News / Asia

    Tense Standoff Continues in Hong Kong

    Raw Video of Hong Kong Protesters Sept. 30i
    Brian Padden
    September 30, 2014 6:11 PM
    Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators continued to occupy the center of Hong Kong Tuesday night. Many are university students who say they are not afraid of possible police action. Police had fired rounds of tear gas to disperse the crowds a couple days ago.
    Raw Video of Hong Kong Protesters on Sept. 30

    Official Hong Kong marked the 65th anniversary Wednesday of the founding of communist China, as city leaders remained locked in a tense standoff with tens of thousands of protesters demanding greater democratic reforms.

    As the city bristled with tension, an early morning flag-raising ceremony in Bauhinia Square drew marching bands and hundreds of dignitaries to commemorate China's National Day.

    Nearby, tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators angered by pro-Beijing government restrictions on 2017 elections showed no signs of backing down.

    The flag-raising went off peacefully, although scores of students near the waterfront ceremonies were heard booing as the Chinese national anthem was played.   

    There have been no reports of violence since Sunday, when police used tear gas in a failed attempt to disperse crowds.

    A timeline of the pro-Democracy movement in Hong Kong since 1984:

    December 1984: Britain and China sign a Joint Declaration in which terms of Britain's 1997 return of Hong Kong to China are outlined. The 1984 Sino-British power transfer agreement specifies that China will allow Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy” for 50 years. Beijing calls this “one country, two systems."
    June 3-4, 1989: Chinese troops fire on protesters in and around Tiananmen Square after weeks of pro-democracy demonstrations. The military action rallies more than a 1 million people in Hong Kong to call for democratic safeguards to be put in place in the territory.
    April 1990: Beijing ratifies Hong Kong's Basic Law, a mini-constitution that calls for "universal suffrage” in the territory.
    July 1997: After 150 years, Britain returns Hong Kong to China. Beijing names a Shanghai-born, former shipping magnate, Tung Chee-hwa, as the territory’s first post-British head of government.
    February 2001: Hong Kong's number two official, Chief Secretary Anson Chan, opposes Chinese interference in the territory's affairs, and resigns under pressure from Beijing.
    April, 2004: China rules out the possibility of universal suffrage in Hong Kong in 2007 and 2008. China also says Beijing must approve any changes to Hong Kong election laws, giving China virtual veto power over Hong Kong’s evolution toward democracy.
    December 2007: Beijing says Hong Kong can directly elect its own leader in 2017 and its own legislators by 2020.
    September 2012: Tens of thousands of students besiege a government building for 10 days, to protest a proposal that would require Chinese identity lessons in Hong Kong schools. Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is forced to scrap the plan.
    June 2014: Nearly 800,000 people vote in an unofficial referendum calling for open nominations in Hong Kong's 2017 election. The protest is deemed illegal by Hong Kong's government and Chinese officials.
    July 2014: Hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters march through Hong Kong calling for a genuinely democratic vote in 2017. Police arrest more than 500 of them after protesters stage an overnight sit-in in the main business district.
    August 2014: Anti-corruption officers raid the home of a prominent media magnate who is an outspoken critic of Beijing. Jimmy Lai has supported pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong through his publications and financial contributions.
    August 2014: The Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress rules out a fully democratic election for Hong Kong's leader in 2017. The Chinese impose tight rules on the nominating process.
    Sept. 2014: Thousands of pro-democracy protesters stage huge rallies in Hong Kong, demanding that China allow free elections.

    The Occupy Central movement set a Wednesday deadline for Chief Executive Leung Chun-yingto meet demands for greater democratic reforms..

    One of the organizers of Occupy Central, Chen Jianmin, said in an interview with VOA Tuesday the only way to defuse the crisis is for Leung to step down and to re-start the process of political reform.

    “Only after a new government comes to power [will] we have a chance to restart political reform.  Some may feel it is more difficult to ask [Beijing] to change its decision immediately.  But for changing the chief executive, I believe it will be more realistic, and it is also associated with our livelihood.  Because we all believe that he is the biggest obstacle.  Especially when you look at what happened yesterday, he used tear gas against peaceful demonstrators, which makes you more likely to believe that he is not bringing democracy [to] Hong Kong, and he is even taking away some of our existing rights and freedoms," said Jianmin.

    On Tuesday, Leung said he would not give into the protesters' demands, and urged Occupy Central to immediately end the five-day protests.  He called the demonstrations illegal, but said he expected them to last for a long time.

    Neither side is showing any signs of backing down even as China prepares to mark its National Day on Wednesday.

    “The Central Government won't be swayed by illegal activities. This illegal protest will not force the central government to go back on its decision of August 31,” Leung said of China's decision that a pro-Beijing panel will screen all candidates in the territory's first direct elections, scheduled for 2017.

