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Hong Kong: Democratic protests escalate

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Student Joshua Wong leads the protests in Hong Kong (Source: Wikipedia)

Hong Kong: Democratic protests escalate

28-11-2014

On 25 and 26 November 2014, the police in Hong Kong arrested more than 140 democratic activists, who were protesting for universal suffrage and the possibility to elect the Chief Executive of the special administrative region.

The arrests occur three months after the beginning of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, which the Chinese government blocks with police repression and violence on the streets as reported by the BBC (Source 1).

18-year-old Joshua Wong is amongst those arrested. Wong leads the “Umbrella Revolution”, which  mostly consists of students. In June 2014, Joshua Wong had drafted a plan to implement universal suffrage. With no guarantee of a fair trial, the student leader will defend himself before the court together with the democratic activists, Lester Shum and lawyer Leung Kwok-hung. The Chinese authorities accuse them of obstructing bailiffs.    

The “Umbrella Revolution” has its name from the fact that protestors protect themselves with umbrellas against the tear gases used by the police. The movement roots back to Hong Kong’s special history with China and the fact that democratic rules are legally enshrined.

The Roots of the Conflict

In summer 1997, the island of Hong Kong became part of the People's Republic of China after centuries of British rule. As a result of the negotiations between the UK and China, Hong Kong got the unique legal status of a „special administrative region“. It guarantees a high degree of political autonomy for the island in all matters except of foreign and defense policy.

In 2007, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (constitutional body of the Chinese government) opened the possibility to select Hong Kong's Chief Executive (highest authority of the island) via universal suffrage in the 2017 elections. Article 45 of the Basic Law (Source 2) stipulates that "the ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures." 

In contrast, on 31 August 2014, the Standing Committee agreed to appoint two to three candidates, each of whom must receive the support of more than half of the members of the nominating committee. Hong Kong voters would have the possibility to vote for those candidates chosen by Bejing. Then, the Chinese government still is to appoint the elected Chief Executive.

This decision on the voting procedure triggered the people’s protests on the streets. During the first two days the protests ran smoothly until the police started using tear gas and violence to disperse the protesters. As the BBC reports (Source 3), the Chinese superpower also makes use of its media censorship capacity, blocking information about the democratic movement.

Credits of Image above: Wikipedia

Text by Oscar Rodriguez (edited by Cora Pfafferott)

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