Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong Indigenous’

Hong Kong rejecting “insidious chipping away at our values and our lifestyle” by China’s rulers — Pre-election calls for independence from China grow

August 26, 2016

OFFICIALS in Hong Kong say they want to cover up the royal insignia on the cast-iron letterboxes from the territory’s colonial era. A small thing, you might think, and let’s not get mawkish about British rule. But it would be a telling move. Anson Chan, the city’s most respected figure, calls the boxes “part of our collective memory”. And many young people to whom Banyan has spoken since recently moving to Hong Kong echo what Mrs Chan calls an “insidious chipping away at our values and our lifestyle” by China’s rulers and those who do their bidding. The issue is a central one in elections for the Legislative Council (Legco) that will be held on September 4th.

Its prominence was guaranteed after the electoral commission insisted that all candidates “confirm” that Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China. Some refused, or the commission did not believe their declaration. They are part of a growing “localist” movement seeking to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy and a culture distinct from China’s. On August 5th over 2,000 people gathered in support of the disqualified candidates. It was, in effect, Hong Kong’s first ever pro-independence rally.

A profound change of mood has overtaken the territory in the past couple of years. The guarantees made when an open society passed to a Communist dictatorship in 1997 are no longer so widely believed. Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, held that the city’s way of life was to remain unchanged until at least 2047. The champion of “one country, two systems”, Deng Xiaoping, who died just months before the handover, had said there was no reason why it should not hold for a century. As head of the civil service before and (for nearly four years) after the handover, Mrs Chan was an embodiment of the guarantees.

 
Hong Kong. Photograph by Jonas Gratzer, LightRocket via Getty Images

But under “C.Y.” Leung Chun-ying, a property man with strong ties to the mainland who has led Hong Kong since 2012, it is no longer clear what is being done in the territory’s best interests. True, Mr Leung has taken steps to see that elderly people are better provided for; they have long been shamefully neglected, as those who can often be seen eking a bent-backed living collecting scrap cardboard can attest. But Mr Leung’s mission is essentially a political one: to help China keep Hong Kong’s sense of the territory’s distinctiveness in check. From the moment when he made his inaugural speech in Mandarin rather than Cantonese, the local language, the direction of travel under a man assumed to be a closet member of the Communist Party has been clear.

This has created increasingly stark choices for Hong Kong, as was evident during the “Occupy” or “Umbrella” movement two years ago. It grew in response to China’s legislature handing down long-awaited rules for the election in 2017 of Hong Kong’s next leader. Universal suffrage had been promised in the Basic Law. But China insisted on being able to vet the candidates through an “election committee” dominated by the party’s sympathisers in Hong Kong, who could be counted on to exclude popular democrats (such as Mrs Chan). A semi-democratic Legco rejected the package. Student-led protests erupted, blocking streets in busy commercial areas for over two months.

Mr Leung faced down the protesters. Since then a hard line has crept into Hong Kong’s affairs, undermining the old guarantees. Last year the University of Hong Kong’s recommendation of a legal scholar, Johannes Chan, as its deputy vice-chancellor was vetoed by a governing council packed with outside members appointed by Mr Leung. It looked like punishment for Mr Chan’s support for pro-democracy movements. Since then, academics say a chill of self-censorship has descended on campuses.

Perceptions of other much-admired institutions are also changing for the worse. One such body is the Independent Commission Against Corruption. It is accountable only to the chief executive, which is why the sudden transfer and resignation in July of a highly regarded official running an investigation into Mr Leung’s business dealings has led to turmoil and dismay within the commission. Across the civil service, morale is ebbing.

Dogmatism is creeping in, too. The education department recently issued a ban on independence even being discussed in schools. The most notorious incident occurred late last year with the disappearance of five men involved with a Hong Kong bookshop specialising in salacious material about China’s leaders. One of the men seems to have been bundled out of Hong Kong by Chinese state-security goons. Even Britain, which under David Cameron was fixated on commercial gain in China and downplayed anxieties in Hong Kong, was moved to protest. It took a while longer for Mr Leung to go through the motions.

Mainland officials harrumph that in Hong Kong there has been way too little “decolonisation” and too much “desinification”. A hard line and “patriotic” education are their remedy for a spoiled and ungrateful populace. But can’t they see? That is why people are talking about independence in the first place.

For some young people, 2047, when all bets are off, seems not such a long way away. “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” says Joshua Wong Chi-fung, a 19-year-old who was one of the Occupy leaders and wants self-determination. Two years ago he was seen as radical. Now a small but growing share of the young sees peaceful disobedience as quaint.

So, yes, the letterboxes are small stuff. But small things these days can blow up. Take the riot that was sparked when officials tried to close down unlicensed hawkers selling snacks during the Chinese new-year holiday in February. The “fishball revolution” was condemned by China as the work of splittists and black hands. Meanwhile on Lugard Road on the Peak, a famous sightseeing route named after a British governor, they have not yet started dismantling the wonderful old lamp-posts. But someone has written on every one: C.Y. (Leung), step down.

http://www.economist.com/news/china/21705857-how-hong-kong-sees-itself-has-changed-profoundly-just-couple-years-spot-localist

Although dismissed by many as impossible, suport for a break away from Beijing appears to have grown especially among the young

 Edward Leung of the group Hong Kong Indigenous speaks at a pre-election campaign event. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

When Edward Leung closes his eyes and dreams of Hong Kong’s future he pictures a utopian metropolis of skyscrapers and social justice, “where people can do whatever they want as long as it isn’t harmful to others”.

