Posts Tagged ‘pro-democracy’

Tens of Thousands March to Defend Hong Kong’s Rule of Law Against “Authoritarian Rule”

October 1, 2017

HONG KONG — Tens of thousands marched in China-ruled Hong Kong on Sunday in an “anti authoritarian rule” march that called for the resignation of the city’s top legal official over the recent jailing of young democracy activists.

The march, an annual fixture over the past few years on China’s October 1 National Day, comes at a time of nascent disillusionment with Hong Kong’s once vaunted judiciary.

“Without democracy, how can we have the rule of law,” the crowds yelled as they marched through sporadic downpours, from a muddy pitch to the city’s harbour-front government headquarters.

Organisers estimated about 40,000 people joined the march.

Image result for hong kong, protest, october 1, 2017, photos

Activists hold banners and placards as they take part in an annual protest march on China’s national day in Hong Kong on October 1, 2017. (Photo | AFP)

Many protesters, some clad in black, expressed dismay with Hong Kong’s Secretary of Justice, Rimsky Yuen, who Reuters reported had over-ruled several other senior public prosecutors to seek jail terms for three prominent democrats: Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow.

“We believe he (Yuen) has been the key orchestrator in destroying Hong Kong’s justice,” said Avery Ng, one of the organisers of the rally that drew a coalition of some 50 civil and political groups.

Around one hundred Hong Kong activists are now facing possible jail terms for various acts of mostly democratic advocacy including the “Umbrella Revolution” in late 2014 that saw tens of thousands of people block major roads for 79 days in a push for universal suffrage.


While the October 1 march is a regular annual fixture, this was the first time the rule of law has been scrutinised like this, with the judiciary — a legacy of the British Common Law system — long considered one of the best in Asia and a cornerstone of Hong Kong’s economic success.

“It’s like mainland (Chinese) laws have intruded into Hong Kong,” said Alex Ha, a teacher of classical guitar, who was walking alone in the crowd.

Pro-democracy activists take part in a protest on China’s National Day in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index last week downgraded Hong Kong’s judicial independence ranking by five spots to number 13 in the world.

In response, however, Yuen stressed at the time that Hong Kong’s judiciary remained strong and independent.

“We cannot rely on subjective perceptions, we have to look at the facts,” he told reporters.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise that Beijing would grant the city a high degree of autonomy and an independent judiciary under a so-called “one country, two systems” arrangement.

But over two decades of Chinese rule, differences have deepened between Communist Party leaders in Beijing and a younger generation of democracy advocates, some of whom are now calling for the financial hub to eventually split from China.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam spoke of a need for unity during a speech to assembled dignitaries at a National Day reception to mark the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China by the Communists.

“As long as we capitalise on our strengths, stay focused, seize the opportunities before us and stand united, I am sure that Hong Kong can reach even greater heights,” she said.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Gareth Jones)



New wave of leaders step into breach for jailed Hong Kong democracy activists

September 8, 2017


© AFP / by Aaron TAM | Hong Kong democracy activists Agnes Chow and Lester Shum are among the young leaders to have stepped into the breach left by jailed opposition figures

HONG KONG (AFP) – The jailing of Hong Kong’s best-known democracy activists has pushed a new wave of young leaders to take the helm as they seek to keep the movement’s message alive.Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, who carved out international reputations with their campaigning, were both sent to prison last month in what rights groups slammed as politically motivated prosecutions.

Alongside fellow activist Alex Chow, they are serving sentences of between six and eight months for their roles in a protest that triggered mass Umbrella Movement rallies in 2014 calling for democratic reforms.

The jailings were a blow to the pro-democracy movement and seen as more evidence that Beijing is tightening its grip on semi-autonomous Hong Kong.

But they also breathed new life into a campaign that had been struggling for momentum since the 2014 rallies failed to win concessions.

Tens of thousands took to the streets to protest the jail terms last month, and activists who have long been at the right hand of Wong and Law are now stepping into the spotlight.

