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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Violence Erupts As Hong Kong's Leader Threatens To Use "All Necessary Measures To Restore Social Order"

Having tried (unsuccessfully) to break up the pro-democracy protesters in the heart of Hong Kong using local triad gangs (as opposed to the optics of actual police), it appears the Chinese government is rolling back from its "wait-and-see" approach and becoming more aggressive once again. Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, as DPA reports, demanded protesters end their blockade of major roads by Monday, or the government will take "all necessary measures to restore social order." Tensions continue to rise, with clashes breaking out sporadically, as the protesters have broken off talks with the government. As fears of another Tiananmen square debacle loom, former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten noted, "I cannot believe it would be so stupid as to do anything like send in the army."

At least 37 people were injured yesterday in the violence, taking the number of those hurt throughout the protests to 131, health officials said.

Theseare not the images the world has come to think of with regard to Hong Kong...
Hong Kong's Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok Saturday said 19 people were arrested on Friday when clashes broke out between Occupy Central protestors and anti-Occupy people.

Clashes happened in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay, two major commercial areas of Hong Kong, from Friday afternoon to early Saturday morning, leaving some citizens and police officers injured.

In regard to queries that the police were not capable of handling the clashes in time, Lai explained that as the crowd grew bigger in Mong Kok, fights scattered in different locations, making it more difficult for the police to deal with them.

Of the 19 people arrested, eight of them are suspected to have triad backgrounds, according to Lai.

"We do not approve any of this violence. Hong Kong is a lawful society. Every citizen in Hong Kong should abide by the law. Nobody wishes to see what has happened yesterday," he said, adding that the police would faithfully and truthfully enforce the law with patience.
Which led to dialogue with the government to cease...
"The government and police have allowed triads and thugs to use violence to attack peaceful protesters, cutting off the road to any conversation, and should be responsible for any fallout that results," the Hong Kong Federation of Students said in the posting on its Facebook page titled "Road to Dialogue Must be Shelved."
It appears the government is firming its position once again... (as DPA reports,)
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying calls on pro-democracy protesters to end their blockade of major roads by Monday, adding that the government will take "all necessary measures to restore social order."

In a video message, he says access roads to government headquarters must be opened by Monday to allow civil servants to return to work, and that roads on Hong Kong Island must be cleared so that schools can re-open.
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"I am indeed very concerned about the clashes we have seen in Mong Kok," Carrie Lam, the city's second-highest ranking official, told reporters yesterday. "These protests on the streets have great vulnerability to turn into critical violence between the protesters and the anti-protesters."

It is not wholly true to say that the eyes of the entire world are on Hong Kong. They would be, of course, if people in mainland China were allowed to know what is happening in their country's most successful city. But China's government has tried to block any news about the Hong Kong democracy demonstrations from reaching the rest of the country – not exactly a sign of confidence on the part of China's rulers in their system of authoritarian government.

Before suggesting a way forward for Hong Kong's ham-fisted authorities, three things need to be made clear. First, it is a slur on the integrity and principles of Hong Kong's citizens to assert, as the Chinese government's propaganda machine does, that they are being manipulated by outside forces. What motivates Hong Kong's tens of thousands of demonstrators is a passionate belief that they should be able to run their affairs as they were promised, choosing those who govern them in free and fair elections.

Second, others outside of Hong Kong have a legitimate interest in what happens in the city. Hong Kong is a great international center, whose freedoms and autonomy were guaranteed in a treaty registered at the United Nations. In particular, the United Kingdom, the other party to this Sino-British Joint Declaration, sought and received guarantees that the survival of Hong Kong's autonomy and liberties would be guaranteed for 50 years.

So it is ridiculous to suggest that British ministers and parliamentarians should keep their noses out of Hong Kong's affairs. In fact, they have a right and a moral obligation to continue to check on whether China is keeping its side of the bargain – as, to be fair, it has mostly done so far.

But, third, the biggest problems have arisen because of a dispute about where Hong Kong's promised path to democracy should take it, and when. No one told Hong Kongers when they were assured of universal suffrage that it would not mean being able to choose for whom they could vote. No one said that Iran was the democratic model that China's Communist bureaucracy had in mind, with the Chinese government authorized to exercise an effective veto over candidates.

In fact, that is not what China had in mind. As early as 1993, China's chief negotiator on Hong Kong, Lu Ping, told the newspaper People's Daily, "The [method of universal suffrage] should be reported to [China's Parliament] for the record, whereas the central government's agreement is not necessary. How Hong Kong develops its democracy in the future is completely within the sphere of the autonomy of Hong Kong. The central government will not interfere." The following year, China's foreign ministry confirmed this.

The British Parliament summarized what had been said and promised in a report on Hong Kong in 2000. "The Chinese government has therefore formally accepted that it is for the Hong Kong government to determine the extent and nature of democracy in Hong Kong."
So, what next?
The peaceful demonstrators in Hong Kong, with their umbrellas and refuse-collection bags, will not themselves be swept off the streets like garbage or bullied into submission by tear gas and pepper spray. Any attempt to do so would present a terrible and damaging picture of Hong Kong and China to the world, and would be an affront to all that China should aspire to be.

The Hong Kong authorities have gravely miscalculated the views of their citizens. Like the bad courtiers against whom Confucius warned, they went to Beijing and told the emperor what they thought he wanted to hear, not what the situation really was in the city. They must think again.

Under the existing plans, there is supposed to be a second phase of consultations on democratic development to follow what turned out to be a counterfeit start to the process. Hong Kong's government should now offer its people a proper second round of consultation, one that is open and honest. Dialogue is the only sensible way forward. Hong Kong's citizens are not irresponsible or unreasonable. A decent compromise that allows for elections that people can recognize as fair, not fixed, is surely available.

The demonstrators in Hong Kong, young and old, represent the city's future. Their hopes are for a peaceful and prosperous life in which they can enjoy the freedoms and rule of law that they were promised. That is not only in the interest of their city; it is in China's interest, too. Hong Kong's future is the main issue; but so, too, is China's honor and its standing in the world.
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For some context - this is the scale of the protests...
h/t @WilliamsJon