“It’s an international place. A cosmopolitan state,” says the fashionable 25-year-old politics and philosophy graduate.

Is it part of China? “No,” Leung replies emphatically. “Not any more.”

Leung is one of the leaders of a small but increasingly visible independence movement in the former British colony that is setting the agenda before key elections for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council parliament on 4 September.

The movement was catapulted into the headlines in early August when the semi-autonomous city – which returned to Chinese rule almost two decades ago, in 1997 – saw the first pro-independence rally in its history.

Several thousand protesters took to the streets after six pro-independence candidates, foremost amongst them Leung, were barred from the upcoming election in what critics condemned as an act of political censorship designed to snuff out opposition to Beijing’s authoritarian rule.

“They try every means to oppress us,” complained Leung, one of the leaders of Hong Kong Indigenous, a so-called “localist” political group founded in the wake of 2014’s umbrella movement protests to combat what its members see as China’s erosion of the city’s way of life.

Edward Leung speaks to the press after challenging a controversial election rules requiring candidates for upcoming elections to sign a form saying the city is an “inalienable” part of China.
Pinterest
Edward Leung speaks to the press after challenging a controversial election rules requiring candidates for upcoming elections to sign a form saying the city is an “inalienable” part of China. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Beijing considers advocating independence subversion and its Communist party-controlled media has given “extremists” such as Leung short shrift.

In a recent editorial the editor of the nationalist tabloid the Global Times lampooned “the Hong Kong independence farce” as a radical fringe that would not be tolerated.

The former colony’s Beijing-backed government has claimed such ideas are a blatant violation of the territory’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which describes Hong Kong as an “inalienable part” of the People’s Republic of China.

Yet experts and activists say there has been a recent groundswell of support for independence among Hong Kong’s disillusioned youth who fear the “one country, two systems” formula – introduced after handover to safeguard its much-cherished freedoms – is no longer working.

A Chinese University of Hong Kong study, published in July, showed 17% of citizens backed splitting from China with that figure reaching nearly 40% among 15 to 24-year-olds.

“Compare it to a cancer if you like. It has spread from loony talk to universities, and now to secondary schools,” a columnist for the South China Morning Post admitted this week, arguing that interest in independence was here to stay.

Chan Ho-tin, the 25-year-old founder of the Hong Kong national party, one of several recently formed pro-independence groups, said he had been surprised how many people attended August’s historic rally, which he organised.

“Two years ago Hong Kong independence was a taboo. You couldn’t say that. If you said that … everybody condemned you: you’re nuts, you’re crazy,” said Chan, who was among the six candidates barred from running in next month’s election.

There’s more:

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/26/liberate-hong-kong-calls-independence-china-elections-loom

Related:

 (Has links to many related articles)

Bookseller Lam Wing-kee (C) takes part in a protest march with pro-democracy lawmakers and supporters in Hong Kong, China June 18, 2016.
REUTERS/BOBBY YIP
.

 (Contains many  links to articles on the Chinese human rights lawyers)

Advertisements

Hong Kong’s Pledge of Allegiance

August 4, 2016

The government concocts a loyalty oath to block critics from running for office.

Edward Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous speaks to the press in Hong Kong on July 28 to announce he has signed a form saying the city is an "inalienable" part of China, as part of new election rules.
Edward Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous speaks to the press in Hong Kong on July 28 to announce he has signed a form saying the city is an “inalienable” part of China, as part of new election rules. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
.
The Editorial Board
The Wall Street Journal
Aug. 4, 2016 2:31 p.m. ET

Hong Kong will elect its Legislative Council on Sept. 4, and Beijing is alarmed that among the candidates are young activists with a more confrontational policy toward the mainland. Its solution is to require candidates to sign a loyalty pledge affirming that Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China before they can register to run.

In the past week, election officers have disqualified six candidates for refusing to sign the pledge or, in the case of student activist Edward Leung, for signing it unconvincingly. The 25-year-old Mr. Leung, who ran in a by-election this year and earned 15% of the vote, promised to mute his past support for independence. But officials barred him anyway, citing Facebook posts and media statements as proof he hadn’t “genuinely changed” his stance.

Thirty leading lawyers, including past chairs of the Bar Association, blasted the government in a statement this week. Under Hong Kong law, they wrote, officials don’t have “any power to inquire into the so-called genuineness of the candidates’ declarations, let alone making a subjective and political decision to disqualify a candidate without following any due process on the purported ground that the candidate will not genuinely uphold the Basic Law.” The candidate bans, they added, “are not only unlawful but amount to political censorship and screening.”

RELATED ARTICLES

As recently as the 75-day pro-democracy demonstrations of 2014, advocating independence for Hong Kong was a fringe position. But the government’s uncompromising response to those protests—and its eagerness to paint critics as radical subversives—made the cause more credible, especially among the young. Disqualifying pro-independence pro-democracy candidates could give the movement a further boost.

Weeks after the protests ended last year, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, used his annual policy address to slam an obscure Hong Kong University journal that wrote about “Hong Kong nationalism.” Copies of the journal quickly sold out and a survey of some 570 students found 28% backing independence, twice as many as the year before. A different, citywide survey this summer asked about independence for the first time and found 17% in favor, though only 4% think the goal is realistic.

Such numbers will rise if the purge of pro-independence candidates escalates into a mainland-style crackdown on “splittism.” The disqualified candidates are heading to court, where they’ll have a strong case that election officials have acted lawlessly.

