Back in August, Noah covered some unsettling news out of Hong Kong. The Chinese had announced that there would be no independent status for the region on their southern coast (officially labeled The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China) and they should get used to the idea. There were indications from China that some sort of free elections would take place, but confidence in that pledge was low. As you might imagine, that didn’t exactly receive a warm reception.
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.”
The situation hasn’t exactly improved much in the following month, and this weekend thing really began to flare up.
Police discharged tear gas and fired rubber bullets in the air Sunday in a failed attempt to scatter pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong who appear to pose the greatest test yet for China’s “one country, two systems” approach to governing the former British protectorate.
Although their ranks had dissipated, thousands of demonstrators pushed back against the police and were still clogging parts of central Hong Kong on Monday, stubbornly refusing to leave.
“The people of Hong Kong want freedom and want democracy!” a protest leader yelled into a megaphone as demonstrators — many of them university students — donned goggles, covered themselves in plastic wrap and held up umbrellas to shield themselves in case they were hit with tear gas or pepper spray. “Redeem the promise of a free election!” chanted the crowd.
In the midst of the all the other hotspots we see bubbling up around the globe, China may as well get in on the action. Their position thus far seems to be one of putting on at least the veneer of reasonableness, promising to send in some official negotiators to speak with the protestors. The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be anyone in a position to meet with them. The throngs of angry citizens appear to have sprung up in a true grassroots fashion and are currently steering without a rudder.
Of course, given China’s history of dealing with upstart rebel leaders, that’s no surprise. Standing up to put a face of leadership on the protests would probably accomplish little beyond seeing them whisked away for questioning, never to be seen again. What remains to be seen is what, if anything, the United States will do in support of yet another nascent democratic insurgency. We’ve got quite a bit on our plates right now, and our leverage over Beijing isn’t exactly in its ascendency.