HK Protests Beijing’s ‘Backward’ Democracy

17-Sep-2014 Intellasia | Forbes | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Supporters of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement participated in a “black cloth march” on Sunday afternoon to call for genuine universal suffrage for the city’s chief executive election.

Dressed in black and carrying large sheets of black cloth, more than a thousand protestors silently marched from one of Hong Kong’s most crowded commercial districts to the city’s financial centre, where leaders of the civic organisation Occupy Central plan to stage a sit-in protest in early October.

The banners carried messages like “the government has broken its promise,” “civil disobedience” and “boycott classes,” the latter in support of local students’ decision to go on a week-long strike on September 22.

The public demonstration is the second major protest organised by Occupy Central after Beijing announced an unpopular electoral reform last month. Despite allowing “one-person, one-vote” in the 2017 chief executive election, the proposal would effectively allow Beijing to control the selection of candidates at the nomination stage. In past elections, candidates from the pan-democratic camp were able to run, but had virtually zero chance of winning majority support from an election committee stacked with pro-Beijing loyalists.

“The proposed electoral plan is a step backward away from democracy. This march is the chance for folks to rethink and decide if they’d join the Occupy Central movement.” says Earnest Choy, 60, a protestor who identified himself as the former CEO of a Hong Kong-listed IT company headquartered in Beijing.

“We worry that the elected chief executive, under the guise of having ‘power delegated by the people,’ would push for schemes that Hong Kong locals do not actually welcome, such as a civic education reform that teaches kids to be loyal to the central government,” adds Choy.

The government’s plan for “moral and national education” that was intended to instill a sense of patriotism was instead derided as a form of brainwashing and sparked weeks of hunger strikes and protests by parents and students. Many of Hong Kong’s residents have come to fear their way of life is threatened by a central government seeking to assert its control over the city’s affairs.

The turnout of Sunday’s protest was noticeably smaller than the one immediately following Beijing’s announcement, where some five thousand people gathered at a park near the chief executive’s office on a rainy evening.

Beijing has stipulated that if the proposal is not passed by the city’s legislative council, where the pan-democrats have enough seats to block it, the 2017 election will be conducted in the same manner as the 2012 election.

According to a poll commissioned by South China Morning Post, 48 percent of respondents said lawmakers should reject the proposal, while 39 percent say it should be passed. Reflecting the pessimism now felt about the government’s position, some 55 percent of those surveyed said there was little or no chance the proposal could be changed.

“I know it’s no use to try to change the mind of the central government. At first we had hopes that the government would communicate with us, but it turned out that they’d completely ignored our wishes,” says Catlyn Ho, 26, a social worker who participated in Sunday’s march. “I’d rather return to the previous electoral system. Right now with this retrograde proposal, it’s impossible to elect someone that the central government dislikes.”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertolsen/2014/09/15/hong-kong-protests-beijings-backward-democracy/

 


Category: Hong Kong

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