Posts Tagged ‘pro-democracy’

Xi Jinping must calm ‘hearts and minds’ of Hong Kong, says Patten

May 4, 2017

As the former colony prepares for the visit of the Chinese president to mark 20 years since the handover, the last British governor warns over freedoms

 An emotional Chris Patten is applauded by Prince Charles and Tony Blair after speaking at the ceremony to hand Hong Kong back to China in 1997.
An emotional Chris Patten is applauded by Prince Charles and Tony Blair after speaking at the ceremony to hand Hong Kong back to China in 1997. Photograph: POOL/REUTERS
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By   in Beijing

Chinese president Xi Jinping must strive to calm the “hearts and minds” of Hong Kong’s seven million citizens during the upcoming commemorations of the 20th anniversary of handover, the territory’s last British governor has said.

On 1 July it will be two decades since the former colony reverted to Chinese control under the “one country, two systems” formula, which guaranteed it far greater freedoms than the authoritarian mainland.

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The anniversary, which pro-democracy campaigners are vowing to mark with street protests, is also expected to see Xi make his first trip to the territory since becoming China’s top leader in 2012.

Amid continuing disquiet over Beijing’s dilution of Hong Kong’s social and political freedoms, Lord Patten urged Xi to use the visit to reiterate his administration’s commitment to the 1984 Sino-British joint declaration, the accord that paved the way for handover, in 1997.

Under the agreement China pledged to leave Hong Kong’s social and economic systems and lifestyle “unchanged” for 50 years.

“I hope he takes the opportunity to reassure people in Hong Kong that China still stands four-square behind what it promised back in 1984 and 1985 and later and that he, like Deng Xiaoping, believes that people in Hong Kong are perfectly capable of running their own affairs,” Patten told a US congressional hearing about the political situation 20 years after handover.

“There was a very important remark that Deng Xiaoping made back in 1984 to set the minds and hearts of people in Hong Kong at rest. I have to say that, though I think there is much good that is still happening in Hong Kong, people’s hearts and minds aren’t exactly at rest at the moment.”

Twenty years after he sailed out of Hong Kong on the Royal Yacht Britannia, Patten, who is now chancellor of the University of Oxford, admitted doomsday predictions about post-handover Hong Kong had not come to pass.

“[Some] thought for example that even I would be leaving in a helicopter from the ballroom roof in government house and that sooner or later there would be violence in Hong Kong.”

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/04/xi-jinping-must-calm-hearts-and-minds-of-hong-kong-says-patten

Hong Kong Protest Organizers Arrested Ahead of Expected Visit by China’s President

April 27, 2017

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong police arrested nine pro-democracy activists on Thursday, adding to a recent crackdown said to be aimed at defanging opposition protests ahead of an expected visit by President Xi Jinping of China in July.

“They want to silence the opposition and discourage the general public from participating in protests,” said Avery Ng, chairman of the League of Social Democrats and one of the nine people arrested over their roles in a November protest against China’s move to block two separatists from taking office as local legislators.

The arrests on Thursday followed a series of recent legal actions against opposition politicians and protest organizers in Hong Kong, a former British colony, and came just two months before the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule, when President Xi is expected to visit the semiautonomous territory.

Pro-democracy groups are planning large protests against what they see as Beijing’s tightening grip on the city’s freedom, supposedly guaranteed under an arrangement known as “one country, two systems.” The groups have increasingly called for greater autonomy, if not independence, from China.

On Wednesday, two pro-independence politicians, Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung, and three of their assistants were charged over their attempt to enter Hong Kong’s legislative chamber after it refused to swear them in because they inserted anti-China snubs into their oaths of office.

Last month, the Hong Kong authorities brought criminal charges against nine other protest organizers, including the three founders of the huge protests in 2014 that paralyzed streets in several parts of the city for weeks.

