijing that we want real choice. This isn’t the end of the democracy movement in Hong Kong. A new chapter starts today.”

— Alan Leong, a pro-democracy legislator, told reporters after the vote

The vote on Thursday marks probably the most critical event in Hong Kong’s political development since pro-democracy activists started angling for greater democracy in the territory in the 1980s. Ms. Lam said Thursday that she couldn’t predict at what point Hong Kong’s democratic development would resume.

The rejection of the reform proposal was a victory for pro-democracy legislators who stuck to their pledge to reject the plan. The group had come under pressure from Beijing, which said they could be held to account for their votes. It was a serious defeat for Hong Kong’s government, which was forced to promote Beijing’s plan despite opposition in Hong Kong.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

“We used our sacred vote today to veto a fake universal suffrage proposal,” Alan Leong, a pro-democracy legislator, told reporters after the vote. “We helped Hong Kong people send a clear message to Beijing that we want real choice. This isn’t the end of the democracy movement in Hong Kong. A new chapter starts today”. Read the rest of this entry »


5 Things About the Hong Kong Vote

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Isabella Steger reports: Hong Kong’s legislature is expected to vote down a proposal that would let the public directly elect the city’s chief executive in 2017 — but only from a prescreened slate of candidates. The showdown follows city-wide protests and a year and a half of efforts by Hong Kong’s leaders to sell the Beijing-backed election plan. Here are five things to know about the vote.

1. The Legislature Will Vote This Week

The proposal currently on the table will be put to a vote this Wednesday and Thursday. This is arguably the most critical of five stages in the election overhaul blueprint, laid down by Beijing and in accordance with the Basic LawHong Kong’s mini-constitution

2. Pro-Democracy Lawmakers Oppose the Package

The package lays out the rules for electing Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017 within a framework formulated by Chinese authorities, in which all candidates must be nominated by a 1,200-member committee that is heavily pro-Beijing. After slight tweaks announced in April, the opposition maintains that the system is not democratic enough to allow one of their own candidates to stand.

3. The Plan Is Not Likely to Pass

27 pro-democracy lawmakers — who control a little more than one-third of the city’s legislature –say they will vote against the package, as has one lawmaker who isn’t part of the opposition camp. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong: Tiananmen Vigil Highlights a Rift

 Sit In Protest Continues In Hong Kong Despite Chief Executive's Calls To Withdraw

Some student groups won’t join annual vigil on June 4

HONG KONG— Isabella Steger reports: Every year for a quarter-century, large Hong Kong crowds have commemorated the 1989 crackdown on student protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. This June 4, some young Hong Kongers say they won’t join in.

Much like in Beijing in 1989, student groups were at the forefront of the monthslong pro-democracy protests that paralyzed much of Hong Kong last year and which challenged Beijing on how Hong Kong should elect its leader.

“I feel very sad. It’s a watershed year in my life” she said. “To call the ocean of candlelight ceremonial or perfunctory, it’s just not fair.”

— Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker and former journalist who was in Beijing during the 1989 crackdown

Unlike in Beijing, the Hong Kong protests ended peacefully, though with no visible concession from the Chinese government. What the rallies also did was lay bare a growing chasm between old and young over Hong Kong’s identity and relationship with Beijing. That rift is now playing out over the annual Tiananmen vigil, with some student groups saying Hong Kongers should focus on democratic rights in the territory rather than on the mainland.

“Every year it’s the same, we sing the same songs and watch the same videos. For some people, going to the vigil is a bit like clocking in. Should we continue looking back on a historical event, or focus on the more urgent situation here now?”

— Cameron Chan, 20, a social-sciences student at the University of Hong Kong

The University of Hong Kong’s student union will organize its own June 4 event “to reflect on the future of democracy in Hong Kong.” Separately, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, the main group leading last year’s protests, said that for the first time it won’t participate in the vigil as an organization.

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. Four weeks after tens of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets demanding free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

“I feel very sad,” said Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker and former journalist who was in Beijing during the 1989 crackdown. “It’s a watershed year in my life” she said. “To call the ocean of candlelight ceremonial or perfunctory, it’s just not fair.”

“Going to the vigil is a bit like clocking in.”

