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Vietnamese Blogger Released from Jail Says More Critics of the Communist Government Likely to be Released As U.S. Ties Improve

October 31, 2014

By John Boudreau

Nguyen Van Hai, a Vietnamese blogger whose sentence was suspended, said his country’s push to improve ties with the U.S. will lead to more critics of the communist government being released and boost freedom of speech.

Hai, who is known as Dieu Cay, was handed a 12-year jail sentence in 2012 for spreading anti-government propaganda. He was released on Oct. 21 as a result of an agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam, he said in a telephone interview. Hai was taken directly to Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport from prison and boarded a flight for Hong Kong and then Los Angeles.

Freed Vietnamese dissident Nguyen Van Hai is greeted upon arrival at Los Angeles International Airport on 21 October 2014 in Los Angeles, California

Nguyen Van Hai

Vietnam’s government will probably release more prisoners such as Hai as a sign of goodwill as it negotiates free trade agreements with the U.S., European Union and other countries, he said. Releases could also occur as a result of Vietnam developing closer relations with the U.S. amid territorial disputes with China, Hai, 62, said.

“In order to reach those agreements, such as TPP or the FTA with the EU, at the end of this year, they will probably release some more people,” he said, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “They need to build trust. Releasing these dissidents would show an improvement in human rights.”

‘Humanitarian Reasons’

The number of Vietnamese incarcerated for criticizing their government has decreased, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Lisa Wishman said in an e-mail. She did not provide estimates of how many remain in jail. There are more than 150 dissidents being detained in Vietnam, according to Human Rights Watch.

Vietnam’s government should “release unconditionally all prisoners of conscience and allow all Vietnamese to express their political views without fear of retribution,” Wishman said in an Oct. 22 statement in Hanoi.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment.

There are no “prisoners of conscience” in Vietnam, Pham Thu Hang, deputy spokeswoman in Vietnam’s foreign ministry, said by e-mail Oct. 22. The government “decided to temporarily suspend Nguyen Van Hai’s jail term and allow Nguyen Van Hai to emigrate to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons,” she said.

Hai ran afoul of Vietnamese authorities for criticizing China’s claims to the contested Paracel Islands and calling for a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, he said. Hai was initially arrested in 2008 on charges of tax evasion, he said.

Vietnam is looking for help from other powers to counter China’s military might as both countries compete for oil, gas and fish in the South China Sea. Skirmishes between boats and deadly anti-Chinese riots occurred in Vietnam after China placed an oil rig off Vietnam’s coast in May.

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel near a drilling rig that China installed in disputed waters near Vietnam in May. Credit Reuters  

Free Trade

Earlier this month U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh that Vietnam will be able to buy non-lethal weapons from the U.S. after the partial lifting of an arms embargo in place since 1984.

Vietnam is also looking to free trade agreements, such as TPP, to bolster an economy that the World Bank estimates will grow 5.4 percent this year, a seventh year of expansion below 7 percent, and lessen its economic reliance on China. The government aims for domestic investment to reach 30 percent of gross domestic product in 2015, about the same level as this year, even as it takes steps to resolve bad debt at banks and privatize state firms, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told lawmakers on Oct. 20.

“To create trust with Western countries, Vietnam has to create democracy within Vietnam,” Hai said, speaking from his new home in Los Angeles. After trade and other agreements are signed, Vietnam could “crack down” again on those who speak out against the government, he said.

Since the clash between Vietnam and China during the summer over the Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea, Vietnamese have more leeway to criticize the country’s powerful communist neighbor, he said.

“The media can freely write about anti-China sentiment,” Hai said.

Social media sites like Facebook Inc. (FB) are giving Vietnamese an unprecedented ability to speak freely, he said.

“This has created a new media frontier that is stronger and more widespread,” Hai said. “Social networks are like a land of freedom that is difficult for the government to take control of.”

To contact the reporter on this story: John Boudreau in Hanoi at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Davis at K. Oanh Ha

China’s Web Regulator Admits Many Internet Sites Not Available in China — But the government doesn’t know how that happens…

October 30, 2014


China’s web regulator denies shutting foreign websites

BBC News

Some social media sites used across the rest of the world are blocked in China

The director of China’s internet regulator has admitted that some foreign websites cannot be visited but denied shutting them down.

Lu Wei, who heads the State Internet Information Office, also said his department was planning to strengthen measures to “govern the internet”.

Twitter, Facebook and the New York Times are not accessible in China.

The BBC’s English-language website was blocked earlier this month, joining the BBC Chinese site.

Mr Lu was responding to queries at a press conference on the forthcoming World Internet Conference due to be held in Zhejiang province.

‘Specifying behaviour’

Asked by a reporter why sites such as Facebook had been shut down, Mr Lu replied: “I have never used any of these websites so I don’t know if they have been shut down. But as for situations where some sites become inaccessible, I think it is possible.

“We have never shut down any foreign sites. Your website is on your home soil. How can I go over to your home and shut it down?”

Mr Lu however added that while China was “hospitable”, it could also “choose who can come to our home and be our guest”.

“I can’t change who you are but I have the power to choose my friends,” he said. “I wish that all who come to China will be our real friends.”

Mr Lu added that his department’s measures were “meant to protect China’s national security and China’s consumers”.

“We are going to further strengthen our rule of law, our administration, governance and usage of the internet, and use the law to specify behaviour in the online space,” he added.

China keeps a tight grip on the internet.

Posts about sensitive topics are routinely scrubbed from the popular micro-blogging service Weibo, as seen during the recent Hong Kong protests.

State media said last year that the government employed more than two million people to monitor web activity.

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Hong Kong protests bring crisis of confidence for traditional media

October 29, 2014

Young turn to social media as newspapers and TV stations owned by local tycoons take care not to offend mainland China

By in Hong Kong
The Guardian

Every time Alice Lau visits Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, she wears two photo ID badges, slung around her neck in a clear plastic sheath.

The first badge identifies her as a full-time employee of a pro-government newspaper. Every day, her employer condemns the unprecedented protests, now in their second month, for wreaking havoc on the city’s transportation networks and economic vitality. The second card identifies her as a volunteer reporter for an outspoken Facebook-based news outlet with more than 100,000 subscribers.

One badge always obscures the other. By day, she displays the first. By night, as she camps out in protest zones and faces down riot police, she displays the second. Few protesters read her newspaper, but most have probably seen her work.

