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  • » 09/22/2014, 00.00

    HONG KONG - CHINA

    Big pro-democracy student strike starts in Hong Kong



    The weeklong class boycott began today. "[P]ained and outraged to see the advancement of democracy in Hong Kong stifled and suppressed," about 400 academics and non-teaching staff stand by students, who are "Hong Kong's future". Occupy Central is planning a silent sit-in for 1 October, anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. Billionaires from the former colony are set to meet with Xi Jinping to ask him to "stop" the pro-democracy movement.

    Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Thousands of students today began a week of strikes and boycotts to push Beijing to respond sincerely to their demands for democracy in Hong Kong. In the morning though, they packed classrooms for the start of the new school year, and began their protest action after the lunch break and planned to continue until 26 September.

    Hundreds of teachers, intellectuals and activists have publicly expressed their support for the students. By contrast, Hong Kong business leaders flew to Beijing to ask President Xi Jinping to "stop" Occupy Central.

    Groups such as the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism are behind the boycott. Alex Chow Yong-kang, the Federation's secretary general, said that today they would send a letter to current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and three other officials in charge of political reform demanding a response to Hongkongers' aspiration for "genuine" universal suffrage.

    Strikes and public protests associated with Occupy Central, a non-violent movement calling for democracy in the former British colony, followed Beijing's rejection of their demands in relation to the 2017 vote. Beijing wants Hongkongers to choose the Special Region's new chief executive from a list of two or three pre-selected candidates in an indirect vote.

    About 400 academics and non-teaching staff have expressed their support for the students. More than 80 public lectures are planned for the event, including one by Hong Kong Archbishop emeritus Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun.

    "As teachers and as citizens, we are pained and outraged to see the advancement of democracy in Hong Kong stifled and suppressed," read the statement signed by university staff.

    In addition to the strike, Occupy Central is planning other forms of protest. According to some reports, a silent sit-in could be held on 1 October, China's National Day, which marks the founding of the People's Republic.

    "I am really afraid of being sent to jail . . . I am really afraid of the Communist Party," Occupy Central co-founder Reverend Chu Yiu-ming told the South China Morning Post. "But I am ready to conquer and pay the price [for democracy]," he said. "I am already 70 years old ... I come out just in the hope of clearing some obstacles and paving a smoother road for our next generation

    The struggle for democracy has gained the support of some Protestant Churches as well as that of the Catholic Church, for whom peaceful expressions of dissent are "legitimate".

    The Anglican Church has instead called on its members to urge Christians to "remain silent" in the face of social conflicts as Jesus was silent on the cross.

    According to Chu, elected leader of the movement, it is normal for different churches to express different views; however, it is "a worse thing to cite the Bible and create misunderstanding among the congregation or the society".

    Chu said Christians of other denominations should not look askance at a leader like Zen. Instead, they should be grateful for the cardinal's support for democracy.

    "You can say that he doesn't represent the [Protestant] church, but his expressions . . . reflect the church's basic core values," Chu noted.

    Meanwhile, in order to curb the pro-democratic tide, a group of 70 heavyweights from the Hong Kong business community flew to Beijing to ask President Xi Jinping to "stop" Occupy Central.

    Led by former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, the tycoons are attending a seminar held today by the National Development and Reform Commission on the country's economy.

    They are scheduled to meet Xi in the Great Hall of the People in the afternoon and attend a dinner hosted by National People's Congress Standing Committee chairman Zhang Dejiang.

    This reception was intended to secure "the billionaires' support," said pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmaker and long-time activist Lee Cheuk-yan.

    However, "The more the tycoons stand on Beijing's side, the more determined we are to veto the reform package," he added.

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    See also

    01/12/2014 HONG KONG - CHINA
    Occupy: clashes between police and demonstrators near government offices
    The police attack with water cannons, pepper spray, batons; students hurl bricks and bottles. At least 40 arrests. According to members of the government, the occupations are the cause of the fall of the stock market and the economic slowdown. Visas refused to British parliamentarians, interested in checking the Joint Declaration.

    01/10/2014 HONG KONG - CHINA
    The "umbrella revolution": students turn their backs on flag raising for China’s National Day
    The students boycotted the raising of the flag to mark the founding of the People's Republic of China. Some demand the release of political prisoners and recall Tiananmen. Leung Chun-ying keeps silent. China censors images and news reports on the demands of democracy. 13 Chinese who support Occupy Central arrested. Beijing warns embassies and consulates: do not interfere with the protesters. Support from Canada, Britain, Australia.

    29/09/2014 HONG KONG - CHINA
    Day two of Occupy Central. Police violence comes under fire
    The downtown streets are closed: Admiralty, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay. In Kowloon, Nathan Road, Mong Kok and Argyle Street closed. Schools and banks closed. The teachers union joins the strike. Overnight police used batons, spray, tear gas to disperse protesters, who are demanding the resignation of Leung Chun-ying. Beijing slams the movement as "illegal".

    15/10/2014 HONG KONG - CHINA
    Occupy Central: churches, a refuge for those who want democracy
    The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Wanchai - the nearest to the great mass of people gathered at Admiralty - has been open day and night since 28 September to offer shelter and comfort to those who protest against Beijing's oppression. In the churches of the Territory, people are praying every day, asking for protection of pro-democracy activists and for their intentions. Some members of the local Filipino community remember, "they had been in Manila during People Power in 1986 and understand the importance of the fight that Hong Kong is engaged in."

    03/10/2014 HONG KONG - CHINA
    Hong Kong protest on hold as talks between students and government set to start
    After chief executive refuses to resign, protesters wait for meeting with Hong Kong chief secretary Carrie Lam. Decisions made in Beijing "cannot change," Catholic source says. However, meeting will "allow both sides to save face."



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