“We should try to do more, not only for them but also for our city and to show the government and the Chinese regime that we are not going to be scared,” Agnes Chow, 20, a close friend of the jailed activists, told AFP.

Chow addressed the crowds at last month’s protest over the sentences and has regularly spoken to the media since her friends were imprisoned.

If a by-election for the Hong Kong legislature is held early next year — after her 21st birthday in December — she would be old enough to run for Law’s vacated seat, and has not ruled that out.

Law was one of four pro-democracy lawmakers disqualified from parliament in July for inserting protests into their oaths of office.

Chow is already a seasoned activist — she was one of the core members of Wong’s Scholarism group, which organised huge rallies in 2012 forcing the government to shelve a proposal to introduce compulsory patriotic “national education” into schools.

She was also one of the best-known faces of the Umbrella Movement, regularly taking to the stage to address protesters, and is a member of Wong and Law’s political party Demosisto.

Chow said the government was using the jail terms to scare people away from social movements.

“It is important for us to learn how to overcome fear in order to fight for our own basic human rights and freedom and democracy,” she said.

– Turning point –

Chow and fellow Demosisto member Derek Lam said the democratic movement now needed to improve its connections at the grassroots level to build a stronger base.

Lam, 24, who made an emotive speech outside the jail where Chow and Law are being held and is one of Demosisto’s most recognisable leaders, said the party ranks had swelled in the past two months.

“Young people are all trying to find a way to change Hong Kong,” he added.

But Lam also faces charges over an anti-China demonstration last year and believes there will soon “only be a few people left” to lead the cause.

Activist Lester Shum said those who are free to continue campaigning should put pessimism aside.

Shum, 24, also a prominent student leader during the Umbrella Movement, has been at the forefront of recent protests over the jailings.

He said the imprisonment of Wong, Law and Chow was a turning point for the democratic movement.

“They have been facing their situation with a very calm and determined attitude,” he told AFP.

“I think this will somehow encourage pro-democratic Hong Kong people,” said Shum, who is assistant to popular pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu.

Shum is facing contempt of court charges relating to the clearance of one of the Umbrella Movement protest sites. Visibly thinner than when he first came on the scene, he said there had been an emotional toll.

“One of the worst things for me has already happened,” he said, referring to the imprisonment of his girlfriend Willis Ho.

She was one of 13 activists recently jailed for charging the Legislative Council building in 2014 in protest over re-development plans for rural areas.

But he remains optimistic about the city’s campaign for democracy and vowed to fight on.

“If we could stand up against their agenda, stand up against the challenges given to us by them, I think Hong Kong people will not be defeated easily.”

by Aaron TAM

Yemen: Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthi fighters appear to have re-joined — Nobody knows their next move — But warned “beware of these snakes”

September 6, 2017

DUBAI — Yemen’s ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh appears to have patched up a violent rift with his allies in the armed Houthi movement, but the drama has left friends and foe alike wondering anew at the wily political survivor’s next move.

Forming a surprise alliance with the Houthis when they seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, Saleh’s army loyalists and Houthi fighters have together weathered thousands of air strikes by a Saudi-led military coalition in 2 1/2 years of war.

Image may contain: 2 people, eyeglasses, beard and closeup

Yemen’s ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh

Fearing the Houthis are a proxy for their arch-foe Iran, the mostly Gulf Arab alliance seeks to help the internationally recognized government push up from a base in Yemen’s south toward Sanaa. Saleh’s guile has been key to resisting the push.

For 34 years Saleh ruled over one of the world’s most heavily armed and tribal societies with expertly balanced doses of largesse and force. He battled the Houthis for a decade in office before he befriended them when out of power.

Cornered by pro-democracy “Arab Spring” protests, Saleh wore a cryptic smile when signing his resignation in a televised ceremony in 2012. Then as now, few could discern his intentions.

But his desire to preserve by any means necessary his influence and that of his family – many of whom occupy top military positions – seems beyond doubt. His influence has outlived that of other Arab leaders left dead or deposed by uprisings and civil wars since 2011.