Alice Lau is a pseudonym. Revealing her name or employer could get her fired, she said, and revealing her Facebook platform could invite undue scrutiny. “It’s not like I want people to think I’m a hero,” she said over iced milk tea at a McDonald’s in Admiralty district, the protest’s de facto core. “I just feel like I need to use my talents to help Hong Kong, to help my community. I’m just an ordinary citizen.”

Hong Kong’s traditional media is suffering a crisis of confidence. Many of the city’s most influential newspapers and TV stations are owned by local tycoons who, wary of jeopardising their mainland business ties, have taken great pains to maintain a conservative editorial line. The city’s young people have responded by turning to social media for news – and thus, the ongoing “umbrella movement” may be the best-documented social movement in history, with even its quieter moments generating a maelstrom of status updates, shares and likes.

Hong Kong protests
A man naps next to a pile of newspapers in Nathan Road, Hong Kong. Photograph: Jerome Favre/EPA

“Press freedom in Hong Kong is not in a good state – it’s not an authoritarian regime yet, but the pressure is on,” said Mark Simon, a senior executive at Next Media, the city’s only openly pro-democratic media conglomerate. “What’s saving the city now are these group acts of journalistic courage.”

The protests’ intensely public nature has fostered a heightened sense of caution. Although few protesters expect a Tiananmen-style crackdown, which would almost certainly spur an exodus from the city, many fear that Beijing will find ways to persecute organisers and high-profile supporters in a gradual, retroactive campaign. Many volunteer supply booths at the protest sites prominently display “no photo” signs, a plea to keep their operators’ identities under wraps.

Simon said that a crackdown, while unlikely, would be devastating for the city. “Can Hong Kong survive with [student leader] Joshua Wong in jail, or [Next Media CEO] Jimmy Lai in jail – do you think Hong Kong could survive that? I say no. It won’t work. The world’s not going to treat you the same.”

Since Beijing assumed control of Hong Kong in a 1997 handover, it has ruled the the city under a “one country, two systems” arrangement, granting it freedoms unknown on the mainland, including an independent judiciary, freedom of assembly, and an unrestricted press. Among these, the last is perhaps the most conspicuous – the city has 18 newspapers and a string of scandal-hungry TV and radio stations, many of them notorious for broadcasting unscrupulous celebrity gossip and political exposés.

The protesters demand the ability to choose the city’s top leader by “genuine universal suffrage” in 2017. Their rebuke to the alternative – a Beijing-backed electoral framework which would only allow party loyalists on the ballot – stems in part from a creeping anxiety that central authorities aim to gradually take these freedoms away.

Next Media has found itself on the frontline. Since 12 October, mobs of pro-Beijing counter-protesters have formed sporadic blockades to halt deliveries of the group’s flagship newspaper, Apple Daily. Cyber-attacks have repeatedly hobbled the paper’s website. Last week, knife-wielding assailants hijacked delivery trucks and poured soy sauce over stacks of the tabloid, ruining 15,200 copies.

Analysts say the gulf between pro-Beijing and pro-democratic media is widening. “Seven Demon Police Surround and Beat Protester for Four Minutes,” Apple Daily headlined a story about a recent instance of suspected police brutality. “Police Assaulted,” reported the pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao. The pro-establishment television station TVB, which first broadcast footage of the beating, said in an early-morning broadcast that the protester was “punched and kicked”. Later, after the report prompted a public outcry, they replaced that voiceover with another saying that the police may have “used excessive force”.

“This is a demonstration of what we’ve been fearing for years,” said Shirley Yam, vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association and a columnist for the South China Morning Post. “When the debate is not about a controversial issue like this, then you don’t feel [the self-censorship] so strongly. But when such a controversy comes around, then you can tell how the controlled press actually works – why Beijing emphasises this so much.”

Umbrella protest in Hong Kong
Protesters fill the streets in Hong Kong. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Altogether, at least 24 journalists have been assaulted while covering the protests, according to Hong Kong journalist groups – some by counter-protesters, others by police. On Saturday night, three journalists were attacked by a mob of counter-protesters during an “anti-Occupy” rally by the city’s Star Ferry pier; one, a reporter for the moderate broadcaster RTHK, was sent to hospital.

“This is uncharted territory for everyone, and that’s just the general state of affairs,” said Francis Moriarty, chairman of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club’s press freedom committee. “The police have at times confused the messenger with the message, and reporters have had to bear the brunt of it.”

The protesters see a clear worst-case scenario, just across the border. Mainland Chinese media covered the protests extensively while almost never showing the demonstrators themselves or articulating their demands. Official editorials repeatedly claim that the movement is backed by “hostile foreign forces” intent on fomenting a “colour revolution” to undermine Beijing. State TV stations interview bystanders who, speaking in Mandarin – which is not widely spoken in Hong Kong – blame the protesters for taking secret payouts to hit the streets.

After milk tea on Tuesday night, Lau stepped out into the main protest site, a sprawl of tents and pro-democracy art installations occupying a stretch of highway by the city’s government offices. Overhead, large banners hanging from a footbridge read: “Do you hear the people sing?” and: “Everyone can be Batman.” She walked past small clusters of black-clad university students sitting cross-legged on the ground, chatting and playing guitar. Nearly all of them gripped smartphones.

Lau found a secluded swath of pavement about 30 metres from the students, and pitched a small tent. The spot would be quiet, she said – a good place to get some rest. After all, she had to go to work in the morning.




Hong Kong: Police are using computer crime law to crack down on pro-democracy groups, individuals

October 27, 2014


Without the internet, protest organization looks a bit like this. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

By Jennifer Zhang

HONG KONG—Hong Kong police are using a broadly-written computer crime law to dissuade protesters from organizing on social media, a move that many advocates worry is restricting free speech in the city.

On Oct. 18, a 23-year-old man with the surname Tam—his full name has not been released—was arrested in his Tin Shui Wai home, and charged with “access to computer with criminal or dishonest intent” and “unlawful assembly,” according to police. Tam’s’ crime was to post a new thread on HKgolden, a message forum popular with pro-democracy protesters. The thread (link in Chinese to an abbreviated, cached version) was titled: “occupy Mong Kok on Friday, occupy Lung Wo Road on Saturday, and occupy Central on Sunday”

Tam’s post, which went up on Oct. 17, got dozens of responses from forum users, many of whom said they would join in. That night, thousands of protesters, including Tam, streamed into Mong Kok, re-taking an area that had been cleared hours earlier by police.

The next day, police announced Tam’s arrest, without naming him, and said he had incited others in an online forum to join the Mong Kok assembly, charge at police, and “paralyze” the railways. “Inciting others to take part in unlawful assembly in that area and charging a police cordon…is a very serious criminal offense,” Police spokesman Hui Chun-tak said. Whether Tam did encourage people to “paralyze” the railways or charge police or not is unclear—the entire message thread has been removed and only a cached snipped remains.