.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/hong-kongs-pledge-of-allegiance-1470335490

Hong Kong: Row over election ban on localist escalates as Hong Kong justice minister’s unconvincing explanation backfires

August 3, 2016

Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung argues Edward Leung Tin-kei did not touch on independence when he ran in February by-election

By Jeffie Lam
South China Morning Post

Thursday, August 4, 2016, 12:19am
.
 

The row over the barring of a localist leader from next month’s Legislative Council elections intensified yesterday as the Hong Kong justice minister’s explanation backfired and 30 members of the committee that picks the city’s leader jointly questioned the power of electoral officials to make such decisions.

Justice minister Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung waded in to explain that Edward Leung Tin-kei was disqualified from the September 4 elections over his pro-independence views but not last February’s by-election because he did not make “an explicit independence claim” back then.

He was promptly accused of double standards and not doing his homework as Leung countered that he had openly advocated Hong Kong’s independence from China, a fact confirmed by the Post and other media outlets.

The justice chief tried to defend the Electoral Affairs Commission’s decision to disqualify Leung a day after returning officer Cora Ho Lai-sheung invalidated the Hong Kong Indigenous member’s candidacy on the grounds that he had no intention of upholding the Basic Law.

“The returning officer has already explained the argument clearly in her reply, which I think has a legal basis,” Yuen said.

But all 30 members of the legal sub-sector in the 1,200-strong Election Committee that picked Hong Kong’s leader in 2012 hit out in a joint statement yesterday.

They countered that returning officers were not empowered to investigate the “genuineness” of candidates’ declarations to respect the city’s mini-constitution, let alone make “a subjective and political decision to disqualify a candidate without following any due process on the purported ground that the candidate will not genuinely uphold the Basic Law”.

“Such an inquiry and decision are not only unlawful but amount to political censorship and screening by the returning officer without any legal basis,” they said.

The 30 committee members are all either from the pan-democratic camp or linked to it.

The election watchdog sparked uproar last month by imposing a new requirement on Legco candidates to sign an extra form reinforcing acceptance of the city’s status as an inalienable part of China, on top of the standard declaration to uphold the Basic Law.

In a complete U-turn to head off disqualification last week, Leung gave up his campaigning for independence and signed the additional form.

He still ended up being rejected, as the returning officer decided he had not “genuinely changed” his pro-independence stance. At the same time, the watchdog gave 42 lists of candidates from the pan-democratic and localist camps the green light to run even though they refused to sign the new form.

A check by the Post found Leung had promoted independence as early as last December – well before his candidacy for the by-election was validated and gazetted on January 29.

Leung vowed to challenge the ban in court, recalling that he had advocated independence “as a way out” for Hong Kong in a by-election forum before the February poll. “Why didn’t the returning officers immediately disqualify me back then?” he said.

He complained that the ban was tantamount to depriving him of his political rights for life.

“When will they eventually believe I will uphold the Basic Law? In four years or eight years?

Do I have to sign a ‘letter of repentance’ and pledge I won’t call for independence in front of six cameras?”

Chinese University political scientist Dr Ma Ngok said the justice minister’s explanation was “subjective, selective and unconvincing”.

“Many people have touched on independence one way or another but why some of them were qualified but others were not?”

Hong Kong: Declaration document saying Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China is unnecessary, illegal and wrong

August 2, 2016

Sherif Elgebeily says the Electoral Affairs Commission runs the risk of being seen as suppressing dissent with its decision to bar a localist candidate from running

COMMENTARY/Opinion

By Sherif Elgebeily
South China Morning Post
 

Last weekend, the Electoral Affairs Commission decided to invalidate the candidacy of Hong Kong National Party member Chan Ho-tin for the upcoming Legislative Council election. The exact reasons behind this are unclear, but other candidates who also refused to sign a newly imposed declaration form have yet to receive notice on the validity of their candidacies, fuelling concern.

The pledge to uphold the Basic Law is a fundamental part of the eligibility for candidacy, as outlined on the nomination form; it is for this reason that the ineligibility of Democratic Progressive Party of Hong Kong’s Yeung Ke-cheong – who refused to sign the nomination form itself – is legally valid.

Should Chan have been disqualified?

On one level, the additional declaration form is obsolete, as it simply duplicates existing obligations. Worse, it also appears to contravene both the rule of law in Hong Kong and the Basic Law in its effect.

First, there is no legal basis for the demand of an additional form, and the invalidation of candidacy on these grounds is beyond the powers of the commission. Any reference to such a form is absent in the law governing the election procedure; moreover, an exhaustive list of requirements for nomination is provided for under Section 40 of the Legislative Council Ordinance. Any legally enforceable declaration or criteria for the nomination of individuals would require amendments of the existing law, a path which has not been followed.

The commission has no absolute power to create new law

The commission has no absolute power to create new law. The form is also undermined by the commission’s own guidelines, which make mention of five explicit criteria for eligibility of nomination. They do not include the submission of a declaration form. These paradoxes raise alarm over the rule of law in Hong Kong, notably the separation of powers between government bodies and the supremacy of the law in an administrative context.

Second, in disqualifying candidates who are seen to advocate independence, on the grounds of failure to complete the declaration form, the commission has barred popularly supported candidates from representing their supporters. This infringes not only the rights of Hong Kong citizens to be elected, but also that of all citizens to elect their own representatives, and amounts to a violation of Article 26 of the Basic Law. To do so on the grounds of political belief also falls foul of articles 27 and 32 on free speech and the freedom of conscience. It is at best contradictory for the commission to disqualify candidates on the grounds of undermining the Basic Law while violating that document in doing so.