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More than pro-democracy 200 people took part in the protest march from Causeway Bay to the chief executive-elect’s office in Hong Kong, Sunday, April 23, 2017. Photo: Sam Tsang
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Disqualified lawmakers Yau Wai-ching, 25, (L) and Baggio Leung, 30, pose outside government headquarters in Hong Kong, China March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Related:

 (Anyone who criticizes the Chinese government on WeChat is likely to be given special attention)

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

Hong Kong’s restive youth prepare for long struggle with Beijing

April 6, 2017

Reuters

Chinese University Student Union External Vice President Cheryl Chu (L), 19, and External Secretary Thomas Lee, 24, pose inside the university campus in Hong Kong, China March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
By James Pomfret and Venus Wu | HONG KONG

With China’s preferred candidate selected as Hong Kong’s next chief executive, another blow to the morale of the city’s democracy activists, their young leaders are taking a page from Beijing’s playbook and preparing for a long battle.

At the leafy campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, there is little sign of the fervor that drove thousands of students to stage the Umbrella Movement street protests that brought parts of the city to a standstill for months in 2014.

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A Goddess of Democracy statue in Hong Kong at the 21st anniversary of the Tiananmen protests of 1989

“We still all care about Hong Kong’s social issues, democracy, Beijing’s interference,” said Ceci Chow, a third-year nursing student, as she waited on campus beside a bronze statue of the ‘goddess of democracy’. But she concedes there might not be the same “driving force” for action.

Student union leaders like Cheryl Chu and Thomas Lee agree that the commitment is still there, but they doubt mass protests are the way to go, for now.

The Umbrella Movement ultimately failed to persuade Beijing to grant full democracy in elections for Chief Executive, so Carrie Lam will assume the post in July thanks to the backing last month of an electoral college packed with mostly Beijing loyalists.

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Disqualified lawmakers Yau Wai-ching, 25, (L) and Baggio Leung, 30, pose outside government headquarters in Hong Kong, China March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

In the run-up to Lam’s victory, student leaders eschewed public protests and opted instead to use social media, leaflets and street booths to present their case that the election was undemocratic.

“We need to look further in future, and look at how to slowly make the people close to us change a little. Only then will we feel that we can achieve something tangible in future,” said Lee.

Harassment of pro-democracy groups

Many activist leaders have been weighed down by legal battles. One day after Lam’s selection, nine were charged with public nuisance offences for their part in the protests, and more arrests could follow.

Victories in last September’s elections to the city’s legislature, when one in five voters backed younger candidates including Umbrella Movement leaders and self-determination advocates, rapidly turned sour when two newly elected legislators were disqualified. Beijing and a local court ruled Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching had not taken their oaths properly after inserting a dig at China.

The government has since sought to disqualify four more pro-democracy lawmakers for invalid oaths, while two others charged for inciting the Umbrella protests might be removed if they are jailed for over a month.

“NEVER REST”

For some young people like Derek Lam, 23, a theology student who has been arrested five times in two years for various protests, there is a financial cost to their activism.

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Pro-democracy student activist Derek Lam, 23, poses outside a chapel in Hong Kong, China March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Lam has not been convicted, but says his high-profile arrests mean he now struggles to find work and might not be able to graduate if he fails to pay his half-year school fee of HK$24,000 (US$3,090).

But the setbacks have not deterred him.

“The Chinese Communist Party will never rest, so we can’t rest as well … Luckily, we have 30 years, and after 30 years our opponents will not be the people who are in power now, but people our age. So a lot depends on how we influence our peers now.”

This July, on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China from British rule, Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit the city. But while many activists are appalled by what they see as a gradual ratcheting up of Chinese control during the 50-year period of transitional autonomy agreed with Britain, they are not expecting a protest on the scale of 2014.

“The fight for democracy doesn’t just take place on the streets,” said Joshua Wong, the public face of the Umbrella Movement, who was just 17 when the protests began. “And the fight for Hong Kong’s autonomy doesn’t take place in years. We are talking about a battle of 20, 30 years.”

The challenge for Beijing is that many of Hong Kong’s young people, rather than growing to accept China’s growing role in the city’s affairs, have become further estranged from the mainland and are increasingly warming to a localism movement that puts the city’s autonomy, interests and culture first.

“The youths in Hong Kong are now more eager to step up and say we’re Hong Kongers, we love Hong Kong and distinguish ourselves from the Chinese. There is a very strong Hong Kong identity, and this will not waver,” said Wong Ching-tak, 20, the president of the University of Hong Kong’s Student Union.