But his arrest worries free speech advocates in Hong Kong, who are already on alert after a summer of hacker attacks, media self-censorship and pressure from Beijing stifled pro-democracy voices in the city. The charges against Tam are based partially on Hong Kong’s “Crimes Ordinance Section 161,” which addresses computer crime and in the past has mostly been used to fight  internet fraud and hacking. Violators who use a computer “with intent to commit an offense” face up to five years in prison.

Arrests like Tam’s are a new use of the law, free speech advocates say, and its application to online communication—not just cyber-crime—is worrying. “Law enforcement appears to have abused the computer crime law by attaching the charge of ‘access to computer with criminal or dishonest intention’ to all other criminal offenses whenever the use of computer is involved,” Hong Kong internet freedom group Keyboard Warrior wrote. “While laws like this one may have been developed to serve the public interest, they can become tools for political persecution if placed in the hands of a repressive regime.”

Tam isn’t the only protester arrest that Hong Kong police have made recently signaling they are studying what people post on the internet closely. Keyboard Warrior said there are “more than a dozen netizens in Hong Kong” who have been arrested under Section 161 since the protests started. Earlier public examples include:

  • Two days before the Occupy Central fully unfolded, the police arrested the co-founder of the student group Scholarism, Joshua Wong, after he called on fellow protesters to break through barricades in front of government headquarters. Police  “seized one computer, two SD cards, one USB and one connected hardware” from Wong’s university dorm room, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported. After two days, a judge ordered Wong’s release.
  • In June, a 15-year-old school boy was arrested by police for posting a guide to storming the Legislative Council building on the internet. The boy was charged under Section 161, and the police searched his home and seized his computer and mobile phone. He was released on bail.

Andrew Raffell, a barrister and consultant at the law faculty of Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the computer crime ordinance, which was first adopted in 1993, was not originally intended to police what is written by individuals on the internet. “The police and the prosecution have been allowed to artificially extend to the point of distortion the law,” he said.

“The concern now is whether there is an increased willingness for Hong Kong authorities to extend the law’s reach and, in doing so, whether they are joining a growing trend, particularly in Asia, to use general cyber crime laws to target online speech and other activities,” said Doreen Weisenhaus, director of the Media Law Project at The University of Hong Kong.

Tam’s latest arrest seems to have had a chilling effect already. In the past few days, netizens have posted less about attending protests in Facebook groups and popular forums such as HKgolden and MemeHK.

HKgolden administrators have advised netziens not to post anything that could break the law under its new interpretation. “No matter what the court’s final ruling will be, the defendant will suffer mental distress for a long time. We hope everyone could pay more attention on this (your online speech). Thanks everyone.”


 (Includes links to articles on Hong Kong from 2 prior weeks)

Husband factor: Why women in China are afraid to discuss the Hong Kong protests

October 22, 2014

On China: This week, a new generation of educated women took a leading role in talks between Hong Kong leaders and pro-democracy protestors. But, in mainland China, the situation couldn’t be more different – with women retreating into traditional roles, says Yuan Ren

Chinese New Year 2014: Many women will be considered 'leftover' because they're 27 and unmarried

Women in mainland China have little idea what’s happening with their Hong Kong counterparts

At the peak of Occupy Central campaign, throngs of young women braved the rainy weather, an onslaught of pepper spray and incidents of harrassment to take part in Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Revolution”.

Hong Kong, formally part of China, has long enjoyed a global status comparable to London and New York. It’s home to some of the most accomplished women in the world, many of who work in its prosperous financial sector. Yet despite this, the citizens of Hong Kong’s have never had a full democracy – not even under British rule, which ended in 1997.

For the young women occupying Central (the region’s business district), what is within their reach has changed.

According to Professor Angela Wong of The Gender Research Centre at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, this “new generation” of women have benefitted from an education that gives them the same confidence as their male counterparts.

That was never clearer than this week, when tens of thousands of protesters watched the first talk between student representatives and the Hong Kong Government. Women played a key part in the discussion across the meeting table, in the fight for greater political freedom.

Pro-democracy protesters from the Occupy Central movement retreat from a tunnel road after being dispersed by Hong Kong police in Admiralty District of Hong Kong

Pro-democracy protesters from the Occupy Central movement retreat from a tunnel road after being dispersed by Hong Kong police in Admiralty District of Hong Kong Photo: EPA

Ms Lo Hoi Yan, a 30-year-old teacher and Hong Kong resident who took part in the demonstrations, says that gender is irrelevant in this fight for democracy: “For me, it’s my right as a person, not as a sex, to express myself in this way.”

So, it seems extraordinary that the situation in mainland China could not be more different.

As women in Hong Kong take the region’s fate into their own hands and stand should-to-shoulder with men, many of their counterparts in China aren’t even aware that it’s happening.

In recent weeks, I’ve asked many female friends for their thoughts on the Hong Kong protests.

More than half replied perplexed – what on earth was I talking about?

‘Women can be easily swayed’

Ms Li, a 29-years-old student at a top-ranking Beijing university thinks this a conversation that ‘mainland women’ have been excluded from. “You’d be lucky to find two out of ten who know about it,” she says. “Men talk about topics like this among themselves, but not with women.”

Of course, censorship (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all blocked) and the lack of free political expression no doubt stifle open debate in mainland China. Yet, there’s a definite knowledge gap when it comes to women in particular.

And – among those who are aware of the situation – there’s suspicion, too.

Li, who is married to a European, questions whether the women in Hong Kong have fully grasped what they are fighting for: “Young women can be easily swayed by collectivism – I’d be surprised if it’s pure politics that brought them onto the streets,” she says.

Voices such as that of demonstrator Yan have fallen largely to unsympathetic ears. One Chinese friend from university, a woman who works in Hong Kong’s financial district, called the protesters “a bunch of stirred-up students with over-idealised minds”.

“I’d say most Chinese women don’t get into this kind of discussion about politics”, explains Xia, a 28-year-old graduate from a London university and an investment banker in Beijing. “I didn’t know and I don’t care except to say Hong Kong is a very good choice for shopping.”

For others, the blocking of Instagram triggered a burst of interest. “That was the only reason Hong Kong came up in my conversations with other women”, says Ms Wu, a 29-year-old media professional, who studied in the US. “And only in passing – otherwise they really wouldn’t care.”

