Posts Tagged ‘Election Committee’

Hong Kong: Pan-democrats could be the “kingmakers” in a tight political race

February 17, 2017

By Joyce Lim
Hong Kong Correspondent
The Straits Times

Holding over 25% of the votes, they aim to stop Beijing’s preferred candidate Carrie Lam

On March 26, Hong Kong’s next leader will be voted in by an Election Committee of 1,194 members. That only so few have a say reflects the failure of the 2014 Occupy Protests, where protesters demanded “one man, one vote” in choosing the chief executive.

But the experience has galvanised the pan-democratic, or pro-democracy camp, to be more pragmatic. Previously, they would cast blank votes to show that they do not support pro-establishment contenders. This time, they hold 326 votes – which is more than a quarter of the votes in the Election Committee – and are determined to make them count.

With the election featuring three pro-establishment figures – Mrs Carrie Lam, Mr John Tsang and Ms Regina Ip – for the first time, the pan-democrats could be the “kingmakers” in a tight race.

Former security chief Ip, 66, who won the most votes for a female lawmaker in last September’s Legislative Council Election, was the first among the three to announce her candidacy, followed by Mr Tsang, 65, a former finance chief, and Mrs Lam, 59, a former chief secretary. Others include retired judge Woo Kwok Hing, 70, and radical pan-democrat Leung Kwok Hung, 60.

To become the next chief executive, at least 601 votes are needed. To qualify, each contender needs at least 150 nominations from the Election Committee made up of mostly pro-Beijing property tycoons, lawmakers as well as representatives of professional bodies and trade associations.

That’s the challenge for all but Mrs Lam, who has been endorsed by Beijing. She has reportedly secured 300 to 400 nominations while Mr Tsang has 24 nominations from pan-democrats.

Mr Tsang, who is leading in popularity polls, is seen as the strongest contender to Mrs Lam.

Some see Beijing’s move to name its preferred candidate as its bid to control the election, said Professor Lau Siu Kai, vice-chairman of the Beijing-backed Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies. And it is the pan-democrats’ aim to stop Beijing’s choice candidate from becoming the next chief executive.

“If John Tsang and Woo Kwok Hing are able to join the race, there may be unexpected results,” said Prof Lau, referring to the duo deemed acceptable by the pan-democrats. That is because the next leader would be picked by a secret ballot system, which could see Mrs Lam’s supporters switching sides.

Still, if Beijing had not declared its preferred candidate, it is unlikely that any contender would be able to win enough votes.

Last week, radical lawmaker Leung, better known as “Long Hair”, declared his intention to run and urged pan-democrats not to vote for the other four contenders who “do not represent (the) pro-democracy camp”.

But lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who is coordinating votes from the pan-democrats, told reporters the bloc is considering voting for Mr Tsang, Mr Woo and a third nominee picked from a mock online poll.

With nomination closing on March 1, pan-democrats should decide by next week, he said.

Critics have said Mr Leung’s intention to run has further split the pan-democratic camp already faced with the dilemma of whether to support Mr Tsang. Some worry about the possible backlash from endorsing someone who wants to enact the unpopular national security law.

But with Mr Tsang having a huge lead in popularity polls, even if he turns out to be like incumbent Leung Chun Ying, whose policies are unpopular with Hong Kongers, the pan-democrats could say that the candidate they have endorsed was the people’s choice.

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/pan-democratspragmatic-approach-to-upcoming-polls

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“Corporate Voting” Debate Amid Hong Kong Electoral Reform

May 24, 2015

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By Tony Cheung
South China Morning Post

As the desperate search continues for a way to break the impasse on electoral reform, one possibility some commentators have honed in on the question of who gets to vote for nominating committee members.

The 1,200-strong committee will pick two or three chief executive candidates for the public to choose from in 2017 under the government’s model for reform.

But many of the committee’s members are chosen in part or as a whole by corporate voters – companies or organisations given the right to cast a ballot, usually by virtue of membership of certain trade chambers.

Hopes corporate voting could be abolished to help win pan-democratic support for the reform plan took a blow on Wednesday, when Basic Law Committee vice-chairman Zhang Rongshun ruled out the idea.

Yet the same day, former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen questioned whether Zhang’s views really represented Beijing’s position. Meanwhile two other members of Zhang’s committee had also said abolition was possible if lawmakers gave the package the two-thirds majority required.

The rare note of disharmony between Beijing advisers put the spotlight back on the composition of the committee, which will be closely based on the Election Committee that selected Leung Chun-ying in 2012. The body’s 1,200 members are drawn from four sectors – business, professional, social and political – divided further into 38 subsectors.

Yet apart from the 70 lawmakers, who are ex-officio members of the committee, just 240,000 of the city’s 3.5 million voters have a say in the key committee’s membership. Of those, 11 subsectors are chosen only by corporate voters, while 11 have a mixture of individual and corporate voters.

The corporate voting system has long been criticised as undemocratic and unrepresentative. For example just 573 companies pick the 18 representatives of the financial services subsector – against the 16,500 brokers licensed by the Securities and Futures Commission.