 Edward Leung speaks to the press last month. Leung received votes from some 66,000 Hong Kong people in the New Territories East by-election this year. Photo: AFP

Chan’s disqualification reflects a worrying trend of the regulation of Legco members. By eliminating voices of dissent at the ballot-paper stage, the authorities appear to be telling selected political groups that their opinions are either not welcome or not legitimate.

This rigid stance defies reality in today’s Hong Kong. Not all localist groups can be labelled anomalies. This year, for example, Hong Kong Indigenous’ Edward Leung Tin-kei won nearly 16 per cent of the vote in the New Territories East – over 66,000 voters in real terms. These citizens deserve to be heard.

Perhaps more importantly, voting patterns show that first-time and younger voters have been decidedly more involved in the election process, not only through casting ballots but also standing themselves. A new generation – those born after the handover – have reached voting age, and they care more about the status of Hong Kong and the full realisation of Basic Law freedoms than they do about the platforms that have traditionally formed political manifestos and campaigns. The government has a duty to engage with this demographic.

In essence, the decision to invalidate Legco candidacies over political stances is tantamount to the invalidation of the legitimacy of the voice of the youth today. From both a legal and political standpoint, the declaration form was unnecessary, illegal and threatens the future of the rule of law in Hong Kong.

Sherif Elgebeily (@selgebeily) is Bingham Centre International Rule of Law Visiting Fellow 2016, and a lecturer with the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law

The Bingham Centre is a part of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law

Hong Kong: Pro-China Election Rules Changes Again Bring Out The Protesters

August 2, 2016
.
Anyone running for the legislature must sign a document pledging to support the notion that Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China — If you don’t sign, you cannot be part of the election….
By Reuters
Tuesday, 2 August 2016 14:53 GMT

* Candidates must sign form rejecting independence stance

* Opponents say that is assault on democracy

* Four candidates disqualified so far

By Tyrone Siu

HONG KONG, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Dozens of masked demonstrators tried to force their way into an electoral meeting in Hong Kong on Tuesday to protest against a new bar on anyone running for the legislature who refuses to declare the territory an “inalienable” part of China.

They were among hundreds of protesters gathered outside the meeting, a briefing for prospective parliamentarians, shouting for Hong Kong’s independence.

Inside the venue, some candidates who had been approved to run for election protested the decision to disqualify others.

Members of the League of Social Democrats and People Power tried several times to charge the stage and take the microphone before being pushed back by security, forcing the meeting to be suspended at least three times.

Politicians from other pro-democracy parties chanted: “No more political elimination!” and “Defend a fair election!”

The Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) said last month that potential candidates for the September Legislative Council election must sign an additional “confirmation form” declaring Hong Kong an inalienable part of China and acknowledging that advocating independence could disqualify them from the election.

Hong Kong has greater freedoms than mainland China and separate laws that were guaranteed for 50 years as part of a “one country, two systems” framework negotiated with the British when they handed back their former colony.

But there has been political unrest in recent years centring on Beijing’s refusal to allow fully democratic elections and its perceived meddling in the special administrative region.

Beijing’s top official in Hong Kong came out in support of the EAC’s new form while three Hong Kong politicians filed a request for an urgent judicial review.

So far the EAC has rejected four candidates. Activists have posted personal attacks on some of the EAC officers responsible for the decision, actions that the Hong Kong government has condemned.

Edward Leung Tin-kei, who was rejected as a candidate by the EAC on Tuesday, responded by saying the city was ruled by a “dictatorship”, local broadcaster RTHK reported.

Leung, a leader of the group Hong Kong Indigenous was one of the first street activists to move into mainstream politics when he won an unexpected 15 percent of the vote in a February legislative by-election.

He had signed the EAC’s confirmation form, saying his top priority was to get elected. (Writing by Clare Baldwin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Related:

Anger as Hong Kong pro-independence leader barred from polls — “Hong Kong’s Democratic Process is Rigged By China”

August 2, 2016

AFP

© AFP | Edward Leung of the Hong Kong Indigenous party, speaks to reporters outside the High Court on July 27, 2016

HONG KONG (AFP) – A high-profile Hong Kong pro-independence leader said Tuesday he had been barred from standing in upcoming parliamentary elections — the latest candidate backing separation from mainland China to be disqualified.

The apparent ban for Edward Leung, of the Hong Kong Indigenous party, from the September vote came despite him signing a controversial new form (document) declaring Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China.

Critics have slammed the new stipulation by electoral authorities as political censorship and an attempt to deter prospective candidates from advocating self-determination or independence from Beijing.

Some activists are calling for more distance or even a complete breakaway from the mainland as fears grow that freedoms in the semi-autonomous city are disappearing due to Beijing interference.

Campaigners, including Leung, have challenged the declaration form in court and at least 13 prospective candidates have refused to sign it.

Leung, 25, eventually signed last week, despite his open advocacy for an independent Hong Kong, in the hope the authorities would validate his candidacy.

But his party said Tuesday he had been rejected.

It accused the electoral commission of “trampling the will of the people, abusing administrative power and giving up political neutrality”.

“There is no way the crime of selecting candidates according to political goals can be easily forgiven,” it said in a statement.

The founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, Andy Chan, was one of three other hopefuls barred in recent days from standing in the September vote.

Chan had refused to sign the declaration form.

The other two prospective candidates who disqualified were also part of the “localist” movement, which is pushing for more autonomy for Hong Kong after mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014 failed to win political reform.

Beijing and Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said that advocating independence goes against the city’s mini constitution, known as the Basic Law, and that independence activists could face legal consequences.

