Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - China's position regarding universal
suffrage and democracy in Hong
Kong ended any hope of dialogue. For Professor Benny Tai
Yiu-ting, one of the three leading organisers of Occupy Central, the city has
officially entered an "era of civil disobedience"," which will begin with
a sit-in in its central financial district. This comes after a senior
Chinese official announced Beijing's decision concerning Hong Kong's
Despite formal political agreements, an existing constitution, a referendum that saw 800,000
cast their ballots, and hundreds of peaceful protests, mainland China decided to deny the former British
colony the right to choose its chief office holder in a
to the government in Beijing, the current
election committee would be replaced
by another entity (with the same members)
who will nominate "two or three" candidates for the
role of chief executive.
Pro-democracy activists reacted by announcing new protests.
Hong Kong, a former British crown colony, returned
to mainland China in 1997 following
a 1984 agreement between Beijing and London.
On that occasion,
China agreed to rule Hong Kong under the principle of "one country, two
systems", where the city would enjoy "a high degree of autonomy,
except in foreign and defence affairs" for 50 years.
As a result,
Hong Kong has its own legal system, and rights - including freedom of assembly
and free speech - are protected.
the head of the government of the former
colony was elected by a 1,200 member election committee drawn
from Hong Kong's pro-Beijing business and political elites, picked from four subsectors representing various business, professional, political and civil society
Such a modus operandi was chosen
in order to give people time to get used
to new freedoms with a fully
democratic vote slated only for
2017. Under British rule, there was no popular representation.
Kong's Basic Law, which is a legacy of British rule,
was approved by mainland China. It clearly states
that its " ultimate aim" is to elect the chief executive "by
government promised free
elections by 2017on more than one
occasion. However, last month, the Standing Committee of the National People's
Congress, China's main law-making body, decided that Hong
Kong voters would
be allowed to choose only from
a list of two or three candidates selected by a committee appointed to nominate the right people.
has not yet been set up but its members will certainly have to agree with the
existing system, which is controlled from Beijing.
who wants to run for the office of chief executive must be approved by more
than of the committee's members. For pro-democracy activists, China will use
the committee to screen out unwelcome candidates.
announcement, the Standing Committee of the National
People's Congress said in fact, "The chief
executive must be a person who loves the country and loves Hong Kong. This is a
basic requirement of the policy of 'one country, two systems'. It is . . . stipulated
in the Basic Law, and called for by the actual need to maintain long-term
prosperity and stability of Hong Kong [and] uphold the sovereignty, security
and development interests of the country."
In practice, this means that anyone who has a
critical stance towards Beijing can
run for this office.
framework is definitely unacceptable," said Lau Kim-ling, executive
secretary of the Student Christian Movement of Hong Kong. "We should never
let this reform proposal get passed as, with 'one man, one vote', it would
offer fake credibility to the next chief executive. Hong Kong is more than
ready to have democracy. We are not living in North Korea."
'Occupy Central', a pro-democracy movement that has
led popular protests against the
Chinese position, is led by three long-time activists: Baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming, university
professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Dr Chan
group held an unofficial
referendum on political reform between 20 and 29
June. Voters had to choose between
three proposals regarding the elections 2017, allowing
voters to pick the candidate of their choice.
20 June, Hong Kong's Bishop Emeritus Card Joseph Zen ended an 84-km march across Hong Kong meant to
encourage citizens to participate in the referendum. Card John Tong, the
current bishop, also expressed his support for the right of the people to give their views on democracy.
A total of
792,808 voters cast their ballots. Activists claimed the high turnout - about
one in five registered voters - showed strong backing from the public for
democracy more than for Occupy Central. Shortly after the vote, nearly half
a million people took part in the annual March for democracy on 1
In its June 2014
white paper, China said some had a "confused and lopsided"
understanding of the "one country, two systems" model. It stressed
that whilst Hong Kong had a "high degree of autonomy", it was
"not full autonomy". China still has "comprehensive
has condemned pro-democracy protests and called the unofficial referendum a
"farce", has defended its decision on election candidacy.
Li Fei, the
deputy secretary general of the National People's Congress Standing Committee,
said that openly nominating candidates would create a "chaotic
society" and that any chief executive must "love the country".
movement waited until the last moment,
hoping for a debate, but the decision announced by the mainland
yesterday, which Li Fei reiterated today, was the last straw.
ruling on election candidacy, Occupy Central's Benny Tai said that dialogue had
now come to an end.
He said that
there would be an "era of civil disobedience", including a mass
sit-in to be organised at a later date in the Central financial district.