Saturday, October 4, 2014
Pinoys in HK Coast Along Familiar Waters While Protests May Spread
One of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy leaders struggled to contain his emotions Wednesday as he warned protests would spread like “blossoming flowers” and pleaded with residents to understand why the city has been brought to a standstill.
Filipinos living and working in Hong Kong, meanwhile, said the protests were not a cause for concern.
Occupy Central co-founder Chan Kin-man told reporters it was inevitable the protests, which have already taken over several main roads and intersections, would grow if the government maintained its hard line stance.
“We understand why citizens are continuing to expand the occupation, it is because the government is so cold,” Chan said.
“Despite such a large occupation, the government is still using such an attitude, so a lot of people think that the action now is not enough and that flowers must continue to blossom everywhere.”
Occupy Central is one of the main organizers of the protest which spread to different parts of the semi-autonomous city after riot police tear-gassed demonstrators on Sunday, prompting more supporters to join them on the streets.
Tens of thousands of protesters have assembled in three major commercial and retail areas of Hong Kong for the past three days demanding the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. By midday Wednesday, crowds in the central district of Admiralty had already increased to several thousand, with offices closed for a public holiday to mark China’s National Day.
Protest leaders urged the crowd not to disturb the flag-raising ceremony on the Victoria Harbour waterfront but students who ringed the ceremony at Bauhinia Square booed as the National Anthem was played.
Chan, who was close to tears, apologized to citizens for the inconvenience the sit-ins have caused and asked for tolerance.
“I hope everyone will understand what we are doing is not to harm Hong Kong.
“With this short-term inconvenience, we hope to bring about a system that is more fair.”
The massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are potentially the greatest domestic security challenge to hit China’s communist government. And just like the territorial dispute over the West PH Sea, Prof. Richard Heydarian of the Ateneo de Manila University’s Political Science department said China could become isolated internationally should it decide to order a massive clampdown on the protesters.
Any harsh repression coming from Beijing, he pointed out, could also imperil the economic standing of Hong Kong in the region.
“If there will be a heavy crackdown, Beijing will be blamed, internationally isolated, and Hong Kong’s status as a financial hub could be severely undermined,” Heydarian, one of the country’s foremost foreign affairs and economic analyst, told Manila Bulletin Wednesday.
He noted that if protests continue, this may encourage similar movements in China’s other autonomous regions – Tibet and Xinjuang, which are also Chinese mainland’s most prosperous cities.
The growing unrest has prompted China to cut off news about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests to the rest of the country, a clampdown so thorough that no image of the rallies has appeared in state-controlled media, and at least one man has been detained for reposting accounts of the events.
By contrast, media in semiautonomous Hong Kong have been broadcasting nonstop about the crowds, showing unarmed students fending off tear gas and pepper spray with umbrellas as they call for more representative democracy in the former British colony.
Censorship of microblogs – including phrases such as “tear gas” – has kept online discussion muted. The image-sharing Instagram service was shut down in China over the weekend.
Beijing is on edge because it fears the social movement in Hong Kong and its appeal for democracy could galvanize members of the Chinese public, said Zhao, the analyst from Shanghai.
“It must be tightly controlled so it will not infect the mainland,” he said.
At the flag-raising ceremony on China’s National Day marking the founding of communist China in 1949, protesters heckled Leung demanding that he step down.
In a speech, Leung made no direct mention of the protesters, who have blocked streets for days to press demands for genuine democratic reforms for Hong Kong’s first direct elections in 2017 to choose the city’s top leader.
Beijing has restricted the voting reforms, requiring candidates to be screened by a committee of mostly pro-Beijing local elites similar to the one that handpicked Leung for the job.
Leung said the community should work together in a “peaceful, lawful, rational and pragmatic manner” while reiterating his commitment to the “Chinese dream”.
He told voters it is better to agree to Beijing’s plans for nominating candidates and to hold an election, than to stick with the current system of having an Election Commission choose the chief executive.
“It is definitely better to have the chief executive elected by 5 million eligible voters than by 1,200 people. And it is definitely better to cast your vote at the polling station than to stay home and watch on television the 1,200 members of the Election Committee cast their votes.”
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