—Cameron Chan, University of Hong Kong student

But to Cameron Chan, 20, a social-sciences student at the University of Hong Kong, it is precisely that the annual vigil has become such a fixture that is the problem.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

The student group’s decision is baffling to many democracy supporters in the city, who see the annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to remember the Tiananmen victims as an important civic duty—not least because it’s the only mass commemoration of the event in the Greater China universe.

Last year’s pro-denmocracy protests in Hong Kong were led by students, here seen gathered in front of the offices of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Oct. 2.Photo: Zuma Press

Last year’s pro-denmocracy protests in Hong Kong were led by students, here seen gathered in front of the offices of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Oct. 2.Photo: Zuma Press

“I don’t see how Hong Kong can fully divorce itself from democracy movements on the mainland.”

—Joshua Wong, student leader

“I cannot understand [the students’] thinking,” said Jack Choi, a 36-year-old who works in finance and has been going to the vigil on and off since 2000. “It’s two separate issues. Our mother is China, if the mother is not free, how can the child be?” Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Election Reform Plan Compliations

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Hong Kong’s electoral reform proposal can at times resemble a complicated math problem.

Real Time China‘s Isabella Steger writes: On Wednesday, the government unveiled an updated package for the 2017 chief executive election following a second round of public consultation. The gist of it? The government says their reform package now makes it easier for people to participate in the election. The opposition says in reality, the vote is still one rigged in favor of pro-Beijing candidates.

The government has repeatedly said that Beijing’s Aug. 31 decision that any candidate running in the election must be pre-screened by a nominating committee cannot be amended. The decision, simply referred to as “831” in Hong Kong, sparked last year’s Occupy 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, Oct. 21, 2014. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

“The government says their reform package now makes it easier for people to participate in the election. The opposition says in reality, the vote is still one rigged in favor of pro-Beijing candidates.”

But the government has hinted that tweaks could be possible within the nomination process. And that’s what the Hong Kong public got in the form of concessions on Wednesday.

Under the current electoral system, a nominating committee of 1,200, heavily stacked in favor of pro-Beijing and pro-business interests, nominates candidates for the chief executive position. A candidate requires one-eighth of votes, or support from 150 members of the committee, to be nominated. Read the rest of this entry »


Beijing is Restricting How Often Residents of Neighboring Shenzhen Can Enter Hong Kong

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China Reduces Mainlander Visits to Hong Kong

Isabella Steger writes: Can a tweak to a visa arrangement for mainland Chinese tourists coming to Hong Kong help ease tensions between the two places?

“The change was prompted by a marked increase in public anger in recent months against parallel traders. Protests have broken out in areas of Hong Kong near the border with the mainland, such as Tuen Mun, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long.”

On Monday, Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying confirmed a long-anticipated move by Beijing to address the influx of mainland visitors to Hong Kong in recent years. The move is aimed specifically at those who come from neighboring Shenzhen to Hong Kong to engage in so-called parallel trading, the practice of buying goods ranging from toiletries to food in Hong Kong to resell at a higher price on the mainland.

“Residents of these towns complain that parallel traders drive up the prices of goods and rents, pushing out small businesses serving locals.” 

According to the new arrangement, Shenzhen residents applying for an individual visitor visa to Hong Kong will only be allowed to enter the city once a week, rather than multiple times. The change is effective Monday. Residents of these towns complain that parallel traders drive up the prices of goods and rents, pushing out small businesses serving locals.

“Since 2009, Shenzhen permanent residents have been allowed to apply for one-year, multiple entry visas to Hong Kong…”

The change was prompted by a marked increase in public anger in recent months against parallel traders. Protests have broken out in areas of Hong Kong near the border with the mainland, such as Tuen Mun, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Separation Anxiety

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Beijing Assails Student Democrats as Revolutionaries

China’s Communist Party frequently rails against “splittists,” with the usual targets being the freedom- and independence-minded people of Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang. Now China’s parliament is adding Hong Kong to its enemies list, using the pretext of last year’s pro-democracy marches.

“In his annual Policy Address in January, Mr. Leung attacked his critics for harboring secessionist sentiments, citing as evidence the undergraduate magazine of Hong Kong University, which published an article on ‘Hong Kong people deciding their own fate’ and a book called ‘Hong Kong Nationalism.'”