Disqualified legislators Leung and Yau hope that identity will mobilize supporters when the next battleground issue crops up.

“There will be a last war … There will be a very large-scale social movement that emerges,” Leung said. “And it will determine whether there’s still a road ahead for Hong Kong as we know it, or not.”

(Reporting by James Pomfret and Venus Wu; Additional reporting by Katy Wong; Editing by Will Waterman)

Related:

 (Anyone who criticizes the Chinese government on WeChat is likely to be given special attention)

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

Hong Kong protest leaders appear in court smiling after surprise summons

March 30, 2017

Reuters

Thu Mar 30, 2017 | 2:03am EDT

Nine leaders of Hong Kong’s 2014 democracy protests appeared in court on Thursday after their surprise summons, charged with inciting the street occupation that paralyzed parts of the city for months in what some expect to be a long legal battle.

The nine were charged on Monday, just a day after a new Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, was chosen as the city’s next leader, seen by many as a worrying sign after she had vowed to heal divisions in the Chinese-ruled city and unite society.

The protest leaders, including the “Occupy Central trio” of Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, entered the magistrates’ court smiling and shaking hands with a few dozen supporters, some holding yellow umbrellas, the symbol of the 2014 civil disobedience movement.

The “Occupy Central trio” each face charges including conspiracy to commit public nuisance and inciting others to commit public nuisance.

Six others, including two legislators and two former student protest leaders, were also charged with crimes related to public nuisance.

The nine told the court they understood the charges, but the hearing was largely procedural and didn’t require them to enter pleas.

The case was adjourned until May 25.

Veteran pro-democracy politician and barrister Martin Lee, representing five of the defendants, requested the case be transferred to the high court instead of the district court, so that the nine could be tried by a jury.

“After all, the allegations are of a public nature,” Lee said.

The judge says it was up to the prosecution to decide which court tries the case.

Outside the court, about a dozen pro-China protesters jeered at the protest leaders, cursing them in colorful Cantonese to get stabbed, while slapping photos of them with flip-flops.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of seven years, Tai said, adding the activists might plead guilty, in the spirit of civil disobedience.

The former British colony, governed under a “one country, two systems” formula, was promised a high degree of autonomy and the right to select its chief executive when it was handed back to Communist Chinese rule in 1997.

Twenty years later, only 1,200 people on an “election committee” stacked with Beijing loyalists voted Lam into power.

(Reporting by Venus Wu; Editing by James Pomfret and Nick Macfie)

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Beijing Favorite Carrie Lam to Be Hong Kong’s Next Leader

March 26, 2017

City’s first female chief executive says mending social rifts will be her top priority

Carrie Lam must now balance the demands of mainland Chinese authorities who are seeking greater control over Hong Kong life with city residents who are accustomed to Western norms such as rule of law. PHOTO: BOBBY YIP/REUTERS
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Updated March 26, 2017 4:17 a.m. ET

HONG KONG—Hong Kong’s electoral committee picked a staunchly pro-China candidate to lead the city in voting that underscored Beijing’s growing political influence on the former British colony.

The 1,194-member committee stacked with pro-Beijing business leaders and politicians chose Carrie Lam, a longtime city official who was widely viewed as Beijing’s favorite in the three-person race. During the campaign, electors acknowledged receiving phone calls from Beijing representatives instructing them to pick Ms. Lam.

The vote for chief executive comes at a sensitive time for Beijing. This summer marks the 20th anniversary of Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China. Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping is tightening political control ahead of a Communist Party congress this fall that is expected to further cement his leadership. Both events put a premium on having a Hong Kong leader in place who can avoid political disturbances such as those in 2014, when dissatisfaction with the political process led to widespread pro-democracy protests.

Ms. Lam, a 59-year-old mother of two, steps into a post fraught with pitfalls. The former bureaucrat, who will become the city’s first female chief executive, must now balance the demands of mainland Chinese authorities who are seeking greater control over Hong Kong life with city residents who are accustomed to Western norms such as rule of law.

She defeated John Tsang, a U.S.-educated Hong Kong civil servant who polls indicated was far more popular than Ms. Lam, but who was widely seen as lacking the backing of Beijing. Ms. Lam garnered 777 votes, compared with 365 for Mr. Tsang and 21 for a third-place finisher. She will serve a five-year term.

