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China: Student Leaders Plead Not Guilty

Three prominent student leaders of last year’s Occupy campaign have pleaded not guilty in Eastern Court to charges arising out of a protest at the forecourt of government headquarters in Tamar.

The three are the convenor of the student activist group Scholarism, Joshua Wong, the Secretary-General of the Federation of Students, Nathan Law, and the former secretary-general of the federation, Alex Chow.

Wong is accused of taking part in an unlawful assembly and inciting others to do so as well. Law faces one charge of inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly, while Chow is accused of taking part in an unlawful assembly.

The offences are alleged to have been committed on September 26, 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

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[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 Democracy Protesters Take to the Streets Ahead of a Crucial Reform Bill

TOPSHOTS A pro-democracy demonstrator gestures after police fired tear gas towards protesters near the Hong Kong government headquarters on September 28, 2014. Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators brought parts of central Hong Kong to a standstill on September 28, in a dramatic escalation of protests that have gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese city for days. AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS        (Photo credit should read XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)

Thousands march on the legislature to demand a freer vote

Joanna Plucinska reports: Nine months after the Umbrella Revolution began, pro-democracy protesters again took to the streets of Hong Kong to demand a say in the way the city’s leader is elected in polls slated for 2017.

“We’re not North Korea, we know what freedom is.”

— Carol Lo, a protester at Sunday’s rally

A crowd of 2,000 to 3,000 people—workers and families as well as students and democracy activists—marched on Sunday afternoon from Victoria Park, a traditional gathering place for protests, to the legislature buildings downtown. Many carried yellow umbrellas—adopted as the symbol of Hong Kong’s democracy movement after protesters took to carrying them during last year’s unrest to protect themselves from police pepper spray.

Riot police use tear gas against protesters after thousands of people blocked a main road at the financial central district in Hong Kong, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. Hong Kong police used tear gas on Sunday and warned of further measures as they tried to clear thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered outside government headquarters in a challenge to Beijing over its decision to restrict democratic reforms for the city. (AP Photo) HONG KONG OUT

Riot police use tear gas against protesters after thousands of people blocked a main road at the financial central district in Hong Kong, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. Hong Kong police used tear gas on Sunday and warned of further measures as they tried to clear thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered outside government headquarters in a challenge to Beijing over its decision to restrict democratic reforms for the city. (AP Photo) HONG KONG

Others carried signs that read “Citizens Against Pseudo-Universal Suffrage,” declaring their opposition to the form of democracy described in a political reform bill to be voted on by the city’s legislature on June 17. That bill will allow the central government in Beijing, and a 1,200 member electoral college composed mostly of pro-establishment figures, to vet all candidates for the position of Chief Executive, as the city’s top official is known. Similarly unrepresentative electoral methods helped to spark last fall’s Umbrella Revolution, and protesters are once again demanding broader political rights.

“I’m a genuine citizen of Hong Kong, I’m not from China. Most people from China are after money, but I’m after truth.”

— Protester and Uber driver Chao Sang

“We’re not North Korea, we know what freedom is,” said Carol Lo, 35, a protester at Sunday’s rally and a parent of a 9-year-old girl. Lo voiced fears for the political future of Hong Kong’s next generation: “How will [my daughter] survive, if this situation gets worse and worse?” she said.

Policemen rest following pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong on September 29, 2014.  Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators brought parts of central Hong Kong to a standstill in a dramatic escalation of protests that have gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese city for days.    AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS        (Photo credit should read XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)

Policemen rest following pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong on September 29, 2014. Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators brought parts of central Hong Kong to a standstill in a dramatic escalation of protests that have gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese city for days.  XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)

Another protester, Uber driver Chao Sang, voiced the growing tendency of many Hong Kongers to see themselves as politically, linguistically and culturally separate from mainland Chinese. “I’m a genuine citizen of Hong Kong, I’m not from China,” he told TIME. “Most people from China are after money, but I’m after truth.” 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 Democracy Protests: A Journal of the Final Day

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Isabella Steger reports: Lunchtime strolls, camping gear and folding origami umbrellas in one of Hong Kong’s busiest thoroughfares will soon be a thing of the past.

As Hong Kong police prepare to clear the main occupied protest encampment in Admiralty on Thursday morning, thousands turned out to witness the final hours of the site, which pro-democracy protesters have occupied since Sept. 28.HK-painting

On Wednesday afternoon, a larger than usual crowd of office workers spent their lunch break at the Admiralty site, eating, taking photographs and talking politics.

“They have built up a good micro-community here. This is a place where people who support the democracy cause but who don’t necessarily align themselves with any political party can come together.”

— Jeff Cheung, 27, who works in nearby Central district

“They have built up a good micro-community here,” said Jeff Cheung, 27, who works in nearby Central district. “This is a place where people who support the democracy cause but who don’t necessarily align themselves with any political party can come together,” he added, eating a homemade salad with two friends in the so-called study area of the encampment, where volunteers built rows of desks for students to use.

Leaders of the two main student protest groups—The Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism— urged protesters to turn out Wednesday night for a last hurrah and to stay overnight if they could.