“The movement and the expression for independence of Hong Kong will not be tolerated,” third-ranked leader Zhang Dejiang declared last week in the Great Hall of the People. Days before, General Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the general staff, told a state magazine that last year’s street protests were “a Hong Kong version of a color revolution,” akin to the popular movements that toppled several post-Soviet governments a decade ago.

“Mr. Leung was widely ridiculed for the feebleness of the charge, yet now top leaders in Beijing are echoing it.”

These aren’t the first time such charges have been leveled. In October, during the first weeks of Hong Kong’s 75-day demonstrations, a commentary in the official People’s Daily argued that the protesters’ true aim was independence, while senior Politburo member Wang Yang warned of “color revolution.” But Beijing then muted such claims—at least until Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying revived them. Read the rest of this entry »


Flaunting It On The Inside: China’s Corruption Crackdown Boosts Sales of Expensive Lingerie

WSJ-China-Lingerie-txt

Sales Increase for Pricey Undergarments as Government Discourages Conspicuous Consumption

Laurie Burkitt and Alyssa Abkowitz report: Call it inconspicuous consumption. Lingerie stores in China are seeing strong sales of $300 bras and other pricey skivvies, defying a broad drop in luxury sales in the vast Chinese market. Italian lingerie maker La Perla—which once struggled to sell $2,000 strapless bustiers and other high-end undergarments in the region—saw sales at its 14 stores in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan jump 42% last year. Last month, La Perla opened a Shanghai men’s boutique, selling $200 silk boxers and $3,000 silk robes.

“I don’t want to overdress. But I don’t mind spending more than 1,000 yuan for a bra.”

— Ms. Zu, who works in pharmaceutical sourcing

Agent Provocateur, a London high-end lingerie company, said sales at the company’s four China boutiques are at least 25% above expectations. An Agent Provocateur saleswoman in a high-end Beijing mall said best sellers include a sheer bra with white-scallop details priced at 1,475 yuan, or about $240, and a 1,940 yuan lacy black bra.

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Consumers like Zu Yujing, a 30-year-old from the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, say spending on luxury clothing for the office or leisure is too ostentatious. But Ms. Zu splurges on custom-made pieces at a Beijing-based lingerie shop called Pillowbook, where she spent about 4,000 yuan on her last shopping spree.

“I don’t want to overdress,” said Ms. Zu, who works in pharmaceutical sourcing. “But I don’t mind spending more than 1,000 yuan for a bra.”

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Chinese consumers—famous for their appetite for designer bags and gold-plated iPhone cases—are now shying away from flashy logos and displays of wealth as a government austerity campaign shames officials who buy them. Sales of luxury goods, which include glitzy jewelry and couture, were down 1% last year in China, according to consulting firm Bain & Co.

But many Chinese appear to be flaunting their wealth under their clothes. Read the rest of this entry »


Taboo in Mainland Schools, Hong Kong Liberal Studies Make Beijing Officials Uneasy

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Officials in Hong Kong and Beijing fear that the unfettered freedom to discuss such topics in Hong Kong’s classrooms has helped breed a generation of unruly and unpatriotic youths

HONG KONG—Isabella Steger writes: High-school students in this city’s mandatory liberal studies class tackle issues that are strictly taboo in mainland Chinese schools—press freedom, civil disobedience and the rule of law.

“The biggest impact of liberal studies is that it encourages students to be much more aware of current affairs,” said Lo Yat-ko, a 30-year-old liberal studies teacher.

“In Hong Kong, we teach critical thinking, not like in China where they teach by indoctrination and memorizing”

— Ng Shun-wing, Hong Kong Institute of Education

That has become a big problem for some officials in Hong Kong and Beijing, who fear that the unfettered freedom to discuss such topics in Hong Kong’s classrooms has helped breed a generation of unruly and unpatriotic youths, and helped inspire the so-called Occupy pro-democracy protests that shook this semiautonomous Chinese city for 10 weeks late last year.