In a speech after the results were announced, Ms. Lam said she would focus on mending social rifts.

“My priority will be to heal the divide and to ease the frustrations, and to unite our society to move forward,” she said.

Ms. Lam campaigned on increasing spending to alleviate day-to-day problems such as housing shortages and improve social services in a city with one of the widest rich-poor gaps for any developed society.

 

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A yellow umbrella, the symbol of the 2014 pro-democracy protests, is displayed before candidates John Tsang, Carrie Lam and Woo Kwok-hing after the election results were announced. PHOTO: BOBBY YIP/REUTERS

But tensions resurfaced on Sunday as protesters decried the result, which they deem undemocratic because the city’s 7.35 million people have no direct vote. A small group of protesters carrying signs and shouting pro-autonomy slogans inside the convention hall where the ballots were counted briefly disrupted the announcement of Ms. Lam’s victory. Ms Lam stood expressionless on a stage until the disturbance died down.

Political analyst Dixon Sing says Ms. Lam may come under pressure from Beijing to pass laws that further curb freedoms in Hong Kong.

My priority will be to heal the divide and to ease the frustrations, and to unite our society to move forward

—Carrie Lam

“Carrie Lam’s ability and willingness to resist Beijing’s hard-line policy will be a challenge for her legitimacy in the eyes of Hong Kong people,” said Mr. Sing, an associate professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The Demosisto party, founded by some of the leaders of the 2014 pro-democracy protests, said the result Sunday was a “nightmare” for the people of Hong Kong.

“[Ms.] Lam’s victory despite her lack of representation and popular support reflects the Chinese Communist Party’s complete control over Hong Kong’s electoral process and its serious intrusion of Hong Kong’s autonomy,” the group said in a statement.

Hong Kong activists say China is eroding the promise of autonomy enshrined in a “one country, two systems” agreement sealing the U.K.’s 1997 handover of its former colony.

In 2015, associates of a Hong Kong book store that specialized in gossipy books about Chinese politicians went missing and resurfaced detained in mainland China. One of the booksellers alleged he was whisked from Hong Kong, a violation of the two-system rule.

China has counted on support from Hong Kong elites with deep business ties on the mainland, as well what some call a silent majority of locals who see bucking China as futile and would rather spend their energy earning a living and keeping up with steadily rising property prices.

Write to Chester Yung at chester.yung@wsj.com and John Lyons at john.lyons@wsj.com

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Missing Taiwanese Man: China causing “anxiety and panic” over “disappeared” human rights activist — Taiwan Lawmakers Want an Accounting From China, As Mainland’s Legal System Looks To Be In Trouble

March 25, 2017

Reuters

March 25, 2017 at 17:40 JST

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TAIPEI–China’s failure to respond on the matter of a Taiwan man missing on the mainland is causing his family “anxiety and panic”, Taiwan’s ruling party said on Saturday, as it called on authorities to protect the rights of Taiwan people.

Concern has risen on self-ruled Taiwan about the whereabouts of Lee Ming-che, a community college worker known for supporting human rights in China who disappeared on Sunday after entering China’s Zhuhai city via the coastal city of Macau.

Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said Chinese authorities had repeatedly said they would protect the rights of Taiwan people on the mainland in accordance with law.

“But after six days, there has been no official response by China to requests for consultations about the search by our government and his family,” the party said in its strongest statement yet on Lee’s disappearance.

“This has caused the family anxiety and panic,” Chang Chih-hao, a spokesman for the independence-leaning party said in the statement.

Democratic Progressive Party spokesman Chang Chih-hao speaks at a news conference in Taipei in this file photo dated January 18 this year. Photo: Su Fang-ho, Taipei Times

The party called on Chinese authorities to respond promptly to requests for cooperation and “effectively protect human rights and not increase the risk of Taiwanese people traveling to China”, Chang said.

Relations between Beijing and Taiwan have worsened in the past year, largely because Beijing distrusts the DPP, which took power last year and traditionally supports independence for Taiwan.

Beijing regards the democratic island as a breakaway province and it has never renounced the use of force to bring it back under mainland control.