In the insurance subsector, only 127 corporate voters elect the 18 members, although there are about 47,000 individual insurance agents in the city.

Views vary on how the corporate votes could be reallocated. A 2013 proposal from lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah would have seen the voter base for nine subsectors, including insurance and financial services expand to about one million individuals

Yet pro-establishment figures including the chief executive have long warned against any move that would swing the committee towards “populism”.

In dismissing the idea of scrapping corporate votes, Zhang echoed that argument, saying the committee was democratic as long as the system “allows different trades” to elect their representatives.

Asked about Zhang’s comment, Tong said distrust between Beijing and his fellow pan-democrats made progress unlikely.

“Even if Beijing guaranteed the scrapping of corporate votes … the pan-democrats would not accept it because there is no trust between them and the central government,” he said. “The issue is so complicated that even people in Beijing have different views … not to mention the pan-democratic camp.”

Tong added that the government’s reforms “might not be unacceptable” if officials and lawmakers had been willing to make the changes he suggested. But with a Legislative Council vote due next month, he says it is “too late” for a deal, and he will stand with the 26 other pan-democrat lawmakers to vote no.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/1807947/reform-corporate-voting-unlikely-offer-impasse-hong-kongs

 

Hong Kong pan-democrat lawmakers urged to “come out from the political dead end” — But some say Beijing has “saddled Hong Kong with a dog’s breakfast voting system”

May 20, 2015

Corporate voting in proposed Hong Kong nominating committee won’t be abolished

By Tony Cheung
South China Morning Post

Days after a member of the national legislature’s Basic Law Committee said corporate voting could be abolished in the proposed nominating body for the 2017 chief executive election, another committee member was quoted yesterday as saying that could not happen.

Committee vice-chairman Zhang Rongshun contradicted his colleague, Peking University law professor Rao Geping, who said on Saturday that corporate voting could be abolished if the Legislative Council approved the government’s reform package.

Some observers and commentators see that proposed change as a way to give Hongkongers more say over who picks their candidates, opening the door to compromise on the plan.

The nominating committee described in Beijing’s election framework, and which is included in the city’s reform package, is similar to the Election Committee that chose Leung Chun-ying as chief executive in 2012.

The nominating committee described in Beijing’s election framework is similar to the Election Committee that chose Leung Chun-ying as chief executive in 2012. Photo: XinhuaThat body consists of 1,200 members from 38 sub-sectors, many of whose representatives were elected by corporate votes rather than individuals working in a particular trade.

Pan-democratic lawmakers have vowed to reject the package, which they say would deprive voters of a genuine choice.

After attending a closed-door seminar hosted by Zhang in Shenzhen yesterday, New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said Zhang had dismissed Rao’s idea.

“He said … some pan-democrats suggested electing the committee by ‘one man, one vote’,” if corporate voting was scrapped. “That would change the committee’s nature,” she said, referring to the argument that the committee would incline towards populism if its members were elected by the public.

Some pan-democrats, such as former lawmaker Nelson Wong Sing-chi, have been hoping for minor concessions from Beijing as a way to solve the impasse.

Although Zhang’s remarks effectively ruled out any chance of compromise, he urged pan-democrat lawmakers to “come out from the political dead end”.

Zhang will address about 100 Hong Kong businessmen and professionals in a seminar hosted by Executive Councillor Cheung Chi-kong in Shenzhen today.

Hong Kong: Professional groups join hands to explain why lawmakers should veto election reform package

May 17, 2015

By Tony Cheung
South China Morning Post

Eleven professional groups joined hands on Sunday afternoon as they gathered in Causeway Bay to explain to residents why lawmakers should veto the government’s political reform package.

They included the Progressive Lawyers Group, led by solicitor Kevin Yam; the Progressive Teachers’ Alliance, and doctors’ group Medecins Inspires.

Yam said the government’s proposal would deprive voters of a “genuine” choice of candidates in the chief executive election in 2017, as voters could only choose from two or three candidates endorsed by at least half of the nominating committee’s 1,200 members.

On Saturday, Peking University law professor Rao Geping’s suggestion on Saturday that corporate voting – which critics say favours businesses – could be abolished to make the committee more democratic, but Yam said it would be “meaningless”.

“The problem is not about the voting, it is the 50-percent threshold,” Yam said. “[Beijing ruled] that there could only be two to three candidates, and it … leaves voters without a [genuine] choice. The election would be meaningless even if corporate voting is [scrapped].”

At the crux of the discussion was the election method of the Election Committee which picked Leung Chun-ying as chief executive in 2012.

That committee consists of 1,200 members from 38 sub-sectors, and many of which were returned by corporate voters rather than individuals working in a particular trade.

On Sunday morning, Civic Party chairwoman Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, former lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee and at least 11 pan-democrat lawmakers gathered outside the Central Piers on Sunday morning and gave out English pamphlets to tourists and residents to explain why the pan-democratic camp is voting against the government’s political reform package. They also dismissed Rao’s suggestion.

However, New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, an executive councillor, endorsed Rao’s view. She said if the reform package is approved in Legco, the government can consult different sectors on turning corporate votes into individual ones.