As the conflict has wrought a humanitarian crisis, weeks of mutual sniping about responsibility for economic woes in northern Yemeni lands that they together rule peaked with a deadly gun battle between Houthi and Saleh supporters last week.

Leaders from Saleh’s former ruling party and the Houthis met and pronounced the split healed.

Image result for Houthi fighters, photos

Though they pledged to focus on the war effort against Yemen’s internationally recognized government that is backed by the Saudi-led coalition, the tensions suggest Saleh is seeking to stake out his own political strategy as exhaustion sets in on all sides.

“Saleh wants to capitalize on popular opposition to both the Houthis and the government, positioning himself as an alternative,” said Adam Baron, a Yemen expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

The war has killed at least 10,000 people, displaced 2 million from their homes, led to widespread hunger and a cholera epidemic which has left 2,000 people dead. Militias and Yemen’s powerful Al Qaeda branch have gained ground in the chaos.

Any total breakdown within the alliance between Saleh and the Houthis would be bloody and pit scores of local leaders, tribesmen and army units cultivated by Saleh for decades against others loyal to the fighters.


Saleh appeared eager to avoid that showdown in an interview which aired on Monday on Yemen Today, a TV channel he owns.

“There is no crisis or disagreement at all except in the imaginations of trouble-makers and sowers of discord at home and abroad,” he said.

But the ex-leader, at times referring to himself in the third person, said that “imbalances” remained in the alliance, suggesting not all wounds had been salved.

Analysts say he remains annoyed at the continued existence of a Houthi “revolutionary committee” which ruled alone before its alliance was formalized with Saleh’s General People’s Congress party in a “governing council” where they shared power.

Anxiety also flares over appointments of local officials and control over financial policy – both former GPC prerogatives.

Beyond local squabbles, the good relations Saleh enjoyed with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates during his presidency raise Houthi fears of a grand double cross.

Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali, lives under house arrest in the UAE where he once served as ambassador before it joined its ally Saudi Arabia to make war on the Houthi-Saleh alliance.

A powerful former military chief whom his father appeared to be grooming to succeed him, Ahmed Ali and the passing of Saleh power to the next generation may figure into his calculus.

“He certainly wants to secure a place for his family in any post-war order … the Houthis are very paranoid that Saleh may cut a deal with Saudi Arabia and the UAE that will leave them out to dry,” Baron of ECFR added.

Saleh has denied seeking to advance his son’s political career or any backroom dealing with their enemies.

To salvage their alliance, the Houthis will need to convince Saleh that despite their violent history, they make for stronger allies than some GPC members – like Saleh’s successor, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi – who turned on him in the past.

“I say to President Saleh, out of sincerity and love, beware of these snakes,” Houthi official Hamid Rizq wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

“They are the ones who pushed you to fight wars against the honorable and loyal people in your society then abandoned you and called you are a thief and a criminal.”

(editing by Peter Graff)

China’s Rights Crackdown Is Called ‘Most Severe’ Since Tiananmen Square

September 6, 2017

GENEVA — China is systematically undermining international human rights groups in a bid to silence critics of its crackdown on such rights at home, a watchdog organization said on Tuesday. The group also faulted the United Nations for failing to prevent the effort, and at times being complicit in it.

“China’s crackdown on human rights activists is the most severe since the Tiananmen Square democracy movement 25 years ago,” Kenneth Roth, the director of the agency, Human Rights Watch, said in Geneva on Tuesday at the introduction of a report that he described as an international “wake-up call.” “What’s less appreciated is the lengths to which China goes to prevent criticism of that record of oppression by people outside China, particularly those at the United Nations.”

“The stakes are not simply human rights for the one-sixth of the world’s population who live in China,” Mr. Roth added, “but also the survival and effectiveness of the U.N. human rights system for everyone around the globe.”

The report highlights China’s measures to prevent activists from leaving the country to attend meetings at the United Nations, its harassment of those who do manage to attend and the risk of reprisals when they return or if they interact with United Nations investigators inside or outside China.

