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Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

  • Shannon Van Sant

A woman looks at notes left by pro-democracy protesters on a footbridge in Hong Kong, Oct. 2, 2014.

A woman looks at notes left by pro-democracy protesters on a footbridge in Hong Kong, Oct. 2, 2014.

China's central government warned of chaos and severe consequences if the pro-democracy protests continued in Hong Kong, and it is taking measures to prevent news of the protests from spreading to the mainland.

The Hong Kong government has warned protesters against occupying government buildings, and China said the demonstrators are bringing chaos to Hong Kong.

The admonitions come after China reportedly arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who took actions in support of the Hong Kong protests for democracy.

'For showing support'

William Nee is a China researcher at Amnesty International, which issued a report on the detentions.

“It seems like there a lot of people being detained, ostensibly for showing support for the demonstrations in Hong Kong," Nee said.

Amnesty said China arrested people in several cities, including Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and in Jiangsu Province.

Those arrested expressed support online for the protests, attempted to travel to Hong Kong to participate in the demonstrations, or shaved their head as part of a “Go Bald for Hong Kong” campaign on the mainland.

The arrests follow several days of high levels of censorship by the Chinese government.

China has banned photos of the protests from being shared online and blocked the image sharing service Instagram last weekend.

News reports of the protests have also been heavily censored.

Oppose 2017 election rules

Protesters in Hong Kong reject Beijing’s proposed plan for the 2017 election of the city’s chief executive.

The plan would only allow people to vote for candidates who are selected by a committee made up of pro-Beijing loyalists.

Protesters say they should be allowed to choose the nominees for their city leader directly.

In an editorial in the Chinese government-run People’s Daily newspaper, China said protesters will drag Hong Kong into “chaos.”

The front page commentary went on to say that the demonstrators have “flagrantly violated the laws and regulations of Hong Kong, severely obstructed traffic and disrupted social order.”

Analysts weigh in

Chinese analysts, such as Shi Yinhong, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, echoed the government’s statements.

Shi said if China attempts to compromise with the protesters, it will reward democracy activists in Hong Kong, whose actions the government sees as extreme.

“The Chinese government regards these people in this moment as people who have done something to hurt China, order and China’s stability," Shi said. "And I think that is a fact. And I don’t want to make any comment about actions taken within the mainland.”

But human rights advocates said it is precisely the heavy-handed tactics used by the Chinese government to suppress dissent that has fueled the protests.

Actions may inspire before

Amnesty International's Nee said attempts by China to restrict freedom of speech and the press in Hong Kong, as well as a growing gap between rich and poor, will continue to inspire demonstrations, even if the current protests fizzle.

“In the long run, because the Chinese government appears unwilling to compromise and the young people of Hong Kong seem very determined to fight for their rights; most likely confrontation and discussions about Hong Kong’s political future will continue to be very intense," Nee said.

China’s current leadership under President Xi Jinping has taken a hard line on political dissent or criticism from activists.

Under Xi, authorities have maintained strict state censorship policies, imposed heavy-handed security in areas of ethnic unrest and rounded up scores of dissidents and legal activists.

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