‘It’s more useful to care about a rich man than politics’

According to a publication in the Journal of International Women’s Studies earlier this year, Chinese women’s participation in political affairs – including involvement in mass organisations, as well as a general interest in media affairs and political knowledge at all levels of society – has seen little growth for the past few decades. Women scored significantly below men on all counts. While the percentage of women in high political office has remained at 21.3 per cent since 1959.


Dr Liu, Deputy Director at the SOAS China Institute in London, thinks that as China gets richer, it may be leavings its women behind: “Economic development has been the sole driver of reform in the last 30-years and women’s status did not feature at all in those objectives.”

The one-child-policy encouraged greater investment in girls – but Dr. Liu thinks that while such reforms created greater employment opportunities for women, they failed to change their overall prominence in China.

Rapid growth and an increasingly materialistic culture have also created new pressures for women. Pointing to sky-rocketing house prices, and the cost of giving birth, Ms Li says that for young women today, “it’s all about ‘self-preservation’ rather than ‘social preservation’”.

China’s income inequality gap now exceeds that of the USA. Men’s salaries have risen high above those of women. In such an environment – where influence and connections dictate social standing – marriage is still seen as the easist route for women to secure financial stability.

“It’s more practical to care about finding a rich man with a car and house, than about world affairs,” says Ms Wu.

A huge obstacle to engaging women in political affairs is gender discrimination. Heavily bound by traditional notions about femininity, participation in public or political activities is often discouraged. The common view remains that a women’s priority is foremost her family. The public space still belongs to the men.

“If you are even slightly aggressive about arguing a political point, people will think there’s something wrong with you. You’ll be laughed at for never finding a husband,” says Wu.

“The rigidity of these ideas can be so overpowering it’s hard for young women to see alternatives for themselves,” adds Dr Liu.

Women have few alternatives

It wasn’t so long ago that women in the mainland were pivotal to demanding political change: in the anti-imperialist revolutions of 1919, women were leading figures in the fight against the feudalism, and again during the 1989 student protests in Tiananmen Square.

Rapid growth in personal wealth and the pursuit of materialism over the past 30 years of economic prosperity have gone a long way to to silence outward demonstrations of public discontent.

But Professor Wong thinks that women in Hong Kong also have a long way to go in terms of gender equality – despite how things look to the watching world. She says that the success of women in its prosperous financial sector is an illusion and “hides the fact that strong traditional notions exist about women’s role within the family.”

She adds that “there’s been little attempt at translating women’s rights into political or legal terms”.

And while it is true that men made up the majority of representatives around the discussion table on Monday evening, women did make an impact.

Demonstrator Yan, impressed by student representative Yvonne Leung’s performance, viewed her role as being “absolutely critical” to the movement.

Even though such sentiments might fail to resonate with those on the mainland, many here can still appreciate the value of being given a voice.

For 36-year-old Ms Zhao and her peers, ignorance of what’s happening in Hong Kong may hinge on a simple point: “Perhaps if change could come from talking about it here, I too would be interested in the discussion.”

Yuan Ren is a freelance journalist who grew up in both London and Beijing. She can be found tweeting @girlinbeijing

Hong Kong: Mainlanders supporting pro-democracy protests

October 14, 2014


Pro-democracy demonstrators gather near the government headquarters in Hong Kong, on September 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Dale de la Rey)


Hong Kong (AFP) – Hong Kong’s democracy demonstrators are winning unexpected support from pockets of the city’s much-vilified mainland Chinese community, who are defying Beijing’s hard line on the protests and a social media backlash from their peers.

Hong Kongers have long had a testy relationship with mainlanders, who are often derided for swamping the already densely crowded financial hub and usurping resources, from hospital beds to baby formula.

The city’s protests over Beijing’s refusal to grant fully free elections have drawn insouciant shrugs and nationalistic rants across much of the mainland, with small knots of sympathisers swiftly detained by authorities.

But some mainlanders in Hong Kong are bravely showing up at the rallies that erupted two weeks ago, lending logistical and ideological support and revelling in what is strictly forbidden on the Communist mainland –- rooting for democracy.

“On the mainland, you can be thrown in jail for your beliefs,” said Li, a 21-year-old sociology student from southern Guangdong province.

“Coming out at protests in Hong Kong, shouting slogans for democracy, standing up for what you truly believe in is a liberating experience.”

Li, who requested that her real name be withheld, never converses in Mandarin at protests — only Cantonese with a “Taiwan accent” — and sticks with Western peers from her university in Hong Kong, masking her face to “prevent any trouble” for her parents back in Guangdong.

The number of such supporters is hard to ascertain but the trend reinforces the nightmare scenario for Beijing of a possible domino effect that would see the mass revolt in Hong Kong spread to the mainland.

Beijing has said that candidates for Hong Kong’s leadership election in 2017 will be vetted — infuriating protesters who call it “fake democracy”.

Tensions flared at the city’s main rally site Monday as masked men descended on barricades, triggering clashes with protesters, hours after police had removed some barriers in a dawn operation.

- Facebook backlash -

But the odds of the protest movement extending to the mainland are slim, says Hong Kong University student Xin, judging by the reactions from her fellow mainlanders on Facebook — some openly supported the use of tear gas on umbrella-wielding Hong Kong protesters on September 28 in a police move that grabbed the world’s attention.

Facebook is officially banned in mainland China but it is possible to use virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass the country’s vast censorship apparatus.

Xin, 24, says her Facebook timeline turned into a battlefield when she began posting pictures of the protests from the roof of her 22-storey building in Causeway Bay district, where she set up a free WiFi hotspot to enable demonstrators to post live updates on social media.

“Hong Kongers are spoilt and ungrateful.”

“The city won’t survive a day without China.”

“What democracy? We’ve already given you too much freedom.”

Infuriated by Xin’s support for Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, some of her “nationalist minded” mainland friends abandoned her Facebook page.

The protests are reported to have triggered a “collective war of unfriending” on social media between mainlanders on the two ends of the political divide, the Hong Kong-based newspaper Ming Pao Daily said in a recent article.

Many of those trading barbs from the mainland have limited access to the realities in Hong Kong because of the “sanitised” coverage in the heavily censored national media, Xin said.

“I call up my mother and she curiously asks me, ‘Oh but why are Hong Kong people behaving so badly?’ She doesn’t have the slightest clue.”

One Chinese television report said that Hong Kongers were enjoying “fresh air” at the city’s protest-hit Tamar Park, at the peak of the demonstrations, Xin added.

- Stereotyping mainlanders -

But despite their zealous support for democracy, it hasn’t been easy for mainlanders to win over Hong Kong protesters.