    Eve of anniversary

    While Leung has said Beijing would not back down in the face of protests, he also said on Tuesday Hong Kong police would be able to maintain security without help from People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops from the mainland.

    It was Leung's first comments since Sunday, when baton-wielding police used large amounts of tear gas and pepper spray to violently disperse the peaceful protesters.

    Protesters ignored the demand Tuesday, taking to the streets in greater numbers as the evening approached. Tens of thousands of demonstrators have camped out in sevearl parts of the city.

    Hong Kong police have withdrawn now for more than a day and protesters are continuing their efforts to prepare for a longer, more drawn out confrontation.

    Some protesters have voiced concern that authorities may return again in force later Tuesday in a bid to clear the streets before the Chinese holiday, when even more protesters are expected to join the rally.

    According to a poll released last week by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, about 46 percent of the city’s residents oppose efforts to blockade the city, while about 31 percent support the movement.

    Of those who support Occupy Central, 47 percent were under the age of 24.

    In addition to their concerns about democracy, Hong Kong’s younger generation are worried about low-paying jobs and increasing competition from mainland Chinese coming to the financial hub to work.

    Hong Kong University of Science and Technology professor David Zweig said the controversy surrounding the 2017 elections and concerns that Leung is taking the port city down the wrong path are not the only issues driving the protests.

    “I think the other issue is that there is a lot of anger. If you look at the data in general in Hong Kong, January this year, the anger at the central government, the anger at the local government, the concerns about future job prospects and all that and anxiety in general, this is worst than anytime since the major marches of 2003," Zweig said.

    China may weigh in

    The professor said he is worried that both sides are not willing to compromise, which could lead to clashes.

    “You know we got October 1st coming up, 65th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China," Zweig said. "I worry that Xi Jinping may decide that he doesn’t want to celebrate that event with students occupying the government headquarters or surrounding the government headquarters down in Hong Kong.”

    Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters extended a blockade of Hong Kong streets on Tuesday, blocking at least four major areas around the city, including Admiralty, the Central business district, the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay and Mong Kok in Kowloon.

    The protests are widely expected to escalate on Wednesday to coincide with National Day celebrations.

    The protesters were also stockpiling supplies and erecting makeshift barricades ahead of what some fear may be a push by police to clear the roads before Chinese National Day.

    Riot police shot pepper spray and tear gas at protesters at the weekend, but by Tuesday evening they had almost completely withdrawn from the downtown Admiralty district except for an area around the government headquarters.

    On the eve of Wednesday's anniversary of the Communist Party's foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, crowds poured into central districts of the Asian financial hub, near where National Day festivities are scheduled to take place.

    Rumors have rippled through crowds of protesters that police could be preparing to move in again, as the government has vowed to go ahead with celebrations.

    Effects of protests

    Many businesses, along with some subway stops and bus routes, remain closed because of the protests, which are also rattling investors.

    Hong Kong stocks fell nearly 1.3 percent Tuesday, following losses of 1.9 percent a day earlier, further raising fears the unrest could take an economic toll.

    Eddie Fung, a 60-year-old construction officer, said he supports the student-led demonstrations.

    "I think if we want something, sacrifices cannot be avoided. No pain, no gain, right? When I see the young people's passion, I support them from deep within my heart. I hope there won't be any bloodshed," said Fung.

    The protests are the worst in Hong Kong since China resumed its rule in 1997. They also represent one of the biggest political challenges for Beijing since it violently crushed pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

    The outside world has looked on warily, concerned that the clashes could spread and trigger a much harsher crackdown.

    The White House said Monday the United States is closely watching the situation in Hong Kong, and supports freedom of assembly and expression. It urged authorities there to show restraint and called for protesters to be peaceful.

    The United States, Australia and Singapore have issued travel alerts to the territory.    

    Police actions cause for 'concern'

    Human Rights Watch on Tuesday said police use of riot gear, pepper spray, tear gas and police batons, as well as the detention of peaceful protesters, "raise serious concern" about how the Hong Kong and Chinese governments will respond to the protests.

    In a statement, the New York-based group said the protesters appear to pose no clear or imminent threat to public safety or property. Besides scattered instances of protesters shaking police barriers or throwing empty plastic bottles, it said there has been no protester violence.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed concern about the clashes between protesters and police.

    Britain called for "constructive" talks that would lead to a "meaningful advance for democracy."

    In Washington, the White House said the legitimacy of Hong Kong's chief executive would be enhanced after the elections if the territory's residents had a genuine choice of candidates.

    But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying defiantly told a news briefing in Beijing, "Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong." She said China firmly opposes "any form of support" by foreign countries for what it said were "illegal" protests.

    Some have called the student-led protests the "Umbrella Revolution," as demonstrators have hoisted umbrellas against the sun and as flimsy protection against the police use of pepper spray.

