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This weekend it took just several hours for more than 20,000 of democracy supporters to block the liveliest districts of Hong Kong. The demonstrators are calling the citizens for mass protests against the Chinese government and for the protection of their rights and freedom. Why are Hong Kong masses in the streets? Who leads the protest? Should we be anticipating the "new colored revolution Hong Kong style"? Vostok Magzine tells you why Hong Kong is protesting.
"Fragnant harbor" ("Hong Kong" from Chinese) had been under British rule for more than a century. The territories that had been captured in 1841 and given to Great Britain for their use for 99 years became one of the main trade and financial centers of British Empire.
In 1997 Hong Kong was given to China and became a special administrative region, which gave it wide autonomy (till 2047), the citizens were provided with democratic rights, the sort-of-Constitution, right to control the economics, the civil society, the police etc.
There is no doubt that the People's Republic of China could not liberalize all the parts of the society, so its government took control of the foreign policy and the defence of Hong Kong as a part of "one country – two systems" policy (by the way, Hong Kong has no own army). Moreover, it changed the administrative system – the new law stated that the head of Hong Kong is not to be chosen by the UK, but by the special committee influenced by China.
Thus, Chinese state, on the one hand, guaranteed the fulfillment of all the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong citizens, on the other hand, linked the important parts of their lives with Chinese administration. Exactly this unique feature became the important part of the development of their relations and led to today's unrest.
Mass demonstrations started because of the government's not following their rights: August, 31of this year – National People's Congress of China decided that the head of Hong Kong is going to be chosen by the popular vote in 2017. The question is, what is the problem, this is democracy, right? No, it is not. A bit later the government's spokesman added that only 3 candidates must be nominated and must get more than a half of the votes given by the members of a special committee. In other words, people will choose from candidates already approved by Beijing.
After that statement crowds of young people went out in the streets to fight for their rights – at first just students, then other organizations, such as Occupy Central, Anti-occupy Central, the governments of Hong Kong and China.
Photo by Instagram user @candiesomething
Who is who?
September, 22 – Hong Kong federation of students led by Alex Chou and Lester Chung organized a protest in the name of democracy. At first it was not that serious – they boycotted the classes – but later it became popular among students and in the Internet. Then it broke out into the streets.
September, 26 – demonstrators stormed some governmental buildings, which led to further development of the protest.
One of the most prominent student leaders is Joshua Wong. He was arrested on Friday, 26 and released on Sunday.
The key figure of the emerging protest is the pro-democracy activist movement "Occupy Central with Love and Peace" aka Occupy Central, which encourages other activists to occupy the central and administrative districts of Hong Kong and protect their rights.
The leaders of the movement are the Professor of Law in Hong Kong University Benny Tai, Professor of Sociology Chang Kin and church priest Chu Yuming.
Western and Russian mass media say that this organization is the main instigator of the demonstration. However, it was planning to take the main action on the October 1, 2014 (the day of the PRC establishment) and considered the campaign to be mass and non-violent. But the protesting movement under Occupy Central's name began earlier and followed the students' demonstrations.
Photo by Instagram user @natalievrobinson
The Occupy Central activists in their fights refer to the rights provided by the Main Law, and to the international precedents – official site of the movement states that democratic voting has already been acknowledged in many Asian countries, e.g. Japan or South Korea. Also the activists suppose that Hong Kong itself has been ready for democracy for a long time now, taking into account its economical development and education level.
Some mass media suspect Occupy Central of cooperating with the US and point at the obvious influence of the USA on the inner situation in Hong Kong. Not long time ago a Chinese paper "Huanqiu Shibao" published an article in which it was stated that Occupy Central leaders finished a program in Hong Kong-American center where they studied the tactics of a protest, the special traits of negotiating with the government etc. Hong Kong protestors say those rumours are against Joshua Wong.
It's unknown whether this information is true, but we know that the leaders are fighting reasonably. If the right is in the law it must be met.
Photo by Instagram user @caseyfunghk
"Anti-occupy Central" or the "Silent Majority"
The response to Occupy Central's actions followed shortly after. Pro-Beijing movement "Silent Majority for Hong Kong" appeared with the motto "Democracy Without Chaos".
The activists of this movement are against the "occupational fighting" methods of OC. The official site of "Silent Majority" encourages everyone to say NO to the action of OC, protect people from chaos, unrest and economical shock, and also to sign the petition against OC's actions. It's worth noting that more than a million people have signed already – the number is much more than the number of those who are outside.
Hong Kong and China's governments
Letting Hong Kong people choose their head themselves means losing control over one of the most economically important country regions. This development is not in the interest of Beijing, so China is condemning the mass protests and hopes to regulate the situation as soon as possible.
China's authorities are sure that Hong Kong government is able to deal with the situation in short period of time, but may offer "strong support" – People's Liberation Army of China garnison located in Hong Kong is ready to join.
It can happen at any moment. As each day passes, the number of protestors increases and the information spreads throughout the world.
The demonstrations for democratization may shatter the stability not only of Hong Kong's but also China's society. Even now the government is afraid of the protesting movement in other territories – Taiwan, Tibet and the aggravation of territorial disputes. So, obviously, it takes measures for controlling the coordination of people through the Internet. For instance, not long ago Instagram became blocked on the whole territory of China, also Chinese Twitter counterpart – Weibo – became partly blocked.
So far the Hong Kong police is having success with achieving their goals – they use water guns, pepper sprays, tear gas and rubber bullets. At the same time pro-Beijing movement is strengthening in Hong Kong. But the protestors are not ready to stop. Currently it is early to clearly state the outcome of the events. We'll see.