In a video that went viral on YouTube, a mainland supporter is seen booed and heckled in the city’s Mongkok district by an emotionally charged crowd of protesters who mistake her for a pro-government member.

“I was there in 1989,” the middle-aged woman says in Cantonese with a heavy mainland accent, apparently referring to 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing.

“I support students, I support universal suffrage,” she pleads with the protesters in a high-pitched voice.

But the crowd erupts into rhythmic clapping and a raucous chorus of “Happy Birthday”, which has become a popular anthem among protesters to signal pro-Beijing rivals.

“I was in the front row when you were tear-gassed on September 28. I was telling the students to protect themselves from the fumes like this,” the woman says, pulling out a transparent mask and wrapping it over her face, but only a few stop and pay attention.

The video broke Jie’s heart.

The 25-year-old mainlander from southwestern Sichuan province said she stands for democracy but is put off by the “chauvinistic attitudes” in Hong Kong towards mainlanders.

A mainlander is typically stereotyped as a country bumpkin with a lot of money, she says.

In the year that she has been a student in Hong Kong, she has often heard the phrase “keung gwok yun” — derogatory Cantonese slang meaning “strong country people”, an apparent dig at China’s regional hegemony.

A Hong Kong University poll in June showed a spike in the number of people identifying themselves exclusively as Hong Kongers, while those identifying themselves as Chinese fell to the lowest levels since 1997.

“Hong Kongers and mainlanders are growing further and further apart everyday,” said Jie, who did not want to be identified by her real name.

“Why aren’t we listening to each other any more?”


Watching Hong Kong: Taiwan on guard against China

(The article above has links to all Sunday’s coverage and articles from before Sunday)

Hong Kong: Joshua Wong and Friends Started a Pro-Democracy “Youthquake” — “We need to be persistent.”

October 9, 2014


Fighting for Democracy

“If Hong Kong just relies on me,” he says, “the movement will fail.”

By Ed Flanagan
NBC News

Hong Kong — Joshua Wong, the student leader who helped spark pro-democracy demonstrations rocking Hong Kong, has promised a long-term fight against Beijing despite a recent drop-off in protester numbers.

“Let’s bring our clothes, tents and mattresses here,” one of the movement’s leading voices told a crowd late on Tuesday at one of Hong Kong’s main protest sites. “We shall gather here and work here.”

The 17-year-old also called on the international community to force Beijing to participate in upcoming negotiations in good faith. This sort of pressure would “give us more chance to get the result of universal suffrage,” he said.

Protest numbers, originally in the tens of thousands, have dwindled in the last few days. Meanwhile, the focus for activists has gone from direct action to talks with key officials in the Hong Kong administration.

Wong said that while he did not have an active role in Friday’s negotiations with the government, he would mobilize the students before the negotiations started.

“[Hong Kong Chief Secretary] Carrie Lam will know that while facing student leaders inside, [she should not] forget the activists outside the government headquarters,” Wong told journalists after his speech.

Wong acknowledged that the odds were stacked against them.

“I don’t believe after Friday’s meeting [China’s Communist Party] will say ‘Oh, we’ll give you everything you want’,” Wong said. “We need to be persistent.”

Student groups needed to discuss further daily acts of civil disobedience, he said, adding that they had no immediate plans to extend the resistance campaign. Wong did call for more international support for the movement.

Wong’s proclamations come as protest numbers falter across the three protest zones in Hong Kong. A late-night announcement that the student leaders and the government had agreed on formal talks on Friday brought hope that a resolution could be near.

But Wednesday also brought pointed questions: what would be on the agenda for discussions, where will they be held and in what format would talks occur.

Protesters’ core demands — full universal suffrage for Hong Kong and the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying — are not on the agenda, according to student leaders and Hong Kong officials.


Ed Flanagan is a Beijing-based producer for NBC News. He has been part of the NBC News team in China since 2005 and has covered the region — from North Korea to Japan as well.

Includes videos:

Joshua Wong — One face of the Hong Kong pro-democracy effort


By Hannah Beech and Emily Rauhala

Joshua Wong and his fellow students have triggered a youthquake that’s shaking up Hong Kong

Joshua Wong does not want to grow up. He’s a Hong Kong kid and that’s why, just before midnight on Oct. 6, he and his girlfriend (and his girlfriend’s friend, because teenagers travel in packs) have ducked into a barbecue joint in the working-class neighborhood of Mongkok to feast on grilled scallions, roasted pineapple and Chinese egg noodles bathed in cheese and garlic—a classic Hong Kong fusion dish. Wong, who turns 18 this month, sucks down the pasta with one hand and checks his smartphone with the other. Slurp, swipe, slurp, swipe.

The clatter of Cantonese rattles around the restaurant. An overhead TV displays images of the student-led protest movement that has occupied key commercial districts of Hong Kong, highlighting the dilemma of a hybrid city reared on democratic ideals but ruled by an authoritarian China. No one in the eatery, though, pays much attention to the news. This kind of place—fluorescent-lit, Formica-clad, Hong Kong soul food of the cheesiest, noodliest variety—is why Wong, one of the organizers of the protest campaign, says he will never leave his home city, why he, like Peter Pan, never wants to become that most disdainful of species: an adult. “The future will not be decided by adults,” says Wong. “I would like to ask adults, people with capital and power, Why are they not fighting for democracy?”

If Wong is wary of adulthood, his beloved home, Hong Kong, is also suspended in adolescence. The city may be the financial heart of the world’s most dynamic region, a collection of 7.2 million people for whom pragmatism and efficiency are a guiding faith. But since its inception as a tiny fishing port plundered by the British from the enfeebled Qing dynasty in the mid–19th century, to the colony’s hand­over back to China in 1997, Hong Kong has never been permitted political maturity. It was always a pawn of empire.

When Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty, the former Crown Colony was given a 50-year adjustment period to mainland rule. The “one country, two systems” policy guaranteed the territory a “high degree of autonomy” from Beijing on most everything but security matters. In 33 years’ time, though, the city will revert to full Chinese governance. Little Hong Kong will be forced to grow up and merge with the masses.