    Brian Padden and Pros Laput contributed to this story from Hong Kong, some material came from the the VOA Mandarin service, Reuters and AP.

    • A pro-democracy protester stands next to a banner in Hong Kong, Sept. 30, 2014.
    • Pro-democracy protestors hold up their mobile phones after heavy rain in Hong Kong, Sept. 30, 2014.
    • A man takes a picture of a bus covered with messages of support at Mongkok shopping district after thousands of protesters blocked the road in Hong Kong, Sept. 30, 2014.
    • Hundreds of protesters block the main road at Causeway Bay shopping district in Hong Kong, Sept. 30, 2014.
    • A poster with a drawing of an umbrella with the Chinese characters for "peace" is displayed at a rally as protesters block the main road at Causeway Bay shopping district in Hong Kong, Sept. 30, 2014.
    • A protester passes a slogan reading 'No Violence' at a main street at Mongkok shopping district, which was occupied by protesters, in Hong Kong, Sept. 30, 2014.
    • Protesters attend a rally at a main street at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong, Sept. 30,2014.
    • Protesters sit under umbrellas on the main street to the financial Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Sept. 30, 2014.
    • People sit under umbrellas as they attend a rally along a main street at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong, Sept. 30, 2014.
    • Umbrellas used by protesters hang at a site near the main road leading to the financial Central district in Hong Kong, Sept. 30, 2014.
    • Protesters sleep on the street outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Sept. 30, 2014.
    • Protesters walk along a street as they block an area near the government headquarters building, in Hong Kong, Sept. 30, 2014.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
    by: Tom Murphy from: Heartland America
    September 30, 2014 9:02 PM
    I'm sure that the Beijing Communist leadership is very proud that Chinese Communist leaders have been responsible for the deaths of more innocent people (mostly Chinese people) than any other dictator in the entire known history of the human race. And I'm sure that they're also very proud that they now hold captive more people than any other dictatorship currently on the face of the Earth.
    In Response

    by: Paul from: Flora
    October 03, 2014 9:57 AM
    Thanks steve. This man is habitual liar, all his comments are dishonest or reek of personal bias when someone discredits him. He starts shifting goalposts, look how desperate he is he left his debate entirely when to personally attack me and my city. Pathetic really.
    In Response

    by: Steve Blaine from: Lisbon
    October 02, 2014 9:13 PM
    Looks who's trolling, Flora,Illinois for one? Try to searching before something you make wild accusations. I think Paul is right, you very dishonest and a liar. I checked wikipedia and again Paul is right, there's difference between communism and dictatorship especially power structure and governance. I think you prove how fanatical americans are.
    In Response

    by: Paul from: Flora, not crapland, US
    October 02, 2014 6:52 PM
    Really? So decided flora doesn't exist now? lol. Funny, how all your points are you own opinion. Still doesn't change the fact communism and dictatorship, turning Marxist work into communism is the most funniest thing i heard. Someone who comes here for attention seeking from miserable life by hiding behind nationalism is lecturing me about trolling.
    In Response

    by: Tom Murphy from: Heartland America
    October 02, 2014 1:29 PM
    Richard, you and Paul seem to be from the same mythical place called "Flora". Was that a location assigned to you in troll training school? Communist doctrine claims to establish the "dictatorship of the proletariat". But in actual fact, it only establishes the dictatorship of the DICTATOR.

    Right-thinking people in Hong Kong, Ukraine, Vietnam, South Korea, China, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Taiwan, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, eastern Germany, North Korea defectors and many former member states of the USSR have long experience with dictatorship being an integral part of communism. They are inseparable.
    In Response

    by: Richard from: Flora
    October 02, 2014 9:16 AM
    Lol, so Rwanda, Bosnia, Stalin, Inquisition are all insignificant to China. I love Americans here make up stuff as they do go along, American school are so robust hahaha. When someone states communism and dictatorships are two DIFFERENT things, he can't picture one without another.
    In Response

    by: Tommy from: Fartland, redneck
    October 02, 2014 7:03 AM
    So you're admitting you make up things as you go along. China for one, but thanks for highlighting your intelligence. By the way, did you check the track of death from US? Or do we continue believe you think is true, the usual nationalistic crap.
    In Response

    by: Tom Murphy from: Heartland America
    October 02, 2014 12:37 AM
    I can't think of any significant communist state that is not also a dictatorship. Obviously, you have a long list of examples on the tip of your tongue. Please rattle off your list as the educated expert I know you are.
    In Response

    by: Tommy from: Fartland
    September 30, 2014 10:13 PM
    Communism and dictatorship are two different things. lol, american education?

    by: deck watch from: canada
    September 30, 2014 4:06 PM
    People in Hong Kong had done nothing wrong. BUT, when they dealing with China, they have to remember protest won't bring freedom to Hong Kong. And, Hong Kong is not in a good position to fight. And, there will be no real help from international communities.

