Clouds over Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution. Photo by Pasu Au Yeung, Creative Commons
Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution. Photo by Pasu Au Yeung, Creative Commons

Beijing has balked at loosing the virus of democracy that could sweep, ebola-like, from Hong Kong across the country and herald the end of the one-party state, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. He argues there is little hope that protests in Hong Kong will force Beijing to compromise, after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress announced in late August that Hongkongers in 2017 can freely elect their Chief Executive — but only after Beijing has selected candidates of unimpeachable loyalty. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column, Beijing will outwait Hong Kong’s Protesters (paywall*):

 Photo by Chet Wong
Photo by Chet Wong

Tens of thousands of Hongkongers took advantage of today’s Chinese national holiday to join students who have clogged the city’s streets for four days demanding Beijing deliver on its promise to give the territory democratic autonomy.

But the numbers do not look large enough to prompt Beijing to rethink its decision to keep control of the process by which the head of Hong Kong’s government, the Chief Executive, is chosen. The likelihood now is that the authorities will stand back, watch the protests run out of steam and wither of their own accord. If the protesters do get re-energized, the authorities may well feel the bulk of Hong Kong’s citizens will accept police action to clear the streets, so long as it does not involve riot squads, tear gas and pepper spray used against the protesters last weekend.

For Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, a serious review of its objectives, strategy and tactics is clearly necessary if it has any hope of achieving its objectives. There has already been fracturing of the movement and more rifts are likely. This carries the danger of militant factions emerging. Until now the demonstrations in favour of political reform in Hong Kong have been almost universally peaceful and even astonishingly courteous, with demonstrators clearing up their own litter before going home.

But frustration with Beijing’s obdurate refusal to acknowledge the aspirations of its citizens may lead some to turn to violence … log in first to read Beijing will outwait Hong Kong’s Protesters (paywall*).

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