Excerpt: Lessons in Liberal Studies

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An excerpt from a liberal studies textbook explores the merits of street protests in Hong Kong. Photo: Longman New Senior Liberal Studies textbook

In the aftermath of those student-led protests, an education debate is once again brewing in Hong Kong. In November, the city’s Education Bureau launched a three-month review of the city’s school curriculum, the results of which will be announced in July.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in his annual policy address last month that the government would change the current high-school curriculum, with an aim to “reinforce students’ interest in and understanding of Chinese history and culture.” Mr. Leung said the government will also subsidize students to participate in exchange programs with schools on the mainland.

His comments come two years after the Hong Kong government, at Beijing’s behest, attempted to introduce mandatory patriotic education in the city’s schools, drawing accusations of indoctrination and sparking widespread demonstrations that forced the government to back down.

The latest curriculum review risks reigniting a new round of protests, but the government’s resolve for an overhaul appears to have deepened. Hong Kong and Beijing officials have grown more outspoken over school subjects, such as liberal studies, that address controversial topics and emphasize critical analysis.

Excerpt 2: Lessons in Liberal Studies

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An excerpt from a liberal studies textbook discusses the differences between life in Hong Kong and mainland China. Photo: Longman New Senior Liberal Studies textbook

Such topics and teaching methods are off-limits in mainland Chinese schools, which place a more traditional emphasis on rote learning and shun current events that are sensitive to the Communist Party.

Chen Zuoer, former deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said last month that Hong Kong youth needed to have their thinking “repaired” as they have been “brainwashed.”

The problems in Hong Kong’s education system “have now become the seeds of bitter melons and poisonous beans,” said Mr. Chen at a seminar held by a think tank in Beijing, adding that some protesters who were “babies during the handover were…waving the British flag.”

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and has since operated under a separate political system that grants residents far greater freedoms than their mainland counterparts. But some people in the city worry that those freedoms are eroding. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Leader Singles Out College Magazine For Helping Cause ‘Anarchy’

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This is not the first time that HKU, among the city’s most prestigious universities, has come under fire from the Hong Kong government and Beijing since the outbreak of student-led protests in September, which followed a decree from Beijing that Hong Kong should elect its leader from a handful of pre-screened candidates.

Isabella Steger reports: A relatively unknown student magazine at the University of Hong Kong may get a surge in readership after Hong Kong’s leader made a reference to the publication, warning that support for ideas it propagates could lead to “anarchy” in the city.

In his annual policy speech, Leung Chun-ying kicked off his address with a series of stern warnings against further attempts by Hong Kong people to challenge Beijing’s authority on the issue of constitutional reform. He specifically named ideas advocating self-determination for Hong Kong published in Undergrad, a monthly Chinese-language magazine published by HKU’s student union.

“The protest showed Beijing that Hong Kong people were not loyal so Beijing ratcheted up interference in Hong Kong, but it also catalyzed a new wave of native ideology.”

— From the article in Undergrad

Saying that Hong Kong problems should be solved by Hong Kong people “violates the constitution,” said Mr. Leung, warning that such slogans could help throw the city into anarchy.

“Regardless of the likelihood of Hong Kong independence…we must fight to the end for the freedom to at least talk about it.”

— Keyvin Wong, a former assistant editor in chief of Undergrad

Under the One Country, Two Systems framework, Hong Kong is supposed to have a high degree of autonomy, but many in the city fear growing encroachment from Beijing. Mr. Leung said Hong Kong’s autonomy is not absolute.

Joshua Wong, the 18 year-old leader of another student protest group Scholarism, called Mr. Leung’s reference to the magazine “stupid” because it will only serve to boost interest in the publication.

This is not the first time that HKU, among the city’s most prestigious universities, has come under fire from the Hong Kong government and Beijing since the outbreak of student-led protests in September, which followed a decree from Beijing that Hong Kong should elect its leader from a handful of pre-screened candidates. Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Auslin: Hong Kong’s Democracy Movement, R.I.P.

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The world response was shameful. As during Iran’s Green Movement protests in 2009, the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, so five years later Obama all but ignored what was happening in Hong Kong: He chose to expend a minuscule drop of the moral authority of the American president to make a point about the value of democracy.

Michael Auslin writes: The tents are gone and the streets are cleared. The thousands of students and older citizens peacefully trying to make their voices heard have gone back home. And the best hope for ensuring that Hong Kong’s fragile and evolving democracy does not flicker out has been extinguished.