The report also noted barriers placed by Chinese officials to visits by United Nations human rights officials. Beijing has not allowed a visit by the agency’s High Commissioner for human rights since 2005, and continues to delay 15 requests for visits by special rapporteurs working on political and civil rights issues.

China allowed visits by four rapporteurs since 2005 on issues like poverty, debt and the status of women. But it carefully choreographed those visits, and contacts not sanctioned by the state posed risks to those involved. The United Nations has expressed concern that the detention of Jiang Tianyong, a prominent human rights lawyer, resulted from a 2016 meeting in Beijing with the United Nations special rapporteur on poverty, Philip Alston. Mr. Jiang disappeared for several months and was later charged with subversion.

The report also documents China’s diplomacy in the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, where the country aligns with an informal collection of states, including Algeria, Cuba, Egypt and Venezuela, that discretely coordinate their positions to deflect scrutiny of their records and consistently challenge the council’s ability to look into accusations of abuse in other states without their consent.

“It’s becoming a mutual defense society among dictators in which everybody understands the need to deflect criticism of you today because they may criticize us tomorrow,” Mr. Roth said. “And China is an active, willing partner in that effort.”


Read the rest:

Hong Kong Democracy Leader Defiant as Three Jailed for Months

August 17, 2017

HONG KONG — An appeals court jailed three leaders of Hong Kong’s democracy movement for six to eight months on Thursday, dealing a blow to the Chinese-ruled city’s youth-led push for universal suffrage and prompting accusations of political interference.

Joshua Wong, 20, Alex Chow, 24, and Nathan Law, 26, were sentenced last year to non-jail terms including community service for unlawful assembly, but Hong Kong’s Department of Justice applied for a review, seeking imprisonment.

Wong was jailed for six months, Chow for seven months and Law for eight months. Law had been the city’s youngest ever democratically elected legislator before he was stripped last month of his seat by a government-led lawsuit.

The three appeared stern but calm as their sentences were delivered by a panel of three judges.

The former British colony, which has been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula since it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, was rocked by nearly three months of mostly peaceful street occupations in late 2014, demanding Beijing grant the city full democracy.

The so-called “Umbrella Movement” civil disobedience movement, that drew hundreds of thousands of protesters at its peak, was triggered after Wong and his colleagues stormed into a courtyard fronting the city’s government headquarters.

They were later charged with participating in and inciting an unlawful assembly.

Just before sentencing, a defiant Wong told around one hundred supporters who thronged into the High Court lobby, some weeping, that he had no regrets and urged them to keep fighting for full democracy.

“I hope Hong Kong people won’t give up. Victory is ours. When we are released next year I hope we can see a Hong Kong that is full of hope. I want to see Hong Kong people not giving up. This is my last wish before I go to jail.”

Wong also told Reuters earlier that Hong Kong’s democratic movement was facing its “darkest era” and that he’d lost confidence in the city’s vaunted legal system, long considered one of the best in Asia.

The Department of Justice said in an earlier statement that the trio were not convicted for exercising their civil liberties, but because their conduct during the protest included “disorderly and intimidating behaviour”.

It added there was “absolutely no basis to imply any political motive”.

Critics disagreed.

“The outlandish application seeking jail time is not about public order but is instead a craven political move to keep the trio out of the Legislative Council, as well as deter future protests,” China director at Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Hong Kong enjoys a free judiciary, unlike on the mainland where the Communist Party controls the courts which rarely challenge its decisions.

The jail terms will curtail the political ambitions of the trio, barring them for running for seats in the legislature for the next five years.

In recent months, dozens of protesters, mostly young people, have been jailed for their roles in various protests, including a violent demonstration that the government called a riot in early 2016.

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


Three Young Hong Kong Democracy Leaders Jailed for Months

August 17, 2017

HONG KONG — A Hong Kong appeal court on Thursday jailed three prominent young Hong Kong democracy leaders for several months for “unlawful assembly” linked to the city’s months-long pro-democracy protests in 2014.

