News / Asia

Mass Protests as Hong Kong Marks 15 Years of Chinese Rule

Pro-democracy protesters step on the mock Chinese PLA tanks after tens of thousands people march at a down town street during the annual pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong, July 1, 2012.
Pro-democracy protesters step on the mock Chinese PLA tanks after tens of thousands people march at a down town street during the annual pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong, July 1, 2012.
Ivan Broadhead
HONG KONG — Chinese President Hu Jintao wrapped up his three-day tour of Hong Kong Sunday, marking the 15th anniversary of the return of the former British colony to Chinese rule. Up to half a million people took to the streets to protest against what they see as the erosion of social and political freedoms under Chinese rule.

British colonial rule is not missed in Hong Kong. But China’s creeping influence, exercised through the Mainland Liaison Office, is viewed with increasing alarm, says Eric Lai of the Civil Human Rights Front, organizer of Sunday’s march.

“Civil liberties are narrowing after 15 years, since both the government and liaison office implement lots of carrot and stick strategies, for instance asking the media to censor itself, and restricting freedom of assembly and protest in Hong Kong,” he said.

During President Hu’s visit, Chinese tanks and rocket launchers were seen for the first time in Hong Kong, symbolizing Beijing’s now absolute control over this city, with a population of seven million.

In scenes reminiscent of a Tiananmen Square military parade, Hu reviewed People’s Liberation Army troops of the normally publicity-shy Hong Kong garrison just hours after his arrival.

The president said he wished to meet the Hong Kong people during his tour, to better understand their lives and aspirations.

However, rolling protests marked the entirety of his visit. On Saturday police fired pepper spray at hundreds of demonstrators outside the president’s hotel.
They gathered to demand an investigation into last month’s suspicious death of labor activist and 1989 Tiananmen Square protester Li Wangyang.

In previous years, protests in Hong Kong could be introspective affairs, observes pan-democrat legislator Audrey Eu, whose micro blog site was shut by censors last week. Li’s death has changed that.

“It is a rude awakening because this is not history [like the Tiananmen massacre]. It is very much the present and we are part of China," said Eu. "So this particular incident brought home to Hong Kong people that human rights incidents on the Mainland are very much a matter for Hong Kong as well.”

Civic action culminated Sunday with one of the largest protest marches in recent memory. Organizers estimate 400,000 people took to the streets to express their discontent on a range of issues.

Of popular concern is the city’s growing wealth gap - now the