“Do You Hear The People Sing”, Hong Kong’s young protesters are asking its unpopular leader in an unprecedented mass movement that is also challenging China’s hand in the city. The man at the helm passed the buck to his top civil servant to open talks, minutes before Thursday’s midnight ultimatum set by protesters for him [...]

Sunday Times 2

Colonial power UK fiddles as HK agitates to shed China’s shackles


“Do You Hear The People Sing”, Hong Kong’s young protesters are asking its unpopular leader in an unprecedented mass movement that is also challenging China’s hand in the city. The man at the helm passed the buck to his top civil servant to open talks, minutes before Thursday’s midnight ultimatum set by protesters for him to go.

Wolf howls and boos greeted his announcement broadcast live. The Government has shut down its headquarters.

Anti-Occupy Central protesters (L) try to remove a barricade from pro-democracy protesters on a main street in Hong Kong's Mongkok shopping district yesterday. Reuters

Beijing appeared delighted at the late night gamble and the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, screamed on Friday: “There is no room to make concessions on issues of important principles.”

The commentary says protesters are challenging “China’s supreme power organ”, referring to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the apex legislature.

One night, thousands of students sang the song of the revolutionaries from the popular musical Les Misérables set in 19th century France by playwright Victor Hugo.

Students in Hong Kong would be thankful that the Ratnapura Police pervert caught on camera whipping a female sex worker is not on the frontlines. So far, Hong Kong police have not broken bones.

Deaf to student demands, London and Washington, who have much to lose, have refrained from condemning any action by police, who charged and tear-gassed the youth before pulling back. The European Union is also tight-lipped.

Former colonial master Britain is standing idly by parroting tired, template messages about fundamental rights. “The British government is concerned about the situation in Hong Kong and is monitoring events carefully,” the Foreign Office said. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is sympathising.

Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last British governor, waffled in a comment in the respected English daily, South China Morning Post, Friday, meekly suggesting “dialogue” and “decent compromise”.

Patten himself was not elected by Hong Kong people. More than 20 governors were planted by London. Patten, who had lost his own seat in Bath in 1992, was installed in July that year by John Major. As Conservative Party chairman he had engineered its victory.

Washington, too, is doing a Chinese face mask changing act. The US Consulate said last Monday, the US “strongly supports” fundamental freedoms. In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of “autonomy” and “rule of law” being “essential for Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.” In public, China’s foreign Minister Wang Yi, told Kerry, “outside forces have no right to interfere”.

Britain and the US have too much to lose in Hong Kong. Britain needs China’s capital. In December last year, Prime Minister David Cameron said in Shanghai that Britain welcomes Chinese investment in nuclear power and high speed rail. About 1,000 British companies operate in Hong Kong. As for the US, China holds US$ 1.27 trillion of American public debt.

The British are figuratively eating breakfast from Chinese hands. A Chinese state company owns Britain’s favourite cereal maker Weetabix. Heathrow is 10 per cent owned by Chinese, London’s famous Black Cabs are in the hands of Chinese company Geely, upmarket fashion store Harvey Nichols is owned by a Hong Kong Chinese, and luxury yachts Sunseeker (featured in Bond films) is also Chinese-owned.

The US is the biggest direct investor in Hong Kong with US$ 188b, the UNCTAD World Investment Report 2014 shows.

As for Hong Kong’s relationship with the motherland after the colonials sailed away, there is no love lost between the two Chinese peoples.
Some Hongkongers have not been exactly kind to Chinese from the mainland, once targeting them as “locusts”, for their voracious shopping habits buying up tons of infant milk food and showing off their Prada and Louis Vuitton purchases.

They have been condemned for gatecrashing maternity wards to give birth to secure a Hong Kong Passport. Pregnant mainlanders are now banned. Chinese are also targeted for being ill-mannered, although Hongkongers themselves are not particularly civil, especially towards ethnic minorities.
Two years ago, Kong Qingdong, a professor of Chinese studies at Beijing University, triggered rage when he compared Hongkongers to canines, saying “many Hong Kong people don’t regard themselves as Chinese. Those kinds of people are used to being the dogs of British colonialists – they are dogs, not humans”.
And yet Hong Kong depends on China for its drinking water and tourism. Tourists generated HK$ 332 billion, nearly equal to Sri Lanka’s GDP four years ago. Out of 54.2 million visitors last year, 40.7m were mainland Chinese, who put money in Hong Kong’s kitty. Chinese tourists have now become a problem for Hong Kong and the city is debating controls.

China is a leading investor in the city, committing US$ 124 billion in 2013, the UNCTAD World Investment Report 2014 shows. And Hong Kong is the biggest investor in the Chinese mainland ploughing in US$ 664.6 billion in 2013. Hong Kong is also China’s second largest trading partner after the US, accounting for 9.6 per cent of its total trade last year.