The three are 20-year-old Joshua Wong, former student leader Alex Chow, 26, and Nathan Law, 24, the youngest ever democratically elected lawmaker in Hong Kong. They were jailed for six, seven and eight months respectively.

The former British colony, which last month celebrated the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule, was gridlocked by nearly three months of street protests in 2014’s “Umbrella Movement” that failed to convince Beijing to allow full democracy in the city of 7.3 million.

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

Hong Kong Democracy Activist Says He Was Abducted, Blindfolded, Beaten and ‘Stapled’ by Chinese Agents

August 11, 2017

HONG KONG — A prominent member of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party said on Friday he was beaten and “stapled” by mainland agents in the Chinese-controlled city before being dumped on a beach in what activists said was the latest warning to the democracy movement.

He said he was even warned in a telephone call not to give a photo signed by Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi to the widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Howard Lam, a key pro-democracy activist in the former British colony, was confronted by men speaking Mandarin, spoken in Beijing but not widely in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong, outside a sports store, he told reporters.

Image result for Howard Lam, Hong Kong, photos

Howard Lam

Lam said the men took him away, interrogating him and stapling his skin 21 times for being “unpatriotic” in a nine-hour ordeal. He was knocked out and eventually found himself dumped on a beach in Hong Kong’s remote Sai Kung district.

Hong Kong police and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China’s State Council were not immediately available for comment.

The attack comes as hostility to Beijing has spiraled and the battle for full democracy has become a defining issue for the city of 7.3 million people.

Hong Kong became a “special administrative region” of China in 1997, since when it has been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula that guarantees a range of freedoms not enjoyed in China, including a direct vote for half of the 70-seat legislative assembly.

Image result for Howard Lam, Hong Kong, photos

Howard Lam Tsz-kin shows his wounds. Photo: Felix Wong, South China Morning Post

But activists say those freedoms have come under threat with perceived meddling by Communist Party rulers in Beijing.

In July, Hong Kong’s high court expelled four pro-independence lawmakers from the city’s legislature after invalidating their oaths of office, in what was seen as the clearest indication of direct intervention by Beijing.

The 2015 abduction of several Hong Kong booksellers, who sold publications critical of China’s leaders, by mainland agents also shook confidence in Beijing’s promise of non-interference, activists say.

Lam said he had received a call from a mainland Chinese person claiming to be part of the mainland intelligence service. He said he was warned not to give the Messi photo to the widow of Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Chinese Nobel laureate who died from cancer last month.

It was not immediately clear how they knew of his plans to do so.

Pro-democracy lawmakers, academics and political activists worry that Hong Kong is becoming more like mainland Chinese cities, where the internal security services join forces with police to crush dissent.

Chinese President Xi Jinping swore in Hong Kong’s new leader last month with a stark warning that Beijing won’t tolerate any challenge to its authority in the city as it marked the 20th anniversary of its return from Britain to China.

(Reporting by Farah Master and Stefanie McIntyre; Editing by Nick Macfie)

See also:

South China Morning Post

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist claims he was abducted, blindfolded and beaten by mainland China agents

Dark days for China’s democracy dream

July 19, 2017



© AFP/File / by Joanna CHIU in BEIJING, and Aaron TAM and Elaine YU in HONG KONG | Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo died from liver cancer while under heavy police guard at a hospital in northeastern China

BEIJING/HONG KONG (CHINA) (AFP) – The death of Liu Xiaobo deprives China’s dissident movement of a crucial figurehead at a time when political activism on the mainland is being forced ever deeper underground, and pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong are under threat.The world had not heard from Nobel laureate Liu since he was jailed in 2009 for writing a petition calling for political reform, but he remained an influential heavyweight of China’s democracy movement and an inspiration for opponents of the Communist-ruled system.

His death in custody from cancer last week triggered rage and frustration among the dissident community but also a sense of hopelessness as they face hardened repression under China’s President Xi Jinping.

“When the Chinese authorities can so easily control life and death, people are more afraid to fight,” said activist Su Yutong, who fled to Germany after being repeatedly detained and questioned over her work at an NGO.