Beijing cut off official communications with Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year. Tsai, also leader of the DPP, says she wants peace but has never conceded that Taiwan is a part of the mainland.

Taiwan’s agencies for dealing with China–its Straits Exchange Foundation and Mainland Affairs Council–have said they have been unable to raise a response from their Chinese counterparts over Lee’s case.

Rights group Amnesty International’s East Asia Director Nicholas Bequelin said Lee’s case raised questions about the safety of people working with civil society in China.

Lee had been supporting organizations and activists in China for years but went to China this time for personal matters related to mother-in-law’s medical condition, Amnesty International said.

“If Lee Ming-che has been detained, then please tell me the charges,” Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu, said at a news briefing on Friday organized by the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

“But please tell her if her husband is alive or dead, where is he,” the rights group said in a statement.

From Peace and Freedom judicial analyst in China: “Many in the West may not know that much of the Beijing government has a Coterie that too frequently stretches the laws of “normal” legal behaviour. Men get kidnapped. Some get killed. Arms get broken. Wives go missing. It is much like an American mafia movie.”

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A Looming Crisis for China’s Legal System

Taipei Times

China’s failure to respond on the matter of a Taiwanese man missing in China is causing his family “anxiety and panic,” the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday, as it called on authorities to protect the rights of Taiwanese.

Concern has risen in Taiwan about the whereabouts of Lee Ming-che (李明哲), a community college worker known for supporting human rights in China who disappeared on Sunday last week after entering China’s Zhuhai city via Macau.

Chinese authorities had repeatedly said they would protect the rights of Taiwanese in China in accordance with the law, the DPP said.

“But after six days, there has been no official response by China to requests for consultations about the search by our government and his family,” DPP spokesman Chang Chih-hao (張志豪) said in the party’s strongest statement yet on Lee’s disappearance.

“This has caused the family anxiety and panic,” Chang said.

The party called on Chinese authorities to respond promptly to requests for cooperation and “effectively protect human rights and not increase the risk of Taiwanese traveling to China,” Chang said.

The Straits Exchange Foundation and the Mainland Affairs Council have said they have been unable to raise a response from their Chinese counterparts over Lee’s case.

Lee’s case raised questions about the safety of people working with civic society in China, Amnesty International’s East Asia director Nicholas Bequelin said.

Lee had been supporting organizations and rights advocates in China for years, but went to China this time for personal matters related to his mother-in-law’s medical condition, Amnesty International said.

“If Lee Ming-che has been detained, then please tell me the charges,” Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu (李淨瑜), said at a news conference on Friday organized by the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

“Please tell her if her husband is alive or dead, where is he,” the rights group said in a statement.

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — The disappearance of a Taiwanese activist for human rights and democratic causes has raised fears here that he may have been detained by the Chinese authorities.

The man, Lee Ming-cheh, has not been heard from since last Sunday morning, when he boarded a flight from Taipei to Macau, according to friends and relatives. A friend went to the airport in Macau to meet him, but he never emerged from the arrivals gate, said Cheng Shiow-jiuan, the director of Taipei Wenshan Community College, where Mr. Lee is a manager.

Mr. Lee had crossed from Macau into mainland China on Sunday, but his whereabouts have been a mystery since then, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, a cabinet-level agency that deals with China-related issues, said in recent days.

China has issued no statements about Mr. Lee.

“The fact that Lee Ming-cheh has gone missing once again raises serious questions about the safety of people working with civil society in China,” Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East Asia director, said in a statement on Friday.

Macau, like nearby Hong Kong, is a semiautonomous Chinese territory responsible for administering its own borders and immigration. But the unprecedented spiriting away of five Hong Kong publishers to mainland China, as well as the apparent seizure of a Chinese billionaire from his serviced apartment in Hong Kong more recently, have raised concerns that China’s government no longer respects those borders.

Chiu Chiu-cheng, a spokesman for the Mainland Affairs Council, noted at a news conference on Thursday that a strict law regulating the activities of foreign nongovernmental organizations in China went into effect this year. That may have increased risks for Taiwanese people engaging with mainland Chinese involved in civil society, Mr. Chiu said.

