Flashpoint Hong Kong: China rules out democracy for the former British territory

Noah Rothman Posted at 5:01 pm on August 31, 2014

Before 1997, the city of Hong Kong had been a British colony for 156 years. The reintroduction of that bustling capitalist city into communist China was always thought to be a risky proposition. It was China’s Deng Xiaoping who crafted a policy known as “One Country, Two Systems” in the 1980s, which was aimed at assuaging concerns in Hong Kong that their way of life would persist even after the Union Jack was lowered and the flag of the People’s Republic was raised in its place.

Well, the reintegration process has finally begun and Beijing has determined that the semi-autonomous province will no longer have its own politics as well as its own economic system. The Chinese government rejected calls from democracy activists aimed at allowing Hong Kong residents to directly elect their own leadership. Beijing would be vetting any prospective candidate to first determine their suitability for office.

“The nominating committee shall nominate two to three candidates for the office of Chief Executive in accordance with democratic procedure. Each candidate must have the endorsement of more than half of all the members of the nominating committee,” read the decision from China’s National People’s Congress.

This has not gone over well with local residents and pro-Democracy activists who took to the streets to protest the decision of the NPC. “Hong Kong people have the reason to believe they have been betrayed,” one pro-Democracy activists and legislator told reporters with the Wall Street Journal. “We cannot be the boss, we cannot have genuine choice.”

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong gathered Sunday evening outside the city’s government headquarters, where Hong Kong police beefed up security and erected barricades. In pouring rain, a crowd of some hundreds of people sat banging pots and plastic containers and cheered the speakers.

Benny Tai, one of the organizers of Occupy Central, said, “Hong Kong is now entering a new era — a new era of resistance.”

Several in the crowd were middle-aged or older. “I knew it wasn’t possible for Beijing to grant Hong Kong democracy but I still have to fight,” said 80-year-old Ng Hung. “I am here for the next generation.”

Hong Kong’s “Occupy Central,” ironically a genuine pro-Democracy movement quite unlike the Occupy protests which flared briefly in the United States in 2011, has adopted this latest assault on the sovereignty of the people of Hong Kong as a rallying moment. While polls indicated that a majority of the city’s residents did not agree with the movement’s grievances or goals before, China’s overreach may galvanize city residents against Beijing.