“They see that even a Nobel Peace Prize winner can die in jail.”

There are fears that Liu’s supporters will now be targeted, particularly his wife Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010.

Veteran China specialist Willy Lam said most of Liu’s friends were already under 24-hour surveillance and that the dissident community in general was “highly demoralised”.

“They realise they are going through a long winter with no light at the end of the tunnel,” said Lam, a politics professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The fact that support from the international community is outweighed by the desire of foreign governments to keep Beijing onside has also hit hard, said Teng Biao, a human rights lawyer and visiting scholar at Princeton University.

“If the West is reluctant to anger China, there will be no hope,” Teng told AFP.

However, some say they will brave it out.

One of the country’s most prominent social activists Hu Jia, 43, has vowed not to leave China despite being under police surveillance since his release from prison six years ago.

“I want to stay and make an impact on the country,” he told AFP.

– Hong Kong remembers –

Liu’s death prompted an outpouring of grief in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, where pro-democracy forces must also contend with an increasingly assertive Beijing.

“We have to face the same political system and oppression,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu.

“There used to be some distance, but now it’s more intimately felt.”

A day after Liu died, Hong Kong’s High Court disqualified four pro-democracy lawmakers from parliament following an unprecedented intervention from Beijing over the way they incorporated protests into their oaths of office last year.

Two lawmakers who advocate complete independence for Hong Kong — a concept that infuriates China — had already been ousted from the legislature.

Hong Kong still enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland — thousands gathered for a memorial march to Liu on Saturday, while over the border even online tributes to him were removed.

But a string of incidents, including the disappearance of a city bookseller and a reclusive mainland tycoon, have heightened concerns of Beijing’s political overreach.

When it was handed back to China by Britain in 1997 under a semi-autonomous “one country, two systems” deal, some hoped Hong Kong’s colonial institutions, such as an independent judiciary and partially elected legislature, would lead to liberalisation over the border.

However, as China’s wealth and global clout skyrocketed, Hong Kong’s influence waned. Now it is seen by Beijing as a hotbed of subversion, particularly since mass protests calling for more democratic reform in 2014.

Xi warned any challenge to Beijing’s control over Hong Kong crossed a “red line” earlier this month when he visited the city to mark 20 years since the handover.

Jonathan Sullivan, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, described the current political environment as “increasingly circumscribed”.

“It remains to be seen if (the democracy movement) feels it can advance its agenda through the ‘legitimate’ political process. And if not will there be a resurgence of street politics?” asked Sullivan.

The movement itself is struggling for direction, having splintered between veteran activists calling for change across China and younger Hong Kong-centric “localists” who say the city must just fight for itself.

Analysts agree that by-elections for the seats of the ousted lawmakers will prove whether or not the pro-democracy message is alive and kicking.

Lawmaker Chu says the movement needs a clearer vision, but must also accept that change will not come quickly.

“Liu Xiaobo persevered, sacrificing even his life, not because he knew he would succeed but because he saw himself as part of a long-term process,” Chu told AFP.

“Maybe Hong Kong is like this too. It’s not about setting a goal for victory at a certain time.”


by Joanna CHIU in BEIJING, and Aaron TAM and Elaine YU in HONG KONG

Hong Kong’s Protest Movement Crippled by Legal Clampdown

July 6, 2017
A group of Hong Kong activists pleaded guilty to charges related to the city’s large-scale pro-democracy protests in 2014, as the once-burgeoning movement has waned under legal pressure from Beijing.

By John Lyons
The Wall Street Journal
July 6, 2017 8:15 a.m. ET

HONG KONG–A group of Hong Kong activists pleaded guilty Thursday to charges related to the city’s large-scale pro-democracy protests in 2014, marking a symbolic low for a movement that attracted global attention by challenging Chinese authority, but has waned under legal pressure from Beijing.

The defendants included Joshua Wong, 20, who became the face of a 79-day student protest seeking universal suffrage in the former British colony, which retains limited autonomy within China. He admitted to defying a judge’s order to clear one of the protest sites.