Ip also vowed to relay the pan-democrat lawmakers’ call for a meeting with Beijing officials when she attend a seminar hosted by Basic Law Committee vice-chairman Zhang Rongshun in Shenzhen on Tuesday.

She said: “I have always supported giving more opportunities for pan-democrats to talk to Beijing officials, and I will continue to raise this suggestion and hope that it can be achieved.”

But Ip also warned that the pan-democrats should not expect any major concession from such a dialogue.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1800859/professional-groups-gather-together-explain-why-hong-kong-lawmakers

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Hong Kong’s Democracy Movement Will Succeed, Last British Governor of Hong Kong Says

October 27, 2014

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By Chris Patten

LONDON – Hong Kong’s democracy movement has gained admiration worldwide. The principles, decency, and behavior of its youthful vanguard inspire confidence in the qualities of the generation that one day will run the great city. That said, it is time to move on to a sensible endgame.

The longer the standoff between Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and the demonstrators continues, the more likely it is that individual citizens – and Hong Kong itself – will be hurt. The Hong Kong government should demonstrate some statesmanship, which the so-called “Umbrella Movement” – occupying the moral high ground and not wishing to risk losing public support – would surely reciprocate. A substantive and successful dialogue with the government would not require the protesters to call off their campaign for democracy; it would simply end the current phase of a campaign that eventually will succeed.

Despite their protestations to the contrary, Hong Kong Chief Executive C. Y. Leung and his government have considerable room for maneuver. As many Hong Kong citizens have argued, the Chinese government’s current position is based on a report, submitted by Leung’s officials, which purported to reflect accurately the outcome of local consultations on constitutional development.

But the report plainly understated the degree of public support for change. Given what has happened in the last few weeks, Leung could quite properly give a new report to the authorities in Beijing focusing on two issues not proscribed by Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

The first issue concerns not just the immediate question of the terms on which the Chief Executive will be elected in 2017, but also how the Legislative Council should be elected in 2016 and after. The procedure is largely a matter for the Hong Kong government to decide.

It is surprising that 17 years after the handover of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to China, Hong Kong still does not have a directly elected legislature. In December 1992, Margaret Thatcher suggested in a speech in the House of Lords that, if all went well, Hong Kong could have universal suffrage by 2007.

Unfortunately, all has not gone well. The legislature today comprises a mix of directly elected members and those representing functional constituencies: corporate interests and groups of employees. Some civic groups have advocated increasing the number of directly elected legislators and opening up the functional constituencies to broader electorates. Moreover, the brake that the functional constituencies can put on legislation should be scrapped, leaving decisions to a simple majority. This could be accompanied by a pledge to create a legislature composed entirely of directly elected members in 2020.

The second issue concerns the composition and the voting rules of the handpicked 1,200-member election committee that will choose the Chief Executive in the future. The current proposed arrangements would permit the Chinese government to veto any candidate that it did not like, prompting criticism that what is on offer is an Iranian-style election: “You can vote for anyone we choose.”

The Hong Kong government could call for changes to increase the openness and fairness by which the Chief Executive is chosen, without abandoning its current method in favor of universal suffrage. According to the Basic Law, the election committee should be “broadly representative” – a provision that the committee’s current composition violates. Its membership is chosen by only 7% of the total Hong Kong electorate, and its voting procedures seek to prevent the nomination of any candidates who may harbor democratic sympathies.

Since 1997, 55-61% of voters have voted for democratic candidates in Legislative Council elections. The last time a slightly smaller election committee met (to choose Leung), less restrictive constraints on candidate selection were in place, and the leader of the Democratic Party was able to be nominated (though he still received less than 7% of the vote).

So Leung and his team should put forward proposals to broaden the electoral base of the election committee and open up the nominating process for candidates. There are plenty of recommendations from civil-society groups about how to accomplish these objectives. Both sides will need to give a little to prevent the confrontation in the streets from escalating, with the police forced to provide a substitute for a sensible policy.

The British government has said that it is important that “the people of Hong Kong have a genuine choice.” Leung and his colleagues can give them one. This would not be all that the Umbrella Movement has demanded, but it should encourage the protesters to reach a compromise without departing from their longer-term goal.

That is why Leung should embrace dialogue and compromise. Even a ruler whose mandate comes from heaven should heed the words of the Confucian sage Mencius: “Heaven sees with the eyes of its people. Heaven hears with the ears of its people.”

Chris Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong and a former EU commissioner for external affairs, is Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/hong-kong-china-statesmanship-by-chris-patten-2014-10#SehzRIEBqIxXLwRm.99

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Hong Kong: Who Has Been Picking HK’s Chief Executive?

October 23, 2014

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HONG KONGF

A woman poses for a photo with the paper fold umbrellas at the occupied area in Causeway Bay, a shopping district of Hong Kong Tuesday, Oct. ,21, 2014. Hong Kong officials and student leaders hold talks Tuesday to try to end pro-democracy protests that have gripped the southern Chinese city for more than three weeks, though chances of success are slim given the vast differences between the two sides.(AP Photo/Kin Cheung) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

By JACK CHANG and KELVIN CHAN

HONG KONG (AP) — It’s among the most powerful clubs in this city of enormous wealth and influence. Only 1,200 people are allowed in, and they decide who leads Hong Kong every five years.

