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 »


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 »


Joshua Wong: Pro-Beijing Media Accuses Hong Kong Student Leader of U.S. Government Ties

Mr. Wong came to local fame in 2012 after his Scholarism group, made up of secondary school students, protested against a plan by the Hong Kong government to implement “patriotic education” classes in Hong Kong schools. 

Isabella Steger reports: The face of Hong Kong’s student democracy movement came under furious attack by a pro-Beijing newspaper today, upping the ante in the fight over the former British colony’s political future.

On Thursday, Wen Wei Po published an “expose” into what it described as the U.S. connections of Joshua Wong, the 17 year-old leader of student group Scholarism.

“This isn’t the first time that Beijing-friendly media have accused foreign countries of covert meddling in the former British colony.”

The story asserts that “U.S. forces” identified Mr. Wong’s potential three years ago, and have worked since then to cultivate him as a “political superstar.”

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“China’s government has long been concerned that Western intelligence agencies might try to exploit the city’s relatively more open political environment to push democracy in the rest of the country.”

Evidence for Mr. Wong’s close ties to the U.S. that the paper cited included what the report described as frequent meetings with U.S. consulate personnel in Hong Kong and covert donations from Americans to Mr. Wong. As evidence, the paper cited photographs leaked by “netizens.” The story also said Mr. Wong’s family visited Macau in 2011 at the invitation of the American Chamber of Commerce, where they stayed at the “U.S.-owned” Venetian Macao, which is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp.

When asked about Wen Wei Po’s allegations that he was being manipulated by U.S. forces, Mr. Wong denied the idea. “Of course it’s false,” Mr. Wong told China Real Time. In a subsequent statement posted online, Mr. Wong denied every detail in Wen Wei Po’s story. Read the rest of this entry »