“Hong Kong Protesters: Students See a ‘Chance to Set People Free'”
The Christian Science Monitor, September 29, 2014
“But the fourth straight day of unrest – the bluntest challenge to China’s ruling Communist Party since the Tiananmen protests in 1989 – was peaceful. There was no sign of the riot police who had fired tear gas at protesters over the weekend. The Hong Kong government appeared to be reflecting on its next move in the stand-off, aware that the use of gas on the students had angered ordinary citizens and swelled the ranks of protesters. But the central government in Beijing has made it clear that it has no intention of giving in to demands by students and other protesters in the ‘Occupy Central’ movement who are calling for greater democratization. … The Hong Kong protests have forced Beijing into a difficult political balancing act. Hong Kong, handed back to China by the British in 1997, enjoys a degree of autonomy that gives the territory the rule of law and a free press, among other benefits unknown on the mainland. The handover deal, and the Constitution, specify that the chief executive should eventually be chosen by universal suffrage. The Chinese government’s proposal for the chief executive elections in 2017 offers universal suffrage to Hong Kong citizens for the first time; but it would allow only three candidates for the post, all of whom would need prior approval from a committee that Beijing controls. ‘Occupy Central,’ a group of reformists led by middle-aged academics and intellectuals, had been demanding without success for months that the government allow truly competitive elections, open to the ‘pan-democrat’ politicians who oppose Beijing. The movement was forced to bring forward its campaign to occupy Central – Hong Kong’s central business and administrative district – by several days when students stormed the plaza outside city hall on Friday. The Chinese government and the Hong Kong authorities have branded the demonstrations, now in their fourth day, as illegal. But there is clearly nothing the police can do, as the protesters’ numbers swell, to break them up without the use of force, which would be politically disastrous.”
Quickie Analysis: A reminder that people who enjoy democracy tend to prefer to keep it.