As thousands of protesters block city streets demanding democratic reforms, the future of Hong Kong’s exclusive — some would say purposefully opaque — election committee may prove key to defusing a high-stakes political standoff that has dragged on for nearly a month.

When Hong Kong and Chinese authorities launched the committee in 1997, they billed it as a diverse body where everyone from business leaders to fishermen to social workers would come together to choose Hong Kong’s top leader. In August, China’s powerful National People’s Congress picked the committee as the model for screening candidates in the city’s first election for chief executive in 2017. China agreed to hold elections beginning that year, with candidates named by a “broadly representative nominating committee,” in the deal that led the U.K. to hand over Hong Kong to China in 1997.

The problem, at least for thousands of student demonstrators, is both the committee’s track record and its labyrinthine rules for picking candidates.

In the three elections since its formation, the committee has chosen only chief executives loyal to the central Chinese government. Yet the city’s 3.5 million general voters have reliably cast more than half their ballots for pro-democracy legislative candidates critical of Beijing.

Demonstrators and even some committee members complain that business interests and pro-Beijing trade groups hold too much influence on the body.

Hundreds of seats are appointed rather than broadly elected. Though a wide swath of workers are ostensibly represented, in many cases it is their employers who choose committee members. Some Hong Kong tycoons, such as Asia’s richest person Li Ka-shing, can cast multiple votes because their businesses touch on different sectors represented by the committee.

“This is a kind of gerrymandering of votes that’s off the Richter scale, designed to keep the establishment camp in control,” said Michael Davis, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong.

Protesters are demanding that Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying resign and that Beijing allow open nominations for Hong Kong’s leader in 2017. There is little chance that either demand will be met, but with the protest in a sort of stalemate, the composition of the nominating committee has emerged as a possible point of compromise.

During a meeting with reporters Tuesday, Leung said such proposals could be hashed out in a second upcoming consultation on the 2017 vote.

“How we should elect the 1,200 so that the Hong Kong’s leader will be broadly representative — there’s room for discussion there,” Leung said. “There’s room to make the nominating committee more democratic, and this is one of the things we very much want to talk to not just the students but the community at large about.”

Student protest leaders continue to demand completely open nominations, but at least some pro-democracy protesters on the streets are willing to consider reforms to the committee instead.

“At least we need to bring more people into the committee,” said Kate Chow, a 33-year-old logistics manager who joined thousands at the main downtown protest site. “If we can choose more of these 1,200 people ourselves, I would be comfortable with that.”

About 70 percent of committee members, from appointed representatives of commercial interests to seats guaranteed to the National People’s Congress, can be trusted to vote Beijing’s way, said Dixon Sing, a political science professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The Congress’ August decision requires any candidate for chief executive to receive more than half of the committee’s support, raising the threshold from the current 15 percent.

Many of those pro-Beijing ballots come from trade groups representing a negligible fraction of the city’s population and economy who were added at the central government’s insistence and who appoint rather than elect members, said Ken Tsang, a committee member who elected to represent social workers.

“It’s difficult to find a fisherman in Hong Kong anymore, yet there are 60 of them within the 1,200, the same ratio as teachers, social workers and lawyers,” Tsang said. “That’s totally unreasonable and unfair and unbalanced. How can it happen like this?”

Scholars and protesters have proposed lowering the vote threshold for candidates, creating more groups within the committee that would represent more sectors of the city, and allowing all company employees to vote for committee members, rather than just their top executives.

Anson Chan, a former Hong Kong chief secretary who’s become a top pro-democracy advocate, suggested eliminating such “corporate” votes.

Willy Lam, a political analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said room for compromise is shrinking, however, as protesters win more support. An opinion poll released by the university Wednesday showed 37.8 percent of respondents supporting the protesters, up from 31.1 percent in September. The researchers polled 802 Hong Kong residents from Oct. 8 to 15.

“The stakes have become higher so even those moderate pan-democratic legislators who before the movement might have been amenable to this compromise might have become more radicalized,” Lam said. “They see the tide seems to be turning in favor of more democracy.”

Yet Paul Zimmerman, a Hong Kong district councilor who ran for a spot on the 2011 committee but lost, said the city’s own laws and the National People’s Congress’ guidelines leave little room for negotiation. Diving into the nominating committee’s arcane rules and broadening its membership may offer the only way out.

“The only movable part is changing the constituency base of the nominating committee,” Zimmerman said. “It’d be quite a lot of footwork, but it can be done.”

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Follow Jack Chang at twitter.com/JackChangAP and Kelvin Chan at twitter.com/chanman

Hong Kong protests: Echoes of Tiananmen in today’s demonstrations

October 1, 2014

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It is not just democracy that is at stake in Hong Kong

By Patrick Brown, CBC News Posted: Oct 01, 2014

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents, holding their mobile phones and angry at police tactics, joined student demonstrators in the city's financial district on Monday and Tuesday in the one of the biggest political challenges for China since the Tiananmen Square crackdown 25 years ago.