Ms. Cheng, the director of the community college, said on Saturday that Mr. Lee had not been directly involved with civil society work in mainland China.

But she said his wife, Lee Ching-yu, had told her that he had weekly chats on Chinese social media about “some of Taiwan’s experiences with democracy and transitional justice” with mainland friends who wanted China to move in a direction similar to Taiwan’s.

Such discussions are dangerous in China, where state surveillance of the internet is pervasive and comments critical of the ruling Communist Party can draw swift punishment.

Mr. Lee met with some of those friends during visits to the mainland about once a year, Ms. Cheng said.

“It’s not any kind of formal activity; it’s just catching up with friends,” she said. She added that he also delivered donated Taiwanese books to the family of imprisoned rights lawyers in China and had planned to seek medical advice for a relative during this month’s trip.

Ms. Lee was unavailable for comment on Saturday.

Beijing views self-governed, democratic Taiwan as a renegade province that must eventually be reunited with China — by force if necessary. Some Taiwanese news outlets have speculated that Mr. Lee’s disappearance could be retribution for the arrest this month of a Chinese national accused of espionage.

Mr. Lee has long been active in pro-democratic and human rights causes. Ms. Cheng described him as a dedicated manager who had made a deep impression on others since joining the community college’s planning department in February 2016.

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

China Marks Lunar New Year With Prayers, Incense, Fireworks

January 28, 2017

BEIJING — Chinese are heading to temples and fairs to wish for an auspicious start to the Lunar New Year.

Thousands gathered at Beijing’s major temples on Saturday, the first day of the Year of the Rooster. Wearing heavy winter coats, they lit incense sticks and bowed as they prayed for good fortune and health. As many as 80,000 people were expected at the Lama Temple in central Beijing, state television reported.

Beijing’s sprawling spring festival temple fair opened at Ditan Park, where empty tree branches were festooned with red lanterns and traditional goods and foods were for sale.

Other New Year’s traditions include the eating of dumplings in northern China and the lighting of fireworks. Beijing’s government called on Communist Party cadres and government staff not to set off firecrackers due to environmental concerns, but local media reported air pollution levels in Beijing and several other cities still shot up Friday night and early Saturday morning.

Ethnic Chinese and others around the world also marked the holiday with celebrations and visits to temples.

Large crowds gathered in Hong Kong and Malaysia Friday night as the holiday began. In Rio de Janeiro, crowds watched a dragon dance and a performance of tai chi in front of a picture of Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue. New York brought in the holiday with fireworks over the Hudson River.

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Filipinos perform the traditional dragon dance along Session Road in Baguio City ahead of the celebration of the Chinese New Year today.

ANDY ZAPATA JR.

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People watch fireworks explode on the streets of Beijing.

The Lunar New Year: Millions welcome the Year of the Rooster

BEIJING — Residents of China’s capital awoke on Saturday to dense, choking smog after many set off a barrage of fireworks overnight to ring in the Lunar New Year, despite limits and public admonitions against such displays in the congested city.

The Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said harmful particulate matter in the air had hit the second-highest level in five years by Saturday morning, the state-owned China News Service reported.

Beijing launched a “war against pollution” in 2014 as part of a central government promise to reverse damage done by decades of breakneck growth and strengthen powers to shut down and punish polluters. Efforts to clean up the skies in the industrial heartland around Beijing are being thwarted by coal-burning industry and indoor heating, which increases during China’s winter months.

Public health concerns over air pollution have grown and the government has found no source of pollution too small to ignore. They have even taken on outdoor food vendors in recent years, as well as the annual battle against China’s long tradition of lighting fireworks to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

“In setting off fireworks, be conscious of ‘setting off the (pollution) index’,” read an editorial on Saturday in the People’s Daily newspaper, the Communist Party mouthpiece.

Hundreds of millions of people criss-cross China to visit family and friends during the Lunar New Year period, with the government predicting up to 3 billion trips.

In Beijing, efforts to ease smog included neighbourhood postings asking residents not to light fireworks, fewer approvals for firework stalls and officials being warned to lead by example and abstain from the pyrotechnics.

Although state-owned Xinhua reported that purchases of fireworks fell 4.9 percent in Beijing this year, the measures weren’t enough to avoid a spike in pollution from healthy to hazardous levels in a matter of hours.