Various government departments including the electoral office made no comment Tuesday.

The government Monday condemned what it called “malicious personal attacks” online aimed at returning officers over their decisions during the registration period and said police may take action.

Hong Kong was returned from Britain to China in 1997 under an arrangement that guarantees civil liberties unseen on the mainland.

But concerns have grown that such freedoms are now fading as Beijing increases its influence across a range of areas, from politics to the media.

Related:

China Tells Hong Kong: Don’t Allow Election Campaigns To Talk About Democracy, Freedom, Independence — Independence backers ‘must be kept out of legislature’

July 21, 2016

Liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming asks if letting independence advocates run in polls is in line with ‘one country, two systems’

By Tony Cheung
South China Morning Post

Wednesday, July 20, 2016, 11:27pm
 

Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong has warned against ­allowing the Legislative Council elections in September to be used as a platform to promote independence in breach of the Basic Law.

Reflecting Beijing’s position for the first time on controversial changes to election rules ­announced last week, Zhang ­Xiaoming said it was a matter of principle, rather than a legal issue, to allow independence advocates to promote such ideas.

He questioned whether allowing independence advocates to run and even enter the legislature was in line with the “one country, two systems” policy of governing Hong Kong, warning of the risk of “calamity” otherwise.

At the same time, he also gave an assurance that Beijing would stick to the one country, two systems principle and not “mainlandise” Hong Kong or turn it into another Shanghai or Guangzhou.

Under the changed election rules, candidates for September have to sign the standard declaration pledging allegiance to the Basic Law, as well as a new form confirming their understanding and acceptance of three articles in the mini-constitution spelling out the city’s status as an inalienable part of China.

Pan-democrat and localist candidates have already started boycotting the new form while handing in their nominations for September, complaining that it smacks of political censorship.

At the inauguration ceremony yesterday for a preparatory committee for National Day celebrations, Zhang did not directly refer to the new declaration rule, but said: “If Hong Kong independence advocates are allowed to turn the run-up to the Legco elections into a process of proactive promotion of pro-independence remarks and activities, or are even allowed to enter Lego openly and gloriously, does this comply with the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, the Basic Law and the principle of the rule of law?

“What direction would it take Hong Kong society in? Does it bring blessings or calamity to the city? This is not just a technical and legal matter, but also one of right and wrong, bottom line and principle, and concerns the city’s general direction of development.”

During his visit to Hong Kong in May, National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang (張德江 ), the state leader overseeing the city’s affairs, had said that Hongkongers were discerning enough to know whether calls for independence would bring advancement or adversity.

The Hong Kong Indigenous party’s Edward Leung Tin-kei, one of the localist candidates who have refused to sign the new declaration, blamed Beijing for the current situation and argued that the Basic Law protected their freedom of speech and right to advocate independence.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government was “totally justified” in imposing the new requirement but she remained vague on enforcement. “The decision might not be as simple as whether the form was signed,” she said.

But Anson Wong Man-kit, chairman of the Bar Association’s committee on constitutional ­affairs and human rights, said that according to the law, candidates could run as long as they made the standard declaration.

Hong Kong’s July 1 Pro-Democracy Protest — “As Many As 110,000 Hongkongers Marched Today” Civil Human Rights Front Says

July 1, 2016

Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, announced that 110,000 people attended today

Police, however, estimated turnout was only 19,300 at its peak – down from the 19,650 participants the force counted in last year’s march.

Police Force’s figure down from the 19,650 they tallied at last year’s event

By South China Morning Post Team of Reporters
Friday, July 1, 2016, 9:20pm
  

This was the Post’s real-time coverage of the July 1 march.

7.17 p.m.: Organiser announces turnout

Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, announced that 110,000 people attended today.

He thanked Hongkongers for attending the protest despite the hot weather. He also urged protesters to continue to pay attention to the case of bookseller Lam Wing-kee to ensure his safety.

Police, however, estimated turnout was only 19,300 at its peak – down from the 19,650 participants the force counted in last year’s march.

6.10pm: Police reinforcements ready

Meanwhile, further west of Admiralty, outside Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, which radical protesters earlier vowed to besiege, no protesters had yet been seen.

Police were tightly controlling vehicular traffic on Connaught Road West, with more than 40 officers stationed at the office’s door.

 Police standby outside the Liaison Office. Photo: SCMP Pictures

They set up several designated public activities areas in apparent anticipation of a protest planned by localists from 7pm.

Scores of plainclothes and uniformed officers in uniform were fanned out up to two blocks from the office, with around ten police vehicles parked near the office.

5.45pm: Canto-pop stars are out

The rear of the march has passed Canal Road in Causeway Bay.

Canto-pop singers Denise Ho Wan-sze and Anthony Wong Yiu-ming waved to fans and helped collect donations for the LGBT group “BigLove Alliance” on Hennessy Road during the march. At one point, Ho waved a shirt that read “I am Hong Kong.”

 Denise Ho (right) along the march route. Photo: Dickson Lee
.
Related:
.
.

“Our group represents those with LGBT identities,” Ho said to the crowd in Cantonese. “We stand together with Hongkongers in fighting against the dominant power.”

Ho was embroiled in controversy last month after cosmetics giant Lancome announced it was cancelling a promotional event at which she was to perform. Ho was a vocal supporter of the pro-democracy Occupy movement.

“Hongkongers, we need to hang in there,” she said when asked to take a microphone. “Let us all be tough in this fight!”