Hong Kong and Beijing’s Tightening Embrace

Two decades after the handover to China, the former British colony evolves and suffers some growing pains under growing mainland influence.

In the years since the demonstrations, city authorities have aggressively prosecuted activists such as Mr. Wong, sapping their momentum and instilling a sense among many Hong Kongers that resisting Beijing’s will is futile, political analysts say.

“The pro-democracy movement is hitting a low tide, mainly because of intimidation from Beijing,” said Willy Lam, a longtime Hong Kong political analyst.

In Hong Kong last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a stern warning to the city of seven million people, calling any Hong Kong challenges to central government power “impermissible” acts that cross a “red line.” Protests planned to mark Mr. Xi’s visit either attracted far fewer participants than expected or were broken up by police.

Hong Kong’s democracy movement has ebbed for other reasons, as well. Protesters appeared too radical for many conservative Hong Kongers after some actions ended in disturbances. Infighting stole momentum, while attention-getting gambits—such as the decision of newly elected lawmakers to protest during swearing-in ceremonies—backfired by giving authorities excuses to remove them from the Legislative Council.

“The atmosphere is not very good, you have splits in the movement, political persecutions, arrests,” said Leung Kwok-hung, an activist Legislative Council member known as “Long Hair,” who may be disqualified from the body for lacing his oath with anti-Communist Party slogans—an act he said he wouldn’t repeat.

October 2014: A supporter of pro-democracy protesters in a Spider-Man costume holds an umbrella at a barricade in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok district.Photo: jeon heon-kyun/European Pressphoto Agency

However, several pro-democracy activists insist their movement is a long-term effort that could regain momentum sooner than many think. For example, Beijing is pressuring Hong Kong to introduce an antisedition law as well as a school curriculum that promotes the Chinese Communist Party—two initiatives that sparked opposition in the past.

“Education is something that goes right into the home on an issue that people care about most, the future of their children,” said Nathan Law, a protest leader and legislator who also faces disqualification for failing to properly execute his oath.

At its peak in 2014, the “Umbrella Movement” led by Mr. Wong and others shut down parts of the city. Mr. Wong and several others were charged with contempt of court for interfering with a court order to clear a protest stronghold in Mong Kok, across Victoria Harbour from Hong Kong Island.

In an interview, Mr. Wong said he pleaded guilty to take responsibility for his civil disobedience and uphold the rule of law. Mr. Wong will be sentenced in the coming weeks. Any prison term longer than three months would disqualify Mr. Wong, who has founded a political party, from running for the legislature for five years.

Related Coverage

  • 20 Years After Handover, China Looms Ever Larger Over Hong Kong Markets
  • China’s Xi Promises to Protect Hong Kong’s Status as Beijing Tightens Grip
  • Goodbye, Beijing: Chinese Immigrants Embrace Hong Kong Way of Life

While Hong Kong’s government brought the prosecutions, it takes its cues from authorities in Beijing, a relationship expected to deepen under the city’s new leadership sworn in July 1.

In the cases of the newly elected pro-democracy council members who failed to execute their oaths, two have been disqualified already and four more are awaiting a judge’s decision as to whether they can keep their seats.

To make way for the disqualifications, Beijing authorities issued a new interpretation of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution last year, sparking protests. In April, authorities arrested nine of the protesters on charges of unlawful assembly and other crimes. The protesters deny wrongdoing.

A month earlier, Hong Kong authorities handed out multiyear prison sentences to three protesters accused of participating in a separate mini-riot in February 2016, during Lunar New Year celebrations, sparked when police tried to clamp down on street vendors in Mong Kok.

“We will continue to fight. We have been in the movement for three decades, there have been ups and downs all the time,” said Albert Ho, a Hong Kong lawyer and veteran democracy activist.

Write to John Lyons at


 (A lesson in how China carries out its international commitments and promises)




China: Hardline stance towards more radical HK activists could mean more conflict

July 3, 2017

By Goh Sui Noi