Joshua Wong, the 18-year-old leader of Scholarism, said he wouldn’t be at the front line during Thursday’s clearance operation because he needs to avoid being arrested again before his Jan. 14 court appearance. Mr. Wong was arrested in November during the clearance of the Mong Kok site. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Protesters Considering Retreat

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HONG KONG— Mia Lamar and Isabella Steger reporting: Student protesters demanding greater democracy for Hong Kong said Thursday they are more seriously weighing a retreat from the roads they have occupied for more than two months.

The remarks were the latest sign of the narrowing options that the protesters face as police have increased their efforts to remove the demonstrators from the streets and public support for the occupation of busy city thoroughfares has faded.

“Occupying here doesn’t put enough pressure on the government. If it put enough pressure, we wouldn’t be here two months….In the end, we didn’t get what we want, but this movement inspired people that we can’t live like this anymore.”

—  18-year-old student Timothy Sun

The Hong Kong Federation of Students, a group of university students at the helm of the protests, and Scholarism, a teenage student protest group, could issue a decision over whether to retreat from the encampments within the next week, according to student leaders.

A street cleaner pushes her cart between rows of tents at the pro-democracy movement's main protest site in Hong Kong's Admiralty district. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A street cleaner pushes her cart between rows of tents at the pro-democracy movement’s main protest site in Hong Kong’s Admiralty district. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Yvonne Leung, a spokeswoman for HKFS, made the remarks on a local radio program. Eighteen-year-old Scholarism leader Joshua Wong separately told The Wall Street Journal that his group, which works closely with HKFS, is also considering a retreat. Mr. Wong is in the third day of a hunger strike, along with four other teen members of his group.

“For me, I think it’s time to adjust tactics. Retreat doesn’t necessarily mean failure.”

— Student leader

Protesters are calling for the right of citizens to select their own candidates for the city’s top leadership post, not those vetted by Beijing as per a decision handed down by the National People’s Congress in August. Those calls have been rejected by the government as nonnegotiable under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, a “mini-constitution” held with Beijing. The city will vote in 2017 for its next chief executive, a five-year appointment. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protesters Not Allowed to Board Flight to Beijing

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HONG KONG — Isabella Steger reports: Members of a student protest group who planned to take their demands for democracy in Hong Kong to the Chinese capital weren’t allowed to board a flight to Beijing on Saturday.

Four members of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, who have been at the forefront of pro-democracy protests that have gone on for more than 40 days in the city, were unable to board their Cathay Pacific flight.

Representatives of the group said the airline denied boarding to Alex Chow, who leads the student group, Nathan Law, Eason Chung and Jeffrey Tsang, because they received notification that the students’ entry permits had been voided.

About 100 pro-democracy protesters went to Hong Kong’s airport to send the students off, carrying yellow umbrellas and singing protest anthems. Read the rest of this entry »


Clashes in Mong Kok: Protesters Arrested

 Mong-Kok-Oct31-2014

HONG KONG — Yvonne Lee reports: Hong Kong police have arrested three men following clashes early Thursday in Mong Kok, a pro-democracy protest zone in the Kowloon part of the city.

“The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are in their sixth week, but there is little sign of resolution. Sunday, protesters are planning to march west from the business district on Hong Kong Island to the Chinese government’s Liaison Office.”

Local television stations showed police using pepper spray on dozens of protesters in the working-class neighborhood. The confrontation was allegedly caused by a man using a camera flash to provoke a police officer, the news channels said.

“Members of the Hong Kong Federation of Students have threatened to bring their protest to Beijing during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, as a way to gain publicity for their demand that China allow free elections in Hong Kong.”

A Hong Kong police spokesperson confirmed that three men—aged between 24 and 50—were arrested. One was arrested for suspicion of criminal damage, while the other two were arrested for obstructing police officers executing their duty. Read the rest of this entry »


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.

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

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 »


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

HK-pepper

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.

MongKok

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 »


[PHOTO] Kin Cheung: Walking through Tunnels on Barricaded Road in Hong Kong


Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protesters Split After Call to Retreat

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Amid Few Leader Directives a Mood of Resignation

HONG KONG—An absence of clear directives from organizers threw pro-democracy protests into confusion as some demonstrators called a retreat from two stronghold protest areas on Sunday evening.

“We are not afraid of the government and we are not afraid of the police. We just don’t want to see any more violent acts against residents.” 

Many protesters ignored the call to decamp to the city’s main protest site near government offices, which came as the clock ticked closer to a government ultimatum to clear the streets.

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But the division in the ranks appeared to drain strength from the crowds.

“They don’t represent me. It’s my own decision to come here to demonstrate and I’ll stay until the government answers our calls.”

—  A 22-year-old university graduate, who identified himself only as Tin

In Mong Kok, a working-class neighborhood, police appeared to control the barricades leading to a crucial intersection where protesters had set up camp and where some of them seemed ready to make a last stand. One speaker said, “Tonight we’re outnumbered. We’re going to lose.”

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“Frankly, I haven’t been able to sleep well… I’m worried that we will be on the verge of more serious incidents if this continues.”

— Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang

Protesters holding microphones and speaking to crowds and television reporters in Mong Kok and in the shopping district of Causeway Bay tried to get crowds to leave and join protests at the Admiralty government offices, the epicenter in the 10-day wave of protests. Read the rest of this entry »