5.20pm: If water sales are any indication…

It has not been a good day for Irving Street shopkeeper Herbert Chan, 30, who estimated his water sales were down 20 per cent on last year despite his prime location along the protest route.

 Water vendor Herbert Chan. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Although he had sold water for the past four years he had never attended the protest himself, describing himself as unhappy with CY Leung but “neutral”.

5.10pm: First marchers arrive in Admiralty

The vanguard of the procession arrives at Harcourt Road in Admiralty, where the pro-democracy Occupy movement took place almost two years ago.

5pm: Test run for Telegram

At Irving Street and as the march continued towards Wan Chai, volunteers with Benny Tai Yiu-ting – a leaving voice of the Occupy movement – were helping marchers install a Telegram app to help counting turnout for the day.

 Downloading the app Telegram on Irving Street. Photo: SCMP Pictures

The use of Telegram, an app touted for its security, amounted to a test run for Tai as he readies a plan called Thunderbolt to win half of the city’s Legislative Council seats in September.

4.30pm: The protesters’ concerns

From the missing booksellers saga to general dissatisfaction with the city’s future, protesters on Friday revealed a variety of reasons for joining the march.

 Ambrose Lau, a lawyer who fears for the city’s autonomy. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Lawyer Ambrose Lau, 65, said he participated every year and brought along his family this time. Lau described the city’s political environment as deteriorating over the past 19 years, and hoped the administration could safeguard the city’s autonomy.

“Taking the booksellers incident as an example, Beijing has been eroding our freedom of speech in Hong Kong,” he said.

“I was afraid that if I didn’t come out this year, there’ll be no more July 1 rallies in the future.”

He also called for better judicial independence, claiming Beijing officials and some local residents had been exerting undue pressure on judges in Hong Kong.

Sixty years Lau’s junior, Yip Ka-kei, 6, joined the march for the first time this year. She said she wanted to tell education chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim to scrap the Territory-wide System Assessment, also known as TSA, for all primary three students.

 The primary one student came out to oppose the TSA. Photo SCMP Pictures

“I don’t want any exercises, just more leisure time,” she said.

The primary one student said she needed to attend three-hour-tutorial classes after school, and was overloaded with TSA exercises until she went to bed at 10pm.

She complained about having no free time on the weekends because she needed to go to piano classes, languages lessons and sport sessions.

“No TSA,” she said. “Let kids do what kids should do.”

Denise Chow, 24, who works at a local university, was one of the individuals carrying a 100-metre yellow banner expressing opposition to the government’s development plan for Lantau Island.” She has been coming to the July 1 rally every year since 2003.

“The march is more organised now because they try to bring in different parties,” Chow said. “I want to let more people know that there are these developments.”

 The procession in Causeway Bay. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

Andrew Man, 22, from Lingnan University’s student union, turned out to protest tertiary education issues, including how Putonghua was being used to teach Chinese.

He was unhappy with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s leadership and felt Hong Kong’s future was “uncertain”.

“I hate him,” Man said, adding he felt Leung was illegitimate and did not represent young people.

Fellow Lingnan University student union representative Flora Yiu, also 22, had come to the protest for the last two years to demand freedom of speech.

 Protester Andrew Man (centre) of Lingnan University. Photo: SCMP Pictures

“It is my obligation to speak up,” she said.

Yiu said young people were “puzzled, disappointed and confused” about Hong Kong’s future.

“There’s a lot we have done to try to change the situation but however, it doesn’t work.”

Then there was Eric Wear, a permanent resident of the city who originally hails from the United States but arrived in Hong Kong in 1988. He said he’s been coming to the protest every year since it started.

“It’s not a very hopeful time,” the retired professor said.

“I think people feel a measure of hopelessness about the situation. That doesn’t mean they’re satisfied or happy. It simply means they’re not quite sure what to do now.”

 Eric Wear, a long-time protester. Photo: SCMP Pictures

He said the family of his wife, a Hong Kong native, were gradually leaving the city as they saw no future for their children. “It’s a sense of losing your home,” he said.

Although Wear did not expect the protest to have an immediate impact, he said it was necessary to continue turning out.

“It’s a question of people’s dignity,” he said.

“We’d like to see people recognised as citizens not subjects.”

4pm: A brief history of the march

The annual march has taken place since the handover in 1997. From 1997 to 2002, the protest was not well known to the public.

The first march in 1997 drew 3,000 participants; the year after, just hundreds.

From 1997 to 2002, the march was organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

2003 was the watershed moment for the march as some half a million Hongkongers took to the streets to oppose the government’s proposal to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law pertaining to acts of treason, secession, sedition or subversion against Beijing. The march was soon followed by the resignation of Tung Chee-hwa, who was chief executive at the time.

3.30pm: Victoria Park turnout lower than expected

The annual pro-democracy march officially kicked off at around 3.25pm from Victoria Park, but turnout appeared to be lower at its outset than in previous years.

By the time the march began, only two of the park’s six football pitches had been filled, compared with the usual four or five pitches being filled by the march’s start.

March co-leader Ching Cheong said Lam Wing-kee’s withdrawal from the march due to personal safety concerns was unfortunate not only for the bookseller.

 Turnout was lower than expected so far. Photo: Dickson Lee

“Hongkongers are losing their basic sense of security now,” he said ahead of the march. “The precious freedom from fear is also dissipating.”

He urged Hongkongers to stand up to defend their core values, which he said had been gradually disappearing since the city’s handover in 1997.

The annual July 1 march that was to kick off at 3pm was expected to intensely express Hongkongers’ anger, fears and doubts over “one country, two systems”, fuelled by the missing booksellers saga.