The trajectory toward 2047 is particularly troubling for Hong Kong youth, who will inherit this new political reality. Already, many locals worry that China’s communist rulers are eroding the freedoms—like an independent judiciary and an open press—that differentiate the city from the rest of China. Beijing’s recently announced plan to prevent Hong Kong from freely electing its chief executive galvanized the first batch of protesters who crowded the city’s downtown in late September. But it was the overreaction to this display of civil disobedience—sprays of tear gas from the police and outright thuggery from elements of Hong Kong’s underworld—that led tens of thousands to occupy more streets, a spontaneous, sympathetic outpouring no one, least of all Wong, expected. Umbrellas, unfurled by students against the pepper spray, turned into the movement’s symbol. Hong Kong’s very public struggle now ranks as China’s most consequential protest since the 1989 pro-democracy rallies were crushed at Tiananmen—and young Hong Kong residents have provided the crusade with both its population and its passion.

The student-led siege of prime Hong Kong property is not going to suddenly transform the territory into a full-fledged democracy—certainly not if the Chinese Communist Party remains in power on the mainland. As a government ultimatum to clear the streets expired without incident on Oct. 6, the urge for solidarity against the authorities faded; protest numbers have waned. Nevertheless, the events of the past few weeks have awakened a political consciousness that few, even in the city itself, knew they possessed. Their idealism, not to mention their organizational acumen and communal spirit, is exactly what threatens China’s rulers, who, from the heady days of Tiananmen and further back in the country’s history, know well the transformative potential of students on the streets.

Teen Icon

It was past 1 a.m. on Oct. 2, and the throngs gathered outside Hong Kong’s government headquarters in Admiralty district were starting to dissipate. Protesters had spent days camped on an overpass, sleeping curled around their backpacks, subsisting on crackers and KFC. Throughout the campaign, some had been pepper-sprayed and soaked by rain. The air was growing thick again, and restlessness had set in.

As a light mist fell, word spread: Joshua Wong—who on Sept. 26 was arrested for trespassing and spent 46 hours in detention for the students’ initial occupation—was about to speak. Many in the crowd raised their phones to capture the moment. With his bowl-cut bangs, sparse stubble and thick-framed spectacles, Wong looks like any other nerdy kid in a society where nearly half of youngsters wear glasses. His delivery at the makeshift podium set in the shelter of a pedestrian bridge came in confident, quick-fire Cantonese. The fight for full democracy is not over, he told protesters. “Stay,” he said. They did.

Off the podium, Wong is polite, prone to bringing his hands together in a penitent clasp. He was raised in a Christian family that dispatched him to rural China for volunteer teaching; some of his fellow student activists are friends from church. In 2011, when he was just 14 years old, Wong formed a group of students in Hong Kong called Scholarism to stop the territory from implementing a mainland-designed “national education” policy that ignored the Tiananmen massacre and pushed fealty to the Chinese Communist Party. After 100,000 people joined his 2012 street rally, the Hong Kong government backed off.

Wong had taken on Hong Kong’s bosses in Beijing—and notched a rare victory. Local celebrity followed, with breaking-news reports on his (mediocre) college-entrance examination results. Despite the attention usually reserved for Canto-pop heartthrobs, Wong lacks physical presence. His shoulders are hunched in the kind of phone-tethered posture that annoys mothers everywhere. Yet his rhetoric, often delivered with eyes squeezed shut, is unequivocal. “I don’t want to follow the games of adults,” he says, “handing out business cards that you’ll just put in the rubbish bin, chit-chat. Political reform is not going to come from going to meetings … We had to do radical action because our leaders did nothing.”

Wong has a girlfriend named Tiffany and thumbs picked raw from stress. He wishes he had more time to play mobile-phone games and displays no overriding affection for any particular book. Despite the command his speeches claim over the protesters, Wong says he has no wish to serve as an icon and is still shocked that his arrest last month galvanized so many to join the cause. He doesn’t have any heroes himself, neither Mahatma Gandhi nor Wang Dan, the Beijing university student whose leadership of the Tiananmen pro-democracy struggle made him “enemy No. 1” to the Chinese government. To Wong, the leaderless nature of the territory’s democracy movement is a strength, not a weakness. “If Hong Kong just relies on me,” he says, “the movement will fail.”

Generation Gap

Compared with their peers in mainland China, Hong Kong’s youth are wealthier, healthier and have access to social media like Facebook and Twitter that are blocked by Chinese censors. Wong is often asked if his parents are activists; they are not. There’s an assumption there must be something unusual about his upbringing, beyond his Protestant faith, that makes him care. “People think that every night we were talking about how the government was violating democratic principles,” he says. “[My parents] just gave me the freedom to do what I want.”

Such liberty in China is unique to Hong Kong, and the city’s prospects depend on the whims of a Communist Party led by a President, Xi Jinping, who has shown little tolerance for dissent. Even the local economy is not immune to jitters about the future, especially as worries proliferate that Hong Kong’s reputation for clean governance is being compromised by Communist Party politics. Hong Kong has long thrived as a conduit for foreign investors to China, but growth is slowing, chiefly because of sliding exports. “If Hong Kong is so obviously becoming just another mainland city, why not set up one’s regional headquarters in Beijing or Shanghai?” asks Carsten Holz, an economics professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Income inequality has surged since 1997 and now ranks as the highest in the developed world. The fertility rate is so low that the local population cannot sustain itself. Instead, an influx of mainland Chinese—40.7 million visited last year—has brought with it a flood of new wealth that has made Hong Kong’s homes the least affordable in the world, yet also the smallest, according to one housing survey. “We don’t see good prospects for our future,” says Katie Lo, 21, a university student.

Proud of their heritage—the Cantonese language instead of the Mandarin spoken on the mainland, for instance—locals fear a cultural and economic invasion from the north. “Stand on Canton Road,” frets legislator Claudia Mo, speaking of a major Hong Kong thoroughfare, “and you’ll hardly hear any Cantonese.” Mandarin has eclipsed English as the city’s second language. For her own part, Mo speaks very upper-class British English. She comes from a coastal mainland Chinese family that fled the communists and came to Hong Kong. But like many of her peers, she identifies as a Hong Konger first, global citizen second and a resident of the People’s Republic a distant third.

There’s plenty of chauvinism toward mainlanders in Hong Kong. A nasty local phrase labels them “locusts.” For all the hope that Hong Kong’s struggle might catalyze a similar awakening in the rest of China, where dissent usually earns activists jail terms, many Hong Kong students’ concerns are locally cocooned. “Hong Kong people want to protect our freedoms,” says Hiu Wah, a 19-year-old early-childhood education student. “I am not interested in changing Chinese politics.”