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents, holding their mobile phones and angry at police tactics, joined student demonstrators in the city’s financial district on Monday and Tuesday in the one of the biggest political challenges for China since the Tiananmen Square crackdown 25 years ago. (Carlos Barria / Reuters)

Proclaiming the foundation of the Peoples’ Republic of China from Beijing’s Tiananmen Gate in 1949, Mao Zedong said “The Chinese people have stood up.”

Today in Hong Kong, 65 years later, people in their tens of thousands have stood up, too, ignoring Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s order to “Stop this protest immediately.”

These Chinese people are hoping that, this time, power will grow not from the barrel of a gun, as Mao also famously said, but from the umbrellas they carry to protect themselves from the seasonal downpours and the pepper spray and tear gas rained on them by armed police.

The initial deployment of armed riot squads in combat fatigues, helmets and gas masks on Sunday ended up bringing out enormous crowds sympathetic to the students who have been at the forefront of a campaign of civil disobedience at its most civil.

Lining up quietly to take the subway to the demonstrations, separating their garbage for recycling and apologizing for the inconvenience they are causing, students have been protesting against the central government’s decision to rig the election of a new chief executive in 2017.

Only candidates approved by Beijing will be allowed to run for the top job.

HONGKONG-CHINA/

A protester raises his umbrellas in front of tear gas fired by riot police to disperse protesters blocking the main street Hong Kong’s central financial district on Sunday. Police have since stopped their more aggressive tactics. (Tyrone Siu / Reuters)

Many in Hong Kong feel this decision reneges on the promise China made when it took over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, a promise of “one country two systems” with “a high degree of autonomy” and “Hong Kong people running Hong Kong.”

But this confrontation is about more than who will take over as Hong Kong’s top elected official in three years’ time.

At its heart, it is about whether China’s leaders will allow Hong Kong to strengthen its institutions of democracy and its rule of law, which it needs if it is to continue as a financial powerhouse and one of the greatest cities in the world.

Joshua Wong: The 17 Year Old from Hong Kong who has Beijing worried

Two courts, two systems

The alternative, driven by the fear in Beijing that more democracy in Hong Kong would lead to a contagious demand for the same in the rest of the country, is to gradually transform the territory into just another city in southern China.

Two court decisions illustrate the difference.

As the police in Hong Kong began their ill-judged, heavy-handed and, as it turned out, counterproductive confrontation with protesters on Friday, they grabbed up a prominent student leader, Joshua Wong, and held him for 40 hours.

On Sunday, a High Court judge ordered Wong released unconditionally, granting a writ of habeas corpus, the ancient provision in British common law against unlawful detention. He also scolded the police for having held Wong for so long.

Meanwhile, five days earlier, in the province of Xinjiang in Western China, the Intermediate People’s Court in Urumqi sentenced Ilham Tohti, a professor of economics, to life in prison.

It also confiscated all his assets, so as to leave his wife and young children destitute.

Tohti, who taught at Minzu University in Beijing, had been a prominent spokesman for the rights of Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group in Xinjiang who speak a language related to Turkish.

Some of the more militant Uighurs, who have been opposed to Chinese rule in Xinjiang, have increasingly been resorting to violence for their cause, including the gruesome murders of railway passengers in the southwestern city of Kunming in March.

China Minority Scholar

In this 2013 photo, Ilham Tohti, an outspoken scholar of China’s Turkic Uighur ethnic minority, is interviewed at his home in Beijing. Tohti was sentenced to life in prison in September 2014, a decision that drew international condemnation. (The Associated Press)

Last week alone 50 people died violent deaths in Xinjiang itself.

For his part, Tohti has an international reputation as a constructive advocate of more autonomy and respect for human rights in Xinjiang as possible solutions to the deteriorating situation there.

In his writing, and in many interviews with foreign journalists, he has always rejected violence, and has never advocated independence for the region.

The lesson here is that, in China a moderate academic can be sentenced to life imprisonment, with his family impoverished, for the crime of speaking and writing about human rights.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, a young man who has gone one step further, by organizing (so far peaceful) anti-government demonstrations, is free to continue doing so because the rule of law is still respected.

Echoes of Tiananmen

Joshua Wong, who turns eighteen in two weeks, was born a few months after the historic handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

His confidence and optimism that protest can make a difference are typical of demonstrators in their teens and twenties who have grown up in a place where the law means something.

They see something of a victory in the government’s decision to withdraw the riot police after their presence turned student demonstrations into a mass uprising.

Hong Kong people of all ages have now joined the protests, but those who remember taking to the streets in 1989 to voice their support for students in Tiananmen Square, also remember that there were times when those students, too, seemed to be winning and the authorities retreating.

And they remember the disastrous final outcome.

In Chinese Communist Party’s decision-making one consideration trumps all others. Whatever the party judges to be a threat to its grip on power will be crushed, no matter what the other consequences.

