Hong Kong protesters stay on streets

Posted by Warren Fyfe on September 29, 2014 in Warren Fyfe Site

Pro-democracy protesters gather outside the Hong Kong government headquarters in Admiralty, Hong Kong - 29 September 2014Tens of thousands of people remained on the streets of Hong Kong on Monday night

Protests in Hong Kong are continuing after tens of thousands of people defied calls for them to dismantle their camps and return home.

Demonstrations grew after police tried to disperse crowds using batons and tear gas in the early hours of Monday morning. Riot police later withdrew.

The pro-democracy protesters are angry at China for limiting their choice in Hong Kong’s 2017 leadership elections.

China has warned other countries not to support the “illegal rallies”.

The protesters – a mix of students and members of the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement – want Beijing to abandon its plans to vet candidates for the post of chief executive in the 2017 polls.

They want a free choice of candidates. Until now the chief executive has essentially been selected under a pro-Beijing mechanism.

Response from West

On Monday, the British government called for the right to protest to be protected and for protesters to exercise their right within the law.

That call was echoed by the US, with White House spokesman Josh Earnest calling on Hong Kong’s authorities to show restraint.

Map showing location of Hong Kong protests

A protester shouts slogans in the Central district of Hong Kong - 29 September 2014The protesters are calling on Beijing to grant them fully democratic elections in 2017

Protesters rest on the side of a street in the Central district in Hong Kong - 29 September 2014Correspondents said the demonstrators were tired after several days of protests but remained defiant

Police officers stand near a large group of pro-democracy protesters in the Wan Chai area of Hong Kong - 29 September 2014The police force stood off of protesters on Monday night after being criticised for their actions on Sunday

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Celia Hatton: The view from Beijing

China’s leaders must be sitting uncomfortably in Beijing.

As long as the protests continue, there is a chance they will spread to the mainland, where many are unhappy with one-party rule. The Chinese government is taking clear steps to limit information about events in Hong Kong by censoring internet search terms and forums discussions.

But if the protesters hold their ground, how far will Beijing allow events to spiral before getting directly involved?

The sight of Chinese troops confronting Hong Kong protesters, particularly students, would be a disaster for Beijing, leading to an international outcry. Beijing could revisit the dark days following its violent response to 1989′s Tiananmen protests.

So, for now, Chinese leaders face an unusual set of political constraints. The Communist Party is unwilling to cede political control to the people of Hong Kong by refusing to allow direct elections in 2017. As a result, the party is putting its faith in the abilities of the Hong Kong police to deal with the fall-out from that decision.

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Dozens of protesters were arrested overnight on Sunday amid angry scenes that saw riot police fire tear gas into large crowds.

Cheung Tak-keung, assistant commissioner of police for operations, insisted police had used the “bare minimum force”.

He said 41 people, including 12 police officers, had been injured since protests broke out.

The Hong Kong government urged protesters to stay calm and leave peacefully but crowds remained camped out around the government complex on Monday night.

Thousands of people blocked a major road across the bay in Mongkok, on the Kowloon peninsula, while another large crowd brought the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay, east of central Hong Kong, to a standstill.

Crowds of protesters

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China editor Carrie Gracie asks protesters about the financial implications

Schools in the Wan Chai, Central and Western districts were closed on Monday and will remain shut on Tuesday, according to the Hong Kong Education Bureau.

The city remains heavily disrupted, with several major thoroughfares blocked.

Tensions escalated on Sunday when Occupy Central threw its weight behind student-led protests, bringing forward a mass civil disobedience campaign due to start on Wednesday.

The movement called on CY Leung, the current chief executive, to step down, saying “only this will make it possible to re-launch the political reform process and create a space in which the crisis can be defused”.

CY Leung

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Chief Executive CY Leung said the protests were an “unlawful occupation”

Chinese media have blamed “radical opposition forces” for stirring up trouble.

Analysts say Communist Party leaders in Beijing are worried that calls for democracy could spread to cities on the mainland.

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that guarantees liberties not seen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and the right to protest.

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Hong Kong democracy timeline

  • 1997: Hong Kong, a former British colony, is handed back to China under an 1984 agreement giving it “a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs” for 50 years
  • 2004: China rules that its approval must be sought for changes to Hong Kong’s election laws
  • June-July 2014: Pro-democracy activists hold an unofficial referendum on political reform and a large rally. This is followed by protests by pro-Beijing activists
  • 31 August 2014: China says it will allow direct elections in 2017, but voters will only be able to choose from a list of pre-approved candidates. Activists stage protests
  • 22 September 2014: Student groups launch a week-long boycott of classes in protest
  • 2017: Direct elections for chief executive due to take place
  • 2047: Expiry of current agreements

QA: Hong Kong’s democracy controversy

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Are you in Hong Kong? Have you been affected by recent events? You can share your experience by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk

Alternatively you can fill out the form below.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-29418179#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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