Beijing’s level of PM2.5, a measure of small particulate matter particularly damaging to health, peaked at 647 micrograms per cubic metre early on Saturday, the national Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a statement on its website.

That was well beyond the upper limit of 500 on China’s air quality index and double the threshold considered hazardous.

The greater region of Beijing, the nearby port city of Tianjin and surrounding Hebei province surpassed peak levels of PM2.5 in 2016, it said.

In response, many on the streets of Beijing wore masks to welcome the Year of the Rooster, including paramilitary police stationed at Beijing’s Lama Temple and spectators at outdoor performances.

Dispersal of the pollution largely depends on weather conditions, with two cold air fronts likely to help reduce pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region through to Wednesday, the environmental ministry said, before conditions deteriorate again and potentially lead to another heavy bout of pollution.

(Reporting by Jake Spring; Additional reporting by Damir Sagolj; Editing by Paul Tait)

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At Hong Kong New Year Fair, Defiance Gives Way to Resignation

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s Lunar New Year fairs draw thousands of visitors who stroll past stalls of potted narcissus, snack on fish balls and snap up the latest plush toys. In recent years, the largest of the fairs, at Victoria Park, has also become a prime site for political expression.

Two years ago, after street protests failed to achieve greater public participation in the selection of the leader of Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory, some holiday stalls offered clothing and other items carrying pointed messages of resistance. This year — before the March election of the leader in which the outcome will, as usual, be decided by pro-Beijing loyalists voting on a short list of vetted candidates — defiance appears to have given way to indignant resignation.

“I feel so helpless that as a Hong Konger, as a citizen, I don’t even have a vote,” said Priscilla Pang, a 22-year-old student, frowning at a wheel of fortune featuring the faces of several potential candidates for the leader, or chief executive. Given a choice, she would pick none of them, she said. “We’re like chickens having food forced down their throats. There’s no use fighting.”

The wheel of fortune was set up by the pro-democracy Civic Party to highlight the closed nature of the election, said Alvin Yeung, the party leader and a legislator.

“Most of the Hong Kong people who came and played the wheel, they don’t have the right to vote,” Mr. Yeung said. “We allow people to take their turn and see who will be the one, but at the end of the day our message is, ‘None of them are your real choice because this election is not a genuine election.’”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/world/asia/hong-kong-new-years-fair-election.html?&moduleDetail=section-news-1&action=click&contentCollection=Asia%20Pacific&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&pgtype=article

Hong Kong: Crowds poured into Victoria Park on Lunar New Year’s eve on Friday

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education-community/article/2066074/hong-kongs-largest-lunar-new-year-fair-crowded

New Year’s Day rally in Hong Kong — Against heavy handed direction from Beijing — “Sovereignty belongs to the people!”

January 1, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Protesters including pro-democracy lawmakers Lau Siu-lai (bottom C), Edward Yiu (behind Lau) and Nathan Law (bottom L) carry a banner reading “Sovereignty belongs to the people!” during a New Year’s Day rally in Hong Kong on January 1, 2017

HONG KONG (AFP) – Thousands of protesters, chanting “Sovereignty belongs to the people!” marched through Hong Kong on New Year’s Day to protest at the government’s legal bid to unseat some pro-democracy lawmakers.

The four popularly elected legislators, who led the rally, were the latest targets of a government move which pro-democracy parties describe as a witch hunt.

It came after the city’s courts ousted two pro-independence lawmakers for failing to swear their oaths of office correctly, a move backed by Beijing.

The Hong Kong government now wants to bar the other four legislators for alleged breaches in their swearing-in ceremony and in their oaths of allegiance.

“We can see that under Hong Kong’s rule of law, the government, with its unlimited resources, will use legal procedures to bully leaders and representatives with fewer resources,” Joshua Wong, a prominent student leader, told AFP at the rally.

“This has shown that ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is a failure and we should use the 20th anniversary of the handover to reflect on our political situation.”

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 under a deal which gives it broad autonomy and preserves its freedoms and the rule of law for 50 years. But there are fears these freedoms are being eroded by Beijing.