What the Chinese government, and its proxy in Hong Kong, gained from the protests should not be underestimated.”

Hong Kong police finished clearing out the last remaining protest site this week after allowing two and half months of peaceful demonstrations. For a brief while in the beginning, back in late September, it looked as if things could get violent — that Hong Kong students in 2014 could wind up suffering a fate close to that of their predecessors in Tiananmen Square in Beijing back in 1989. Yet the Hong Kong police, despite a few volleys of tear gas, refrained from physical confrontation.

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“First, they crushed the movement peacefully, thereby avoiding the international opprobrium that would have come in the wake of a violent suppression…”

Not so the mysterious groups of thugs who harassed the students and attempted to break up some of their encampments. Whether directed by China or not, those ruffians clearly had the backing of the mainland authorities, as well as of Hong Kong’s Beijing-picked leader, who made clear throughout the months of protest that his primary loyalty is to the Communist party of China, and not the people of Hong Kong.

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“Second, they successfully encouraged or used small groups of thugs to intimidate the protesters and sympathetic onlookers….”

So many weeks later, it is hard to remember that the demonstrations began over a simple point: the right of Hong Kongers to democratically choose their chief executive in elections starting in 2017, as seemingly promised by Beijing back in the 1984 agreement with Great Britain that paved the way for the handover of the colony in 1997.

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“Third, they neutralized global criticism. Most importantly, in winning the confrontation, they have shaped perceptions of Hong Kong’s future, erasing any doubt over China’s ultimate control of the city.”

Yet the agreement’s language was vague enough that Beijing could manipulate its implementation despite later promises to allow free elections — and, really, what could anyone actually do to prevent the Chinese from running Hong Kong however they liked? Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Students Surround Government Offices

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Police Use Pepper Spray, Batons to Stop Protesters’ Advance

HONG KONG—Isabella Steger, Biman Mukherji and Phred Dvorak reporting: Police deployed pepper spray and used batons to push back thousands of protesters trying to block government offices, the latest escalation of the pro-democracy movement that entered its third month with no signs of resolution.

“We will continue our fight for democracy. We will keep up the pressure on the government.”

— Oscar Lai, a spokesman for Scholarism

The Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism, the two groups leading the demonstrations, called on crowds assembled at a protest site to surround the central government offices and the office of the chief executive, the city’s top official, aiming to block government workers from entering Monday morning. Early Monday, police beat back the crowds and cleared the road outside the chief executive’s office. At least 40 people were arrested, police said.

The HKFS stressed that protesters should stay peaceful and not use force. The student groups asked protesters to bring umbrellas, goggles, masks, food supplies and helmets to Sunday’s assembly, to protect themselves in case police responded with pepper spray or tear gas.

After the call to surround the government offices, protesters filled the roads around the complex where the buildings and Hong Kong legislature are located, skirmishing in some areas with police who used pepper spray and batons to stop their advance. 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.

martin-lee

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.

HT-thatcher-in-china

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 »


Hong Kong Protests: The Power of Ridicule

HK-ridicule

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 »


Hong Kong Democracy Protests: Open Letter From Former U.S. Consuls General to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-yin

WSJ-CRT-blog-img

Three former U.S. consuls general wrote an open letter to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. They say the government’s proposal for Hong Kong’s electoral future—in which candidates running for chief executive would be pre-screened by a nominating committee friendly toward Beijing—is in defiance of the city’s Basic Law.

Full text below:

 To the Honorable C.Y. Leung

  Hong Kong, China

 We are writing to you based on decades of inestimable interest and admiration for Hong Kong. We have loved the city, admired its citizens and promoted its vital role for business, culture and commerce for Asia and for China. Over the years, we’ve seen the buildings get taller and the harbour get smaller, and lived the exciting energy of one of the world’s greatest cities. We have seen the benefits of Hong Kong’s free markets, rule of law, civil discourse and people for China and the region. While we are Americans and write to you in our private capacity, we suggest that our views reflect the sentiments of the millions of traders, bankers, lawyers, sales teams, accountants, creative artists, film producers, bartenders and ordinary foreigners who have made Hong Kong their home at one moment or another in their lives.

