04/10/2015, 00.00
THAILAND – HONG KONG – CHINA
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Justice and Peace Commission in Hong Kong, in support of the democratic umbrella movement

by Lina Chan
Speaking at the conference on ‘Peace and reconciliation in the context of Asia,’ the Hong Kong delegate described the action Catholics undertook in favor of democracy. ‘Occupy Central’ and the ‘Umbrella movement’ have become a watershed in the political consciousness of the territory’s people. She also spoke about the chief executive’s disgraceful stand, the use of Hong Kong police, and Beijing’s war against the lack of patriotism and “lawlessness”.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The delegate representing the Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Hong Kong presented her report about the situation in Hong Kong (as well as mainland China) to the international meeting on "Peace and reconciliation in the context of Asia", focusing on the so-called ‘Umbrella Movement’.

This movement played a crucial role in raising awareness about democracy and, for weeks, led peaceful demonstrations and the occupation of public land as part of the ‘Occupy Central with Love and Peace’ movement.

The term ‘Umbrella Movement’ came into use after students and other protesters employed umbrellas against the water cannons and pepper spray utilised by police to disperse crowds.

Lina Chan’s full report follows.

The Umbrella Movement marks the watershed of the political movement in Hong Kong. This is the first time that the people of Hong Kong have expressed a relatively strong political consciousness, striving for their own destiny no matter whether one says yes or no to the movement. While the Hong Kong government intentionally misinterprets the movement as simply a kind of social movement that can be solved by paying attention to specific policy issues, this is a political movement that is reshaping the ideological landscape of Hong Kong.

The 2014 Hong Kong protests were sit-in protests in Hong Kong involving mass civil disobedience that began in September 2014. Also called the Umbrella Movement the protests began after the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) came to a decision regarding proposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system. The decision was widely seen to be highly restrictive, and tantamount to Communist Party control over which candidates would be allowed to present themselves to the Hong Kong electorate.

Students led a strike against the NPCSC's decision beginning on 22 September 2014, and the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism started protesting outside the government headquarters on 26 September 2014. On 28 September, the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement announced that they would begin their civil disobedience campaign immediately.

Demonstrations began outside the Hong Kong Government headquarters, and members of what would eventually be called the Umbrella Movement occupied several major city intersections. Protesters blocked both east–west arterial routes in northern Hong Kong Island near Admiralty. Police tactics (including the use of tear gas) and attacks on protesters by opponents that included triad members, triggered more citizens to join the protests, occupying Causeway Bay and Mong Kok. The number of protesters peaked at more than 100,000 at any given time, overwhelming the police thus causing containment errors.

Government officials in Hong Kong and in Beijing denounced the occupation as "illegal" and "violation of the rule of law", and Chinese state media and officials claimed repeatedly that the West had played an "instigating" role in the protests, and warned of "deaths and injuries and other grave consequences.

The protests precipitated a rift in Hong Kong society, and galvanised youth – a previously apolitical section of society – into political activism or heightened awareness of their civil rights and responsibilities. Not only were there fist fights at occupation sites and flame wars on social media, family members found themselves on different sides of the conflict.

Key areas in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok were occupied and remained closed to traffic for over 70 days. Despite numerous incidents of intimidation and violence by triads and thugs, particularly in Mong Kok, and several attempts at clearance by the police, suffragists held their ground for over two months. After the Mong Kok occupation site was cleared with some scuffles on 25 November, Admiralty and Causeway Bay were cleared with no opposition on 11 and 14 December respectively. Throughout the protests, the HK government's use of the police and courts to resolve political issues led to accusations that these institutions had been turned into political tools, thereby compromising the police and judicial system in the territory and eroding the rule of law in favour of "rule by law». Police inactions and violent actions throughout the occupation and severely damaged the reputation of what was once recognised as the most efficient, honest and impartial police forces in the Asia Pacific region. The protests ended without any political concessions from the government, but instead triggered a torrent of rhetoric and propaganda from CY Leung and mainland officials about rule of law and patriotism, and an assault on academic freedoms and civil liberties of activists.

Work of HKJP responding the democratic development of Hong Kong

Advocacy

•          The diocesan Justice and Peace Commission works in close contact with the student movement and with the Occupy Central leaders.

1.         We organized a deliberation day for the Catholics to discuss the democratic movement in Hong Kong.

2.         We helped to organize “deliberation day 3” and the participants have chosen 3 electoral proposals which consists of the elements of civil nomination.

3.         Helping the referendum on June 22 and June 29 and nearly eight hundred thousand Hong Kong people vote to support civil nomination. Helping the parishes to set up service centre for people to vote on June 22 and 29.

4.         Cooperated with other NGOs in Hong Kong to organize a walkathon for universal suffrage from June 14 to 22 and Cardinal Joseph Zen took part in it.

5.         Provide legal support to those arrested Catholics.

6.         Launched a campaign to support those supporting umbrella movement human activist and being arrested in Mainland China.

Education

1.         Organized several seminars regards on this issue in different parishes.

2.         Published several booklets to introduce the concept of democracy, democratic development of Hong Kong and the CST.

3.         Organized a prayer meeting for the future of Hong Kong before the umbrella movement and reconciliation prayer meetings among several parishes during the umbrella movement.

(Shafique Khokhar contributed to this article)

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