A Million Sign HK Petition as Democracy Fight Ratchets Up

30-Jul-2014 Intellasia | The wall Street Journal | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The bitter political fight over Hong Kong’s democratic development is deepening, with one group saying that nearly one million signatures opposing the city’s so-called “Occupy Central” movement have already been gathered.

Launched by pro-democracy activists, Occupy Central organisers are threatening to shut down the financial hub’s downtown through civil disobedience should demands for a democratic system that conforms to international norms fail to be realised. In recent months, the group has gathered momentum, sponsoring an unofficial referendum on democracy in June that involved more than 780,000 participants. To date, its civil disobedience tactics have already led to more than 500 arrests.

But a new group opposing Occupy Central, called the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, says it’s gathered more than 930,000 signatures since they began collecting them ten days ago on busy streets around Hong Kong. Each signature is submitted on a form that begins: “I oppose violence. I oppose Occupy Central.”

The new group has even received the endorsement of the city’s top leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

“We thought [turnout] would not be too bad, but we never expected 200,000 on the first day alone,” said the group’s spokesman, Robert Chow, in an interview with China Real Time. “It was a very, very pleasant surprise for us.”

Chow, a former Hong Kong radio host and journalist, says the anti-Occupy campaign’s early success is comes from the fact that Hong Kongers value peace and orderly conduct. “[Occupy Central] is a movement to take people as hostages to threaten China. If China doesn’t give them what they want, they will crucify us,” he said. “I think people really feel threatened by Occupy Central and what it really represents.”

On their first day of collecting signatures, the Alliance for Peace and Democracy only had enough volunteers to staff 60 tables scattered across town, said Chow. However, this past weekend, 662 signature stations were being staffed across Hong Kong’s 18 districts, he said. It took a little more than a week for them to surpass 800,000 signatures, the group’s early goal.

These striking numbers have been discounted by democracy activists, who point out that anyone – including tourists and minors – can sign. Last week, employees of a major Hong Kong public utilities company reported feeling pressure to sign the group’s anti-Occupy Central forms after department heads circulated them in the workplace.

Occupy Central’s leaders didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment over the weekend.

Chow, for his part, says such concerns are groundless, saying that names are only counted if individuals show identification at a signature station. “The reason we don’t screen out young adults?” he said. “Who says anyone below 18 shouldn’t have a say?”

The Alliance for Peace and Democracy is collecting signatures until August 17, about the time that the National People’s Congress, China’s legislative body, is set to review an electoral reform proposal for Hong Kong submitted by the government. It also happens to be the time that some student activists have said they will undertake various civil disobedience demonstrations.

http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2014/07/28/a million-sign-hong-kong-petition-as-democracy-fight-ratchets-up/


Category: Hong Kong

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