China’s censors and internet watchdogs have stepped up measures to prevent news of Hong Kong’s show of defiant people power reaching citizens on the mainland.

If the party comes to see this struggle over the future of Hong Kong as a struggle over the future of China itself, there are perilous times ahead.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/hong-kong-protests-echoes-of-tiananmen-in-today-s-demonstrations-1.2783174

Protesters gather around the Golden Bauhinia Square, Hong Kong on Wednesday. Pro-democracy protest leaders in Hong Kong warned that if the territory's leader doesn't resign by the end of Thursday they will step up their actions, including occupying important government buildings.

Protesters gather around the Golden Bauhinia Square, Hong Kong on Wednesday. Pro-democracy protest leaders in Hong Kong warned that if the territory’s leader doesn’t resign by the end of Thursday they will step up their actions, including occupying important government buildings. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

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From the New York Times

Hong Kong Government’s Strategy on Protesters: Wait Them Out

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/02/world/asia/hong-kong-protests.html?_r=0

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Detentions of Hong Kong Protest Sympathizers Reported in Mainland

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/02/world/asia/hong-kong-protest.html?rref=world/asia&module=Ribbon&version=context&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Asia 20Pacific&pgtype=article

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Mainlanders in Hong Kong See Standoff as Inconvenience and Inspiration

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/02/world/asia/for-mainland-tourists-in-hong-kong-standoff-is-both-inconvenience-and-inspiration.html?rref=world/asia&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Asia%20Pacific&pgtype=article

Mainland Chinese tourists walked past a slogan reading ‘‘True Democracy for HK’’ outside a luxury shop in one of Hong Kong’s main retail districts on Wednesday, the first day of China’s weeklong National Day holiday. Credit Tyrone Siu/Reuters

 

Hong Kong protesters vow to occupy government buildings unless Beijing’s Chief Executive for the city resigns

October 1, 2014

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“I think we have destroyed the values of Hong Kong earlier this weekend by shooting tear gas at children.”

— Local councilor Paul Zimmerman

The Central Government Offices and the Legislative Council Complex at Tamar, Hong Kong

Hong Kong: Pro-democracy protesters issue threat unless Chief Executive steps down after heckling under-fire Hong Kong leader at Chinese National Day event

The Associated Press

Student leaders of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong say that if the territory’s leader doesn’t resign by Thursday they will step up their actions, including occupying several important government buildings.

Lester Shum said at a news conference on Wednesday that the student leaders would welcome an opportunity to speak with a Chinese central government official, but not Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, insisting he must step down.

Shum is the vice secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, which has played a key role in organising the street protests that started Friday.

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Joshua Wong, leader of the student pro-democracy group Scholarism, center, at a flag-raising ceremony at Golden Bauhinia Square in Hong Kong on Oct 1

Thousands of residents have occupied several key areas of Hong Kong to press for greater electoral reforms after Beijing decided in August to screen candidates for the territory’s first direct election scheduled for 2017.

Pro-democracy protesters heckled Hong Kong’s under-fire leader when he attended a flag-raising ceremony on China’s National Day on Wednesday, ahead of the largest protests seen yet this week.

The protesters, upset that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has refused to meet them, have threatened to expand their demonstrations unless he resigns and the Chinese leadership agrees to broader electoral reforms.

The ceremony was held to mark the anniversary of the founding of communist China in 1949, and after the hundreds of protesters, kept behind police barricades, yelled at Mr Leung to step down, they then fell silent and turned their backs when the ceremony began.

Helicopters flew past carrying the Hong Kong and Chinese flags, with the latter noticeably bigger.

In a speech, Leung made no direct mention of the protesters, who have blocked streets for days across the semiautonomous territory to press demands for genuine democratic reforms for Hong Kong’s first direct elections in 2017 to choose the city’s top leader.

The protests have posed the stiffest challenge to Beijing’s authority since China took control of the former British colony in 1997.

Beijing has restricted the voting reforms, requiring candidates to be screened by a committee of mostly pro-Beijing local elites similar to the one that hand-picked Leung for the job.

Leung told voters it is better to agree to Beijing’s plans for nominating candidates and to hold an election, than to stick with the current system of having an Election Commission choose the chief executive.

“It is definitely better to have universal suffrage than not,” Leung said. “It is definitely better to have the chief executive elected by 5 million eligible voters than by 1,200 people. And it is definitely better to cast your vote at the polling station than to stay home and watch on television the 1,200 members of the Election Committee cast their votes.”

As he spoke later to a group of dignitaries, pro-democracy lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung shouted for him to step down before he was bundled away by security. Local councilor Paul Zimmerman held up a yellow umbrella. The umbrella has become a symbol of the nonviolent civil disobedience movement because it has been used by protesters to deflect police pepper spray.

“I’m here today with the yellow umbrella because it stands against the shooting of tear gas at the children of Hong Kong. I think we have destroyed the values of Hong Kong earlier this weekend by shooting tear gas at children,” Zimmerman said.