  We ask you, as the one person in your role as Chief Executive who can do so, to move to the forefront of efforts to settle the current dispute peacefully according to the terms of the Basic Law, the foundation of Hong Kong’s governance and status. The Basic Law embodies the ideas of peaceful evolution, self-administration and one country/two systems of Deng Xiaoping. Article 45 of the Basic Law says: “the ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.”

  The proposal currently on the table –that a committee like the ones who have chosen the Chief Executives so far should continue for an undefined period to choose two or three candidates under the guidance of Beijing—clearly fails to advance Hong Kong’s system toward being more broadly representative or democratic, and in tightening the nominating committee rules would seem actually to retreat from those goals. Read the rest of this entry »


Democracy in China: ‘The struggle for Hong Kong,’ or ‘The Great Leap Sideways’

Hong-Kong-lawyers

The territory’s citizens must not give up demanding full democracy—for their sake and for China’s

Chinese officials have called it a “leap forward” for democracy in Hong Kong. Yet their announcement on August 31st of plans to allow, for the first time, every Hong Kong citizen to vote for the territory’s leader has met only anger and indifference. Joy was conspicuously Xi-tall-Jinping-HTabsent. This is not because Hong Kong’s citizens care little for the right to vote, but because China has made it abundantly clear that the next election for Hong Kong’s chief executive, due in 2017, will be rigged. The only candidates allowed to stand will be those approved by the Communist Party in Beijing, half a continent away.

“Xi Jinping, the party chief and president, had the opportunity to use Hong Kong as a test-bed for political change in China. Had he taken this opportunity, he might have gone down in history as a true reformer. Instead, he has squandered it.”

At its worst, this risks provoking a disaster which even China cannot want. Democrats are planning protests. It is unclear how many people will join in, but the fear is that the territory’s long history of peaceful campaigning for political reform will give way to skirmishes with police, mass arrests and possibly even intervention by the People’s Liberation Army. That would disrupt one of Asia’s wealthiest and most orderly economies, and set China against the West. But even if, as is likely, such a calamity is avoided, this leap sideways is a huge missed opportunity not just for Hong Kong but also for the mainland. A chance to experiment with the sort of local democracy that might have benefited all of China has been missed. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong’s Hopes Crushed

Protesters wave their mobile phones during a rally, after China's legislature has ruled out open nominations in elections for Hong Kong's leader, on Aug. 31. Associated Press

Protesters wave their mobile phones during a rally, after China’s legislature has ruled out open nominations in elections for Hong Kong’s leader, on Aug. 31.    –  Associated Press

From this weekend’s WSJ opinion pages:

The people of Hong Kong can plead or protest for democracy all they want, but they can only hold a sham election for Chief Executive in 2017. That was the ruling of 20140831 HK 05China’s rubber-stamp National People’s Congress on Sunday.

“The threat to Hong Kong’s capitalism comes not from democracy, but from the cronyism and erosion of the rule of law that are infiltrating from the mainland.”

Moderates on both sides of the political spectrum in Hong Kong had urged compromise. They proposed nomination procedures that would satisfy Beijing’s concerns while still allowing the free election that China promised in 1997 when it made the city a self-governing special administrative region for 50 years.

“The tragedy for both Hong Kong and China is that the conflict is unnecessary.”

Beijing not only rejected these ideas, it seems they were never seriously considered. The Communist Party insists on absolute veto power over the choice of candidates. The result will be more frustration in Hong Kong.

“The city is manifestly ready for democracy, which would give Beijing fewer headaches rather than more.”

Since the handover from British rule, the city has suffered under mediocre leaders weakened by their lack of a popular mandate. This has angered parts of the population, particularly the young, and some are promising acts of civil disobedience. Read the rest of this entry »


A Sea of Phones Illuminating Tamar Park, Connecting the Executive and Legislative Hearts of Hong Kong


Beijing: China Legislature Rules No Open Nominations for Hong Kong Leader

Civil Human Rights Front Gather For July 1st Marches

Occupy Central has threatened to shut down the city’s financial district with a massive sit-in if Beijing doesn’t allow completely open elections for chief executive

Jimmy Lai, Chairman and Founder of Next Media (Reuters)

BEIJING (AP) — China’s legislature on Sunday ruled against allowing open nominations in elections for Hong Kong’s chief executive, a decision that promises to ignite political tensions in the Asian financial hub.