Yet the march was also being dismissed as “ritualistic” by pro-democracy localist groups, who are vowing to “besiege” Beijing’s liaison office in the city in a “black-bloc” protest as the night unfolds.

 The Civil Human Rights Front is again organising the march. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

In just one measure of the unease gripping the city, Lam Wing-kee, the Causeway Bay Books store manager who went missing for eight months and returned to the city last month claiming he was abducted by mainland agents, pulled out of leading this year’s pro-democracy march, citing a “serious threat” to his personal safety.

Lam’s account of what happened to him on the mainland has raised questions about the Hong Kong government’s ability to protect its residents from the reach of central government agencies.

Journalist Ching Cheong and activist Lau Shan-ching, two other Hongkongers who were detained on the mainland for political reasons, were invited to jointly lead the procession from Victoria Park to Admiralty.

March organiser Civil Human Rights Front estimated 100,000 people would take part.

 Police earlier said they would deploy 2,000 officers for the day of protest. Photo: Dickson Lee

While the front had no plans to continue protesting after the march, localist groups were vowing an additional, confrontational event.

The Hong Kong National Party, Hong Kong Indigenous and Youngspiration have criticised the July 1 march as pointless, despite its calling for the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Separate from the march, the three groups planned to gather outside the central government’s liaison office from 7pm to demand independence for the city.

Police indicated a plan to pre-empt violence by stopping and searching individualswho gathered outside the office.

The student union of the Chinese University of Hong Kong posted a message on Facebook calling on Hongkongers to join the gathering on a day it said marked “the fall of Hong Kong”.

Police earlier said they were ready to deploy 2,000 officers to monitor the march and the subsequent protest.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/1984006/july-1-march-organiser-claims-turnout-110000-far-above

Related:
.
.

Crackdown or Conciliation? China’s Zhang Dejiang Comes To Hong Kong

May 16, 2016

.

He’s here to endorse a key economic initiative, but everyone will be looking to see if the NPC chief tackles the city’s thorny political issues

By Stuart Lau
South China Morning post

Monday, May 16, 2016
.
China’s third highest-ranking official begins his three-day visit to Hong Kong on Tuesday, ending a four-year vacuum when no state leader set foot in a city mainlanders perceive increasingly as an unfriendly troublemaker.
.

Zhang Dejiang, the top gun of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, has a chance to spread his message to his intended audience – the people of Hong Kong – in the full glare of publicity.

Hong Kong officials brand it a high-level tour to expound on and endorse the city’s role in China’s “belt and road” strategic initiative. But politicians and China observers are expecting messages from Zhang – however overt or oblique – on the city’s politics, which have recently been infused by a restless desire to debate ideas like independence and self-determination.

Zhang has two official objectives in town. First, he is to attend a summit on the “belt and road” initiative on Wednesday and give a keynote speech. Second, reports by state media Xinhua have it that Zhang, also the leader of Beijing’s central coordination group for Hong Kong and Macau affairs, would “inspect” the city.

The “inspection” – which will feature unprecedented face-to-face encounters with pan-democratic lawmakers at a 40-minute cocktail reception – comes just months after the city experienced arguably its bloodiest social unrest since the 1960s, with hundreds involved in the Mong Kok riot, attacking police and setting streets ablaze.

The pan-democrats have already said no to attending the banquet after the reception.

All eyes will be on whether the Beijing leader will continue the central government’s soft, unprovocative attitude under such circumstances, as already displayed during the annual “two sessions” in the capital two months ago.

“I don’t expect Zhang would talk specifically about [calls for] Hong Kong independence,” Lau Siu-kai, a vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a Beijing-backed think tank, told the Post. “But I don’t exclude the possibility of him mentioning big principles, such as sovereignty, security and national unity.”

Zhang’s visit will be followed by a politically heated season in the city, as electioneering will soon begin for the full legislative elections in September. Candidates pushing for self-determination are jumping into the fray.

 Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau will attend the 40-minute cocktail reception with the NPC chief. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

In recent months, lower-level mainland officials stepped up fiery rhetoric against such impulses, most notably after the new Hong Kong National Party vowed to fight for independence.

Wang Zhenmin, the new legal department chief at Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong who was formerly Tsinghua University’s law dean, accused those in the party of breaking criminal laws.

Veteran China-watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu noted that mainland officers travelling to Hong Kong to gather information from local politicians ahead of Zhang’s visit were in noticeably larger numbers than previously seen on other state leaders’ visits.

I got the general impression that Zhang won’t touch on independence or the chief executive election [next year]
CHINA-WATCHER JOHNNY LAU YUI-SIU

“Their analysis will sway the final focus of Zhang,” said Lau. “I got the general impression that Zhang won’t touch on independence or the chief executive election [next year].”

Objections to Leung Chun-ying’s administration can be expected to be a key conversational topic for the four pan-democratic lawmakers – including Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing and Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit – who will meet Zhang on Wednesday. Leong said he would explain to Zhang that autonomy or even self-determination was not the equivalent of separatism, with the chief executive deserving most of the blame for the current political quagmire.

Emily Lau said she would raise the case of bookseller Lee Po, whose weeks-long disappearance from Hong Kong was widely associated with illegal law enforcement by mainland agents.

The cocktail reception will also be attended by six pro-government lawmakers, some critical of the chief executive such as the Liberal Party’s Chung Kwok-pan and Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing.

Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), said the short meeting inserted into a packed schedule showed Beijing’s intention to set the stage for more communication.