Paul Zimmerman, a district councillor, raises a yellow umbrella as Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (5th R) addresses guests at a flag raising ceremony in Hong Kong on 1 October 2014
Hong Kong district councillor Paul Zimmerman raised a yellow umbrella – a symbol of the protests – at a reception following the flag-raising ceremony on National Day in Hong Kong

China took control of Hong Kong under an arrangement that guaranteed its 7 million people semi-autonomy, Western-style civil liberties and eventual democratic freedoms that are denied to Chinese living on the communist-ruled mainland.

The territory’s first direct elections are set for 2017, but the recent move by the Chinese government saying that a special committee will screen the candidates is seen as reneging on a promise that the chief executive will be chosen through “universal suffrage.”

Changing that is one of the major demands of the protesters.

The growing protests have attracted worldwide attention, with David Cameron saying he planned to summon the Chinese ambassador to discuss the dispute, saying it is essential that Hong Kong’s people have a genuine right to choose their top leader.

“It is not for us to involve ourselves in every dot and comma of what the Chinese set out,” Mr Cameron said. But he added: “I think it is a critical question. Real universal suffrage doesn’t just mean the act of voting; it means a proper choice.”

Mr Leung’s rejection of the student demands dashed hopes for a quick resolution of the standoff that has blocked city streets and forced some schools and offices to close.

Despite the hardening rhetoric from both sides, Tuesday night passed with a festive mood and few police were evident, but the crowds and road blockages are expected to grow sharply as Wednesday and Thursday are public holidays.

“Frankly, if I was a government official, I would not have a clue how to solve this,” said Chit Lau, a 35-year-old pilot, adding he thought the stalemate would continue until Mr Leung or some other top official resigned, or the army clashed with the people.

It was not clear what the demonstrators plan to do next. There were no immediate official statements from the protesters. University students are already boycotting classes, and other options include widening the protests, pushing for a labour strike and occupying a government building.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has taken a hard line against any perceived threat to the Communist Party’s hold on power, vowed in a National Day speech to “steadfastly safeguard” Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.

China’s government has condemned the student-led protests as illegal, though so far it has not overtly intervened, leaving Hong Kong authorities to handle the crisis. Over the weekend, police fired tear gas and pepper spray in an attempt to disperse the protesters, but the demonstrations only spread.

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LIVE: Protester numbers swell ahead of third night of demonstrations in Hong Kong

September 30, 2014

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Occupy Central

The South China Morning Post

Live feed:

http://www.scmp.com/article/1604385/live-protester-numbers-dwindle-military-aircraft-spotted-over-hong-kong-harbour

Good afternoon and welcome to day three of our live Occupy Central coverage, Large crowds took to the streets last night, converging on sites in Hong Kong and Kowloon, causing more disruption this morning.

CY Leung today acknowledged that the protests would likely last ‘a long time’ but said Beijing would not back down on democracy.

Stay tuned for all the latest breaking news.

2.10pm: Crowd numbers in Mong Kok are swelling once again, with an SCMP reporter at the scene putting this afternoon’s current figure at around 1,000 protesters. In Causeway Bay, too, numbers are increasing, with an estimate of 2,000 people now in the space outside Sogo.

Trouble flared in Causeway Bay earlier, when small business owners began shouting at students and protesters, yelling at them to “go back to school”.

2.07pm: Lo Wing-man and Ka Sing-fung were married at City Hall today – with the Occupy Central protest as a backdrop.

The Occupy wedding: Lo Wing-man and Ka Sing-fung, both aged 30, were married today in City Hall as the protest went on outside. Photo: Felix Wong

1.55pm: In Admiralty, the crowd began to swell, fuelled by many working in Central who came out during their lunch breaks to voice support.

Clad in a stripped shirt, Lampson Lo Ka-hang, 33, said: “They are doing the right thing because someone needs to pressure the government,”

He said most of his colleagues were supportive of the movement.

Another man in his 30s, surnamed Yu, who works for a financial firm, said: “I just want to take this time to support these students.”

Joe Sin Chat-ching, from the Alliance in Support of Our Police Force. He said anyone tear gassed would be ‘fine after wiping your face’. Photo: Chris Lau

1.18pm: Earlier today scores of protesters from the Alliance in Support of Our Police Force chanted slogans outside police headquarters in Wan Chai.

One member, Joe Sin Chat-ching, said Occupy Central was worse than the anti-World Trade Organization protest staged by Korean farmers in Hong Kong in 2005.

“The duration is longer, unlike what happened in 2005,” he said, accusing the movement of bringing inconvenience to Hong Kong.

Asked if police had resorted to excessive force, he said: “Tear gas is pretty much like pepper spray. You’ll be fine after wiping your face.”

1.05pm: It looks like the number of protesters on the streets is creeping up again if scenes on Harcourt Road are anything to go by. As lunchtime approached the number of people near government headquarters in Admiralty was significantly higher than this morning.

Protesters were seen removing metal barriers outside the Legco car park, with apparent approval from police, who had been guarding the entrance for the last few days, but are now nowhere to be seen.