Left: Jimmy Lai, Chairman and Founder of Next Media (Reuters)

The legislature’s powerful Standing Committee ruled that all candidates for chief executive must receive more than half

of votes from a special nominating body before going before voters. Hong Kong democracy activists have held massive protests demanding that Chinese leaders let the city’s voters choose their chief executive from an open list of candidates.

Activists have also decried the nominating committee held up by Beijing as beholden to Chinese leaders and were mobilizing to stage massive protests against the decision.

“Since the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and the sovereignty, security and development interests of the country are at stake, there is a need to proceed in a prudent and steady manner,” the Standing Committee said in their decision. Read the rest of this entry »


CHINA’S Ticking Clock: Critical Hong Kong Vote Ruling by Beijing Coming Soon

Police removed a democracy activist in Hong Kong in July. An election reform decision is expected Aug. 31. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Police removed a democracy activist in Hong Kong in JulyAgence France-Presse/Getty Images

Pro-Democracy Activists Demand Right to Nominate Candidates for Chief Executive

HONG KONG — WSJ‘s Chester Yung reports: China’s top legislative body in Beijing is expected to announce a decision Aug. 31 on the issue of how Hong Kong’s leader is elected, according to people familiar with the matter.

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[Also see – Pundit Planet welcomes new Deputy Bureau Chief & Asia Photo Editor-At-Large, Hong Kong Fong’s Deb Fong]

Beijing has said elections for the city’s leader will begin in 2017, but at issue is whether Beijing will let Hong Kong residents directly nominate candidates for the chief executive post or whether only pre-approved candidates will be allowed to run.

[Also see – 5 Things to Know Ahead of Beijing’s Decision on Hong Kong]

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body, will convene Aug. 25-31 in Beijing, and will discuss proposed reforms for electing Hong Kong’s top leader.

pro-beijing-reuters

A pro-Beijing demonstrator waves a Chinese flag during a march in Hong Kong on Sunday to protest against a pro-democracy campaign that has threatened civil disobedience over election reform in the city. Reuters

“Occupy Central, a pro-democratic activist group, has threatened to mobilize 10,000 protesters in mass civil disobedience if Beijing takes a hard line on the city’s election reforms.”

Two people familiar with the matter said a news conference would be held in Beijing on Aug. 31 to announce the results of the meeting. They said another news conference would be held in Hong Kong.

<> on June 1, 2014 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

[From our July 1 2014 Edition: Hong Kong’s Occupy Central ‘Referendum’ Explained]HongKongBureau

[Exclusive report – Underneath the “Hong Kong Miracle”]

[More – What the World Owes Hong Kong, and Should Fear if its Democracy is Denied]

[EXCLUSIVE – The Visual Feast of Hong Kong: Through the Lens of Hong Kong Fong – punditfromanotherplanet.comHong Kong Fong)

So far, rhetoric from officials in both Beijing and Hong Kong suggests that Beijing will reject outright activists’ demands that the public be allowed to directly nominate candidates for chief executive. Read the rest of this entry »


Free Elections for Hong Kong

Civil Human Rights Front Gather For July 1st Marches - Getty

For The Weekly StandardEllen Bork reports: Over half a million people filled the streets of Hong Kong on July 1, marching for democracy on the anniversary of the British colony’s handover to Chinese Communist rule in 1997.

On June 29, an unofficial referendum organized by democracy activists concluded with 800,000 votes cast—more than one-tenth of Hong Kong’s population. The overwhelming majority supported a democratic election for Hong Kong’s next chief executive.

“The Obama administration’s response to the massive display of support for democracy has been more appropriate to a teenager shrugging ‘whatever’ than a major power expressing itself on a central pillar of the president’s Asia policy.”

Beijing has promised that in 2017, the Hong Kong chief executive will be popularly elected. Hoping to tamp down expectations of an actual democratic election with a competitive nomination process, however, Beijing issued a white paper on June 10 that identified “loving the country” as the “basic political requirement” for civil servants, including the chief executive. For Beijing, “love” means loyalty to the Communist party, disdain for civil liberties undergirded by the rule of law, and hostility to democracy. Read the rest of this entry »