While Britain extended rule of law to its colony, it kept the populace all but disenfranchised. Since the 1997 handover, China has provided the territory with a string of proxies for its chief executive, the latest being the widely unpopular Leung Chun-ying. Hong Kong still boasts competent civil servants and veteran democracy legislators, with their crisp British accents and posh overseas degrees. But the youth at the barricades defending the protest sites wonder what all that conventional activism has done to change Hong Kong’s political predicament. “People always say to me, ‘Oh, if you want to change the world, first you need to go to university, then work as a government administrator or a businessman, then you can make policies,’” says Wong. “No, to affect the world, you go to the streets.”


Movements need great men and women, and practical ones too. Already the protests have lost momentum, as the crowds thin. By the night of Oct. 7, no more than a couple thousand people milled around the main occupied zone in Admiralty district, well below the tens of thousands days earlier. So much energy has gone into figuring out how to get the protesters off the streets—endless talk about talking with the government, in addition to the actual talking—rather than figuring out how to turn this movement into practical policy that Beijing might consider. The protest leaders have declined to invite opposition politicians, who are well practiced at negotiating with the central government, into their movement. The same organizational and factional dysfunction that has beset protest movements around the world may undercut the Hong Kong campaign too. “They want to do it on their own,” says Emily Lau, head of the Democratic Party. “But why alienate pan-democrat legislators? Our goals are the same.”

Even for Hong Kong residents who support the students’ ideals, the lengthy shutdown of major roads and neighborhoods is a significant inconvenience. Paul Zimmerman, a district councillor who pointedly carried an umbrella to an official ceremony marking China’s National Day on Oct. 1, says it’s time to withdraw. “You’ve given people a voice,” he says, “now you give them the street back.”

Wong isn’t bothered. “You need to create the rules yourself,” he says. “Students have more time, more energy, so they should stand on the front lines.” Whenever Wong is spotted shuffling through any of the protest sites, he’s mobbed by dozens of news cameras and fans requesting snapshots with him. Hollywood actors might be used to the attention, but Wong is a student who, as he likes to point out, attends the ninth-ranked of nine universities in Hong Kong. (He is studying politics and public administration.) The attention, all those demands to explain his political philosophy and smile for selfies, is exhausting.

No wonder Wong is sometimes most comfortable going underground, literally. As he hops onto the subway, almost no one recognizes him. He’s just another teenager, swaying as the train tunnels under Hong Kong’s harbor, updating his Facebook page and WhatsApping madly. Three friends, also in Scholarism, stand next to him, absorbed in their own online lives. Barely a few seconds go by without frantic swiping. “Taking action is more meaningful than words,” says Wong. He dismisses planned negotiations with the authorities as “just an opportunity to show our anger to the government.” Inevitably, his head soon bends over his phone again, just a lone Hong Kong kid connecting with the world.

With reporting by Elizabeth Barber, Rishi Iyengar, Nash Jenkins and David Stout / Hong Kong

Hong Kong, The uncensored truth: If Beijing ignores its commitments, it will reveal the true character of China’s leadership

October 6, 2014


By L. Gordon Crovitz
The wall Street Journal

Information has been the main currency of Hong Kong since colonial days, when word reached mainland Chinese that if they escaped to “touch base” in Hong Kong, they would get refuge under British rule. Hong Kong became Asia’s first global city thanks to hardworking immigrants who made the most of their open trade, English legal system and free speech.

Hong Kong protesters are driven by hope that a leader selected by Hong Kong voters—as Beijing promised for 2017 before it reneged—can protect their way of life. But as the Communist Party narrows freedoms on the mainland, Deng Xiaoping ’s “one country, two systems” formulation for the 1997 handover entails a widening gap between life in Hong Kong and the rest of China. Without a government to represent them, Hong Kong people had no better choice than to take to the streets.

Mainland China is in an era of brutal suppression. Beijing jails reformers, controls journalists and employs hundreds of thousands of censors on social media. Twitter , Facebook , YouTube and many global news sites are blocked. Instagram was closed down after mainlanders shared photos of Hong Kong people using umbrellas against pepper spray and tear gas.

Posing with a bus covered by protest signs in Hong Kong, Sept. 30. 

Posing with a bus covered by protest signs in Hong Kong, Sept. 30. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images        

Posing with a bus covered by protest signs in Hong Kong, Sept. 30. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

As a financial capital, Hong Kong cannot survive without open access to information. It has more newspapers than any other city in the world. It’s been a window on China since the communist revolution. An unintended consequence of Beijing’s recent crackdown is that expelled foreign journalists now operate from Hong Kong, delivering news of the protests.

The Wall Street Journal’s first overseas edition was launched in Hong Kong in 1976. A running joke among Journal opinion writers is that it’s the only place in the world where our free-market, free-people beliefs are mainstream. Google searches from China are routed to Hong Kong servers so that results can be delivered uncensored.

This year has seen unprecedented physical attacks on journalists in Hong Kong, presumably at Beijing’s behest. China extorted advertising boycotts of pro-democracy publishers in Hong Kong. It forced critical bloggers to close down. Jimmy Lai, founder of the popular anticommunist Apple Daily newspaper, was targeted by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, raising doubts about the integrity of the Beijing-controlled Hong Kong chief executive, who oversees the agency.

Joshua Wong, the 17-year-old student whose arrest last month brought hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong’s seven million people to the streets, had earlier sparked a movement that forced Beijing to back down on free-speech issues. In 2012, his Scholarism group successfully fought a mainland edict that Hong Kong schools institute “patriotic education.” In contrast, the Communist Party last year identified seven forbidden topics for schools on the mainland: democracy, universal values, civil society, free markets, free press, criticism of the Communist Party (“historical nihilism”) and questioning of the current regime.

There was concern about the survival of freewheeling Hong Kong as part of China well before the handover in 1997. A memorable Wall Street Journal editorial-board meeting occurred in 1990, when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited New York after Journal editorials criticized her for agreeing to give Hong Kong back and failing to offer British citizenship to Hong Kong people.

Thatcher looked at her watch with 10 minutes left in the meeting. “I have just enough time to say what I came here to say,” she said. She defended her policies on Hong Kong and called the editorials “hurtful.” She ended by leaning forward to demand: “Do I make myself clear?”

Years later Thatcher admitted in a BBC interview that she had tried to negotiate continued British administration of Hong Kong and that her handling of the transition was a low point—confirming our suspicions she was defensive because the criticisms were justified.

By breaking the promise that Hong Kong can select its own government, China’s current rulers are violating clear obligations. In the 1980s an earlier generation of Beijing rulers reassured a world nervous about the handover by signing a treaty with Britain promising one-country, two-systems and Hong Kong control over the pace of democracy.

