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 »


Beijing Blinks: Hong Kong Leader Leung Chun-ying Offers Talks with Protesters as He Refuses to Accept Calls for Him to Resign

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James Legge writes: Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader has offered talks to student leaders whose demonstrations against what they say is China’s attempt to gerrymander elections have brought the territory to a standstill.

“This is a war for public support. We must show Leung that we have the support of the masses.”

— Student Leader Joshua Wong

Speaking at the end of a fifth day of protests, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying refused to meet demonstrators’ demands to resign but said his top official, Carrie Lam, would hold a meeting with students to discuss political reforms.

Riot police fire tear gas on student protesters occupying streets surrounding the government headquarters in Hong Kong (AP)

Riot police fire tear gas on student protesters occupying streets surrounding the government headquarters in Hong Kong (AP)

“I hope both sides will be satisfied,” said Ms Lam, the city’s Chief Secretary. “Students had wanted a public meeting but I hope that we can have some flexibility to discuss details.” Occupy Central continued to demand Mr Leung’s resignation, and reject Beijing’s framework, but said it “welcomes the news that Ms Lam will meet with the students” and “hopes the talks can bring a turning point to the current political stalemate”.

“In any place in the world, if there are any protesters that surround, attack, or occupy government buildings like police headquarters, or the chief executive’s office… the consequences are serious”

— Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying

Mr Leung’s position had been bolstered earlier in the day when the People’s Daily newspaper, a Communist Party mouthpiece, published an editorial saying the party was “very satisfied” with his performance and had full confidence in his leadership. It also referred to the protest as “illegal activities” which threatened to bring chaos.

Pro-democracy protesters gather outside Government Office at Admiralty district in Hong Kong (AFP)

Pro-democracy protesters gather outside Government Office at Admiralty district in Hong Kong (AFP)

Nonetheless, the promise of face-to-face talks is an unusual concession by the Chinese government, and demonstrates their concern that the protests in one of Asia’s most important economic centres will continue over the weekend.

As Mr Leung spoke, hundreds of police officers stood at the barricade around his office, faced by thousands of protesters. Some of the police wore riot shields, and earlier in the day officers were seen carrying tear gas and rubber bullets into the area. Read the rest of this entry »


Golden Rice Field Reappears in Hong Kong After 50 years

稻米成熟時,引來大量禾花雀的掠奪,驅之不去。消失50年重現香江 黃金稻田大秋收

As debates continues surrounding the North East New Territories Development (NENTD) plan, a flower grower in Shek Wu Wai in San Tin, Yuen Long started a “revolution”! He utilised the months long resting period of his farmland and successfully grew his first ever round of rice, bringing back the golden rice field back to Yuen Long, an area which was famous for rice and fish farms. This over 60-year-old farmer is hosting a harvesting event on 15th September, and recruiting volunteers to harvest and mill the grains. The majority of the harvest will be donated to elderly, as the farmer wanted to contribute to the society at which his neighbours once helped him when he was a boy. He also wishes this experience can teach the younger generations how to cherish food. Read the rest of this entry »