Regardless of the upheaval, Hong Kong can’t yet cut its umbilical cord with China. Even basic needs such as pork and vegetables are imported from China. Hong Kong pays nearly HK$ 4b annually to China for drinking water.

Its leader too, is, blessed by Beijing.

Incumbent leader Leung Chun-ying, a multi-millionaire, was selected by 869 votes cast by a panel of 1,132 China-friendly tycoons and businessmen in 2012. Leung, who is from a working class background, was Beijing’s anointed candidate, along with two others who fared poorly in the closed door selection, touted as an election.

Student protesters have taken over the financial district and two commercial districts telegraphing their demands for a leader chosen and elected by the people. One prominent figure in the campaign is a 17-year-old who does not yet have the right to vote, but wise beyond his years. The teen, Joshua Wong, co-founded the student movement called Scholarism. The umbrella has been adopted as their symbol, after protesters carried them as a defence against pepper spray attacks by police who also tear gassed them.

A group called Occupy Central, founded by a group of adults, and the Federation of Students have become the students’ allies in this tussle. A Baptist minister and a law professor are the key figures in the Occupy Central movement.

The young student protesters appear to have taken their cue from campaigns such as the Chilean student demonstrations in 2011 that began as a classroom boycott demanding change in public education and morphed into a movement pushing for wholesale change in government, including direct democracy. They held a ‘March of the Umbrellas’ and a 30-minute Kiss-In in front of the presidential abode and danced to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

But while student rage spilled onto the streets, the biggest game in town attracted thousands on the holiday marking China’s National Day on Wednesday. Crowds gathered at Sha Tin race course to bet millions on horses. Millions more wagered at Hong Kong Jockey Club betting centres across the city.

Mainland Chinese soprano Li Jingjing, a soloist of the National Opera Hose, sang the national anthem. Yang Jian, deputy director of the Central People’s Government Liaison Office in Hong Kong, handed over the HK$2.75m National Day Cup to the winning jockey who rode a horse named Bundle of Joy.

Huge peace rally after democracy protesters attacked

HONG KONG, Oct 4, (AFP) – Tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators gathered for a mass peace rally in central Hong Kong late Saturday, defying recent attacks against their ranks as the city authorities denied using paid thugs to harass them.

Huge crowds streamed into the main protest site opposite the besieged government headquarters for a seventh night of their campaign for free elections in the semi-autonomous Chinese city, vowing to stand firm in the face of attacks on their ranks by aggressive counter-demonstrators.
Pro-democracy protesters have taken to Hong Kong’s streets to demand the right to nominate who can run as their next leader in 2017 elections. Beijing insists only candidates it has approved will be able to stand.

Two of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping districts descended into chaos on Friday as angry opponents clashed with protesters, tearing down their tents and barricades, with widespread allegations amongst the pro-democracy crowds that triad criminal gangs had been brought in to stir up trouble.
Tensions remained high today with fresh clashes in Mong Kok, a densely packed working-class district of shops and apartments that saw some of the worst scenes of violence the previous night, with complaints of sexual assaults and attacks on journalists in the crowds.

Police said several suspected triad members were among those arrested after Friday’s clashes, but the city’s security chief angrily denied allegations that the government had called on the services of paid thugs in a bid to break up the mass protests that have brought key parts of the city to a standstill for a week.

Friday’s violence prompted student protest leaders to scrap talks with the government, scuppering hopes of a resolution to the crisis.
As night fell upon the usually stable financial hub, thousands chanted “Peace! Anti-violence!” as they gathered in the downtown Admiralty district near government headquarters.

“The feeling is really strong tonight. You can see people are so calm — unlike in other countries where they burn things and destroy cars,” said 36-year-old protester Chris Ng.

But there were also angry accusations that the police failed to protect the demonstrators against the opposing crowds — some of whom showed up to confront them waving Chinese flags — and comparisons to the chaotic scenes last Sunday, when riot officers fired tear gas at peaceful protesters.

“The police used tear gas and pepper spray against peaceful students — but where is the tear gas and pepper spray for those who use violence against us?” protester Lau Tung-kok shouted through a loudspeaker, to cheers from the crowd.

Triad gangs have traditionally been involved in drug-running, prostitution and extortion but are increasingly involved in legitimate ventures such as property and the finance industry.

Some are believed to also have links with the political establishment and there have previously been allegations of triads sending paid thugs to stir up trouble during protests.

China has accused democracy campaigners of destabilising the city. The People’s Daily newspaper, a Communist Party mouthpiece, said in an editorial today that the protesters were “daydreaming” over the prospect of change.
Small rallies by crowds sporting blue ribbons were held in Hong Kong today by people who said they supported the police and the government.

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