Hong Kong’s fate is to be the world’s window on an unpredictable China. The view is darkening as reformers in Beijing are vanquished by hard-liners, who fear freedom in Hong Kong will encourage mainlanders to demand their own rights. But if Beijing ignores its commitments and closes Hong Kong’s window, it will reveal the true character of China’s leadership.

Mainland Chinese youths launch Facebook campaign to support Hong Kong protesters

October 3, 2014

By Chen Yifei and Raquel Carvalho
The South China Morning Post

A screenshot of Facebook page started by Chinese Mainlanders in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy groups

A Facebook page was set up on Wednesday by a group of mainlanders seeking to support the ongoing “Umbrella Revolution” in Hong Kong.

Lydia Liu, one of the initiators and a former student in Hong Kong, said she had received 20 to 30 photos by Thursday.

“We persuaded people who are now on the mainland not to post their photos [of themselves]. We don’t want to put them in trouble,” she said. “People have been detained in Shenzhen for showing support.”

Liu is now studying abroad, “I may not have the guts to do it if I live in mainland,” she said.

“For us [mainlanders] living in Hong Kong or abroad, we won’t get arrested for showing our support, at least for a period of time. Mainlanders need to step up [to show our support].”

The page, called “Mainlanders support Hong Kong”, had gathered more than 1,500 likes by Friday afternoon.

Liu said photos were sent by people from a variety of walks of life, including students, finance professionals and musicians.

Support is not limited to providing a photograph, the page administrator will also share reflections on and analysis of the pro-democracy demonstrations.

Mainlanders support Hong Kong was set up initially in response to a photo campaign conducted on the Wechat account of “Hong Kong Drifters Circles” (Gangpiaoquan), an online community popular among recent mainland immigrants to Hong Kong.

The Gangpiaoquan Weibo account invited its more than 50,000 subscribers to share their thoughts on “What’s happening in Hong Kong” under the hashtag “I live in Hong Kong and I have something to say.”

An initial post that launched the Gangpiaoquan campaign showed a dozen people holding banners with slogans that read “I want to focus on study”, “Keep calm and carry on”, and “I want to go shopping in Temple Street”. The number of participants is unknown because Wechat only allows sharing among friends.

The post was deleted on Tuesday amid tightening censorship by Chinese authorities.

Liu said these slogans were indicating opposition to the Umbrella Revolution, and Gangpiaoquan had refused to post photos with messages of support that she sent.

An executive of Gangpiaoquan declined an interview request by a reporter from the South China Morning Post.

“Many mainland residents [in Hong Kong] are showing their support, and their voices need to be heard,” Liu said.

Liu’s words echoed those of some of the mainland immigrants the Post talked to. They sympathise with the demonstrators and their cause, and try to share photos and accounts from Hong Kong with friends in mainland, where mainstream media reports on the protest are rare and usually dismissive. Large scale censorship of social media in the mainland also prevents the sharing of information about the protests.

In fact, opinions on the demonstration are divided in the mainland community in Hong Kong.

Mainland students interviewed by the Post at the University of Hong Kong, said they would stay clear of the protest movement.

“We don’t want to join this type of political event. … We don’t want to be related with those Hong Kong students,” said 23-year-old Melody Ling, “We prefer to focus more on our studies.”

Twenty five-year-old Anna Wu said she agreed with the Chinese government, “I think that democracy should be a process. Mainland China already gave a lot to Hong Kong.”

Nearly all the interviewees, supportive or not, were pessimistic about the movement’s future.

One 24-year-old HKU PhD student surnamed Wang said the “objective of the movement is good”, but he didn’t think the students would achieve their goals.

“They can hardly succeed,” said another, speaking on condition of anonymity. The central government would lose ground to protests in other parts in China if it gives in to Hong Kong, he explained.

Liu was more optimistic; “You need to fight and hope for the best,” she said.

“There are indeed concerns about a crackdown, but Hong Kong people have more experience in social movement, and they have a relatively sophisticated withdrawal mechanism,” she said. “When the rumour of rubber bullets spread [on last Sunday night], the organisers asked people to retreat. Their priority is peoples’ lives.”

Liu is not the first mainlander to openly voice support for the pro-democracy protests. A similar Facebook page was built on Monday. Photos posted on the page showed people in the mainland holding banners with supportive messages, some were covering their faces with the banners for fear of persecution.

China Blocks Instagram as Reality of Police Action in Hong Kong Gets Global Attention

September 29, 2014
A protester raises his arms as police officers try to disperse the crowd near the government headquarters in Hong Kong, September 29, 2014. REUTERS-Carlos Barria
A protester raises his arms as police officers try to disperse the crowd near the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Monday, September 29, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

NEW YORK Sun Sep 28, 2014 3:45pm EDT

(Reuters) – Instagram, the popular photo-sharing service owned by Facebook Inc (FB.O), has been blocked in China, according to numerous reports, including from Hong Kong-based reporters with the New York Times.

The company did not immediately return requests for confirmation.

The reports came amid pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, where many have posted photos and videos, including of Hong Kong police firing tear gas at demonstrators.

Many of the photos were labeled with the hash tag “Occupy Central,” a phrase that was blocked on Sunday on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. It had been allowed earlier in the day.

The website also indicated that Instagram was blocked across China, including in Beijing and Shenzhen.

If the site was blocked in China, that would not prevent users in Hong Kong from posting on social media, nor users in other countries viewing the images.

(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica)

Riot police fire teargas to disperse protesters, during clashes after thousands of protesters blocked the main street to the financial Central district (background) outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong September 28, 2014. REUTERS-Stringer

Riot police fire teargas to disperse protesters after thousands of demonstrators blocked the main street to the financial Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong September
Credit: REUTERS/Stringer

 Riot police fire teargas to disperse protesters after thousands of demonstrators blocked the main street to the financial Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong September 29, 2014.  REUTERS-Stringer
 Riot police fire teargas to disperse protesters after thousands of demonstrators blocked the main street to the financial Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong September 29, 2014.  REUTERS/Stringer
Protesters flee from teargas fired by riot police, during clashes after thousands of protesters blocked the main street to the financial Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong September 28, 2014. REUTERS-Stringer

Protesters flee from teargas fired by riot police, during clashes after thousands of protesters blocked the main street to the financial Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong September 28, 2014.  REUTERS/Stringer

Riot police fire teargas to disperse protesters, during clashes after thousands of protesters blocked the main street to the financial Central district (background) outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong September 28, 2014. REUTERS-Stringer

Riot police fire teargas to disperse protesters after thousands of demonstrators blocked the main street to the financial Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong.  Credit: REUTERS/Stringer



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