That pan-democrats are invited to meet a state leader face-to-face is rare. The last time Beijing officials openly met pan-democrats was a year ago, before Legco rejected the Beijing-backed reform for the chief executive election. But even that meeting – on an issue as important as Hong Kong’s political system – was not attended by a top leader. Instead, the task fell on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya.

 Edward Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous, which gained prominence after the Mong Kok riot in February. Photo: AP

The strained ties between pan-democrats and Beijing following the failed bid for universal suffrage might soon be eclipsed by the more ominous force of localism and pro-independence sentiments, which was in full display in the Legco by-election in February.

Edward Leung Tin-kei, of the newly formed Hong Kong Indigenous group that rose to prominence during the Mong Kok riot just before the poll, scored 66,000 votes – or 40 per cent of the votes of a DAB candidate.

But more was to come. Occupy campaign icon and student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung formed a new party, Demosisto, that called for Hongkongers’ self-determination in the post-2047 political system, the shelf life of the “one country, two systems” principle that Beijing promised after the 1997 handover. A number of students created the even more radical Hong Kong National Party, which sees sovereignty as the only option for the city.

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, agreed that Zhang’s olive branch to pan-democrats was, as far as Beijing is concerned, a partnership with the lesser of two evils.

But Choy counselled deeper introspection. “What’s more important to Beijing is to understand why Hong Kong society is so divided, and what makes independence calls spread so rapidly,” he said. “With the chief executive election looming, Zhang needs to … decide whether to back Leung probably before September.”

It is against this backdrop that economic policies such as the belt and road initiative also became a convenient yet compelling reason to stage Zhang’s visit. It is convenient as it is the latest strategy to broaden Hong Kong’s economic base, but also compelling as it comes at a time when the economy is in the doldrums.

Few, though, are expecting big goodies for the economy. Even Chief Executive Leung admitted Zhang was unlikely to announce the date of the long-awaited Zhang

Baptist University journalism scholar Bruce Lui was more blunt: “Zhang has had little to do with belt and road.”

To be fair, the NPC which he chairs has a high-level special financial and economic committee responsible for drafting and enacting new laws and the belt-and-road initiative may need new legislation requiring his close oversight. Still, Lui said: “A quick news search of ‘Zhang Dejiang’ and ‘belt and road’ on search engine Baidu gave only six results – a side-dish topic when he met officials from … Iraq and Laos.”

Side dish or not, Zhang’s visit will no doubt be powerful in putting the “belt and road” strategy for Hong Kong front and centre once again. Even then, however, the most powerful optics will be in the politics.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1945567/iron-fist-or-velvet-glove-zhang-dejiang-strides-stage-increasingly

Hong Kong: Groups advocating independence from China say they are being attacked by political censorship as freedom of speech is denied

April 14, 2016

Activist says forced relocation ‘clearly shows’ erosion of free speech

By KC Ng and Owen Fung
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 April, 2016, 11:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 April, 2016, 11:15pm

Political veterans and novices alike at a controversial student forum on independence for Hong Kong were forced to retreat into a glass-walled cubicle as they complained about being shut out as a result of “political censorship”.

 

Yesterday’s forum, at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, had been planned in the garden outside the academy. But student organisers said they were told the area was closed for maintenance.

Their bid to shift to a TV studio as an alternative was also rejected, they said.

The academy denied allegations of censorship, but asked the organisers to end the forum and vacate the premises, saying it was an “unauthorised meeting” as the students had not applied to use any venue there.

The forum followed a recent warning by Wang Zhenmin, the new legal chief at Beijing’s liaison office, that those calling for independence were violating Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

He also said any “large-scale discussion” prompting people to act on those calls could be considered “sedition” and “treason” under the Crimes Ordinance.

Despite the academy’s objections, the students went ahead with the forum. The speakers sat in a ground-floor cubicle normally used as the student union’s office, while the audience sat or stood out in the lobby hall.

The three-hour discussion was jointly organised by the student unions of the academy and Shue Yan University.

 Edward Leung holds the floor at the relocated event. Photo: Dickson Lee

The students had originally planned to meet at Shue Yan but the university rejected that on the grounds that the topic of the forum was “too narrow”.

Invited to speak were Edward Leung Tin-kei of pro-independence localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, Chan Ho-tin of the Hong Kong National Party, which advocates independence, People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip, and Democratic Party central committee member and Southern district councillor Au Nok-hin.

Chan Ho-tin said: “That we have to conduct the forum in such poor conditions shows clearly that Hong Kong’s core values of free speech and academic freedom have been eroded because of mainland influence.

“That explains why we have to stand up and defend ourselves and make Hong Kong independent before it is all eaten up by China.”

Academy director Professor Adrian Walter denied political censorship but rejected the forum as an “unauthorised meeting”.

He said: “All I know is that there is no application that has been received from students to use a venue in the academy.”

Academy student union chairman Ryan Lo said: “Usually we just need to inform the school management through Whatsapp that we would like to use a venue to hold an event and that would be OK. I have never heard that we needed to fill in forms to apply.”

Meanwhile at a separate forum on “one country, two systems” at the University of Hong Kong, legal scholar Professor Albert Chen Hung-yee warned that if calls for independence continued to grow, the only outcome would be the mainland fully taking over the city’s governance.

Professor Chen, also a member of the influential Basic Law Committee, said the city’s current constitutional arrangement with the mainland was in the best interest of all Hongkongers.

“Calls for independence are beyond the bottom line of the central government,” he said.

.

 http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1936029/claims-hong-kong-independence-forum-censored
.
Related:
.
.