“The four lawmakers are genuinely concerned about the future of Hong Kong to ensure that our core values will be maintained,” Peggy Ng, a retired civil servant, told AFP at the rally.

“Particularly, that our next generations will enjoy the freedoms that I have enjoyed before.”

A protester raises a picture of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying with a Chinese word “Prisoner” on his face during a rally on the first day of 2017 in Hong Kong, Sunday, Jan. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

A protester raises a picture of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying with a Chinese word “Prisoner” on his face during a rally on the first day of 2017 in Hong Kong, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. They protest against Beijing’s… (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Court proceedings against the four are scheduled to start in February.

Organisers of the march said 9,150 people attended, while police estimated an maximum attendance of 4,800.

A 1,200-strong pro-Beijing committee will elect Hong Kong’s next leader in March.

The current unpopular chief executive Leung Chun-ying has announced he will not seek re-election, citing family reasons.

Banners at the march caricatured the likely election candidates and highlighted their pro-establishment positions.

Sunday’s rally also sought to raise funds for the four lawmakers to fight the government’s challenge in court.

The two ousted pro-independence lawmakers separately announced last week they were making a final legal bid to overturn their exclusion from the legislature.

Image may contain: one or more people, crowd and outdoor

Thousands of people march on the first day of 2017 at a downtown street in Hong Kong Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, to protest against Beijing’s interpretation of Basic Law and Hong Kong government’s bid to ban pro-democracy… (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Hong Kong’s ousted anti-China lawmakers make final appeal over ban

December 28, 2016

AFP

Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung were elected in citywide polls in September but deliberately misread their oaths of office during their swearing-in ceremony, inserting expletives and draping themselves with “Hong Kong is not China” flags.

This prompted a rare interference by Chinese authorities.

Pro-independence lawmakers Baggio Leung (L) and Yau Wai-ching were elected in citywide Hong Kong polls in September but deliberately misread their oaths of o...

Pro-independence lawmakers Baggio Leung (L) and Yau Wai-ching were elected in citywide Hong Kong polls in September but deliberately misread their oaths of office during their swearing-in ceremony ©Anthony WALLACE (AFP/File)

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The pair were amongst a handful of rebel candidates who took seats for the first time after the September polls, advocating either independence or self-determination for the southern Chinese city.

HONG KONG (AFP) – Two ousted pro-independence Hong Kong lawmakers on Wednesday announced they were making a final bid to overturn a controversial Beijing-linked ban preventing them from taking up their seats in parliament.

Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung were elected in citywide polls in September but deliberately misread their oaths of office during their swearing-in ceremony, inserting expletives and draping themselves with “Hong Kong is not China” flags.

This prompted a rare interference by Chinese authorities.

The pair were amongst a handful of rebel candidates who took seats for the first time after the September polls, advocating either independence or self-determination for the southern Chinese city.

The new movement supporting a possible split from Beijing for the semi-autonomous city has gained traction as young pro-democracy campaigners grow increasingly frustrated with a lack of political reform.

Beijing took aim at the pair in a special “interpretation” of the city’s constitution in early November that effectively barred them from taking up their seats because of the way they took the oath.

Following that decision, Yau and Leung were disqualified by the city’s High Court in mid November and lost an appeal to overturn that ban later in the month.

On Wednesday the pair said they had filed appeal documents with the city’s Court of Final Appeal, in hopes of setting a precedent for future elections in Hong Kong.

“It is shaping Hong Kong’s constitutional environment, and even the legitimacy of Legislative Council elections hinge on this case,” Yau told AFP.

The pair are still struggling to raise the funds to bring the case to the city’s highest court.

“We’re determined to appeal because we can?t stop at the Court of Appeal. The impact this case will have on Hong Kong is too big.”

Following Yau and Leung’s failed appeal last month, the government launched another legal bid to unseat an additional four pro-democracy lawmakers for failing to take their oaths properly, in what the opposition camp has called a witch hunt.

Proceedings against the four lawmakers are scheduled to start in February.

Thousands are expected to join a rally on New Year’s Day calling for the government to drop their bid to disqualify the four lawmakers and to press for universal suffrage.

See also:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-4070428/Hong-Kongs-ousted-anti-China-lawmakers-make-final-appeal-ban.html