    It is very sad to see people fighting for something they won't get. It is still better than to live like slave.

    Just remember, slave may have better food and shelter if they can make master happy. It will be very difficult to live as a Freeman.
    This is what people in mainland china never understood. This is what people in Hong Kong believes.

    In Response

    by: Phil from: Staunchberg
    October 01, 2014 10:27 AM
    Dung, the same could said about Crimea, where people voted for their choice, so much for freedom from Americans. Ironic part is, america acts like the biggest dictator.
    In Response

    by: Thomas Dung from: Lost Angeles
    October 01, 2014 6:21 AM
    Clearly, HK people are living in extreme conditions? lol, hyperbole americana BS. Funny, how americans have signed their freedoms for security, lol. Does the same logic apply to Afghanistan, where the candidates were pre-selected by the US? Or do you sing another tune.
    In Response

    by: Thomas Fung from: Los Angeles
    October 01, 2014 3:00 AM
    "It’s better to die fighting for freedom than to live life in chains."
    In Response

    by: Deck him from: Canada, lol
    September 30, 2014 10:09 PM
    Just read the above, you know the poster is insane, when he's telling you to die.

    by: Swerveinator from: Los Angeles CA
    September 30, 2014 1:05 PM
    Give freedom and peace a chance...

    by: roger58 from: liverpool uk
    September 30, 2014 11:32 AM
    The Chinese government have no respect for human rights or it's people life is cheap in China someone commented on the forum the British never gave the people a choice of voting the reason is the Hong Kong residents were content under British rule British rule made Hong Kong what it is today one of the worlds leading financial centres
    now it is just part of China and it's one billion Inhabitants with communist China in charge I can see Hong Kong losing it's status as a world financial centre sad isn't it
    In Response

    by: Liam from: Isle of wight
    September 30, 2014 10:07 PM
    British have great track of human rights? lol.

    by: Freedom_is_not_free from: USA
    September 30, 2014 11:28 AM
    A Message to Hong Kong Friends: Let Freedom rings. Our Republic of Vietnam former President Nguyen Van Thieu had said:
    "Do Not Listen to What the Communists Say. Let See What The Communists Do." Communists China or Communist Vietnam or Communist Russian are the same. They say or promise one thing but do other way.

    Republic of Vietnam was a Democratic South Vietnam Republic. It likes North Korea and South Korea. Our Republic of Vietnam was invaded by Northern Communists with help from China and Russia Communists.

    by: trevor from: toronto
    September 30, 2014 11:06 AM
    Read several lines don't even wanna finish. tons of typos and as always demean anything slightly related to ccp. i laughed out literally when i read that police use tear gas to 'violently' disperse the crowd. lol are you kidding?

    by: william li from: canada
    September 30, 2014 10:13 AM
    As a Chinese, for the best of Chinas interest, I once again support the Chinese government and HK government to keep the situation under control with whatever measures necessary. HK is part of China, HK must under control of China government. British HK never gave HK ppl right to vote, and now HK ppl has much better freedom. They should cherish this peace, stop doing stupid thing.

    by: Daniel from: asia
    September 30, 2014 9:48 AM
    I think China should give free-voting for HongKong's people. Everybody in HongKong likes peace, for a long time. If this protest isn't finished, this will harm to the financial development of HongKong. China shouldn't impose HongKong

    by: oneSTARman from: Washington
    September 30, 2014 8:49 AM
    The Only HOPE for Hong Kong is if somehow the protests SPREAD to Beijing. That is why Instagram has been Shut Down on the Mainlaind of China. But Social Media Technology which is the Medium of the Coming WORLD DEMOCRACY finds a way.
    In Response

    by: Pauline from: Somaliland
    October 01, 2014 6:22 AM
    Xaaji, why don't you join Somali pirates, watch drones are nearby.
    In Response

    by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
    September 30, 2014 10:28 PM
    William Li, why don't you join Communist Killing Party of China?
    In Response

    by: william li from: canada
    September 30, 2014 5:06 PM
    are you kidding me? majority mainland Chinese hate those HK separatists! yes, the eventual goal of those protesters is to separate from China.
    we know it, and we will never let it happen, even that means we have to kill all of those separatists!

    by: meanbill from: USA
    September 30, 2014 8:44 AM
    China will wait, [and the student protesters will decide their fate], through peaceful protests or violence, [and after the protests or riots], the student leaders will be interviewed or brought to trial, and be rehabilitate on a Chinese political prison farm, or disappear, and never be seen or heard of again, like the [thousands] of Tienanmen square riot leaders?.... The Chinese government learned from Tienanmen square, and the protesters or rioters will soon learn what the Chinese government learned, soon.....
    Comments page of 2

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