The number of protesters on Harcourt Road crept up as lunchtime approached. Photo: Timmy Sung

12.32pm: CY Leung this morning acknowledged that Occupy Central was going to “last for quite a long period of time”.

“They have set up a lot of resource centres and even first aid points, so we know that Occupy Central … is not a matter of days, but it will last for a relatively long time. Its [impact] on the people’s daily lives, their personal safety in the event of emergencies, the city’s economic development, as well as the cost on international image, will also grow bigger and bigger. I hope we can think about these issues,” he said.

12.25pm: Relations between police and protesters seem to be improving in some quarters. In Admiralty, two days after a tense stand off between the sides, some went to chat with officers while others asked if they needed cooling gel pads as they stood in the sun.

Live feed:

http://www.scmp.com/article/1604385/live-protester-numbers-dwindle-military-aircraft-spotted-over-hong-kong-harbor

Related:

Hong Kong: Leader CY Leung urges pro-democracy crowds to leave

September 30, 2014

From the BBC

Ali Moore: Protesters are taking time to clean up after themselves

HK protests

Hong Kong leader CY Leung has urged pro-democracy protesters to “immediately” stop their campaign, as huge crowds continue to bring parts of the territory to a standstill.

On Monday night, tens of thousands blocked streets, singing and chanting.

The protesters want Beijing to give Hong Kong a free vote for its next leader, something Beijing has rejected.

By Tuesday streets were relatively quiet but crowds are expected to swell for the eve of Chinese National Day.

Over the weekend police used tear gas and pepper spray, but riot police have since been withdrawn and protesters remain calm.

However, key parts of the city are being blocked by protesters, with some schools and banks closed.

Map showing location of Hong Kong protests

The protesters want Mr Leung, the chief executive, to step down. But he appeared to reject this, saying such a move would represent a step backwards.

“Any personnel change before the implementation of universal suffrage is achieved would only allow Hong Kong to continue to pick its leader under the Election Committee model,” he said.

He also called on the protesters – a mix of students, supporters of the pro-democracy Occupy Central group and others – to go home.

“Occupy Central founders had said repeatedly that if the movement is getting out of control, they would call for it to stop,” Mr Leung said.

“I’m now asking them to fulfil the promise they made to society, and stop this campaign immediately.”

Protesters block a street near government headquarters in Hong Kong on 30 September 2014 Many protesters slept in the streets overnight, as police looked on
A protester sleeps on the streets outside the Hong Kong Government Complex at sunrise on 30 September 2014 in Hong KongCY Leung has appealed to protesters to go home – but many say they are there for the long haul
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At the scene: Saira Asher, BBC News, Hong Kong

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters spent the night on the street near Admiralty in Hong Kong’s Central district. Some were propped up against barricades, others stretched out in the middle of a major road.

After a strong show last night the crowds have trickled out this morning as people go to work or home to take care of household chores. But they say they will be back tonight when numbers are expected to swell. This has been the routine now for two days. The crowds diminish in the day but return in full force in the evening and stay the night.

The morning is being spent mostly removing rubbish left over from last night’s huge crowd. Students are picking up cigarette butts and plastic bottles, others are distributing breakfast buns. That is why those on the street are being called “the politest protesters” by some on social media.

But they are on edge. At one point in the middle of the night everyone suddenly stood up and started pulling on masks. It turned out to be just a changing of the guard for the handful of police scattered around here, but the sudden fear was palpable.

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‘Condemned by history’

Beijing ruled last month that Hong Kong people can elect their next leader in 2017, compared to 2012 when he was chosen by a committee.

But the choice of candidates will be restricted to two or three people who must be approved by the majority of a pro-Beijing committee – meaning Beijing can effectively screen candidates.

In Hong Kong, further consultations had been due to take place on the ruling but on Monday a senior official said these would be postponed until a “better time”.

In its latest statement, Occupy Central accused the government of “delay tactics”, saying it believed the government was “just hoping people’s desire for genuine universal suffrage to fade out over time”.

Occupy also repeated calls for Mr Leung’s resignation, saying he would be “condemned by the history of democratic development in Hong Kong”.

Video:

The BBC’s Martin Yip filmed a day in the life of some Hong Kong protesters

At the moment protesters have been blocking roads in at least three parts of the territory.

On Tuesday morning numbers had dwindled as some headed for work or school. But Wednesday marks Chinese National Day – a holiday that marks the founding of Communist China – and most expect more crowds out on Hong Kong’s streets on Tuesday evening.

In other developments:

  • A man was arrested after he drove his car at protesters in Mong Kok in the early hours of Tuesday. No reason was given for the incident
  • In the US, a White House spokesman urged Hong Kong authorities to “exercise restraint” and protesters to “express their views peacefully”
  • On Monday, the British government called for the right to protest to be protected and for protesters to exercise their right within the law

Not everyone in Hong Kong backs the protests, however. Some fear the ongoing demonstrations could affect Hong Kong’s relationship with Beijing or hit the economy of the financial hub.

China has described the demonstrations as illegal and urged the Hong Kong government to bring them under control.

News of the protests is being heavily censored in mainland China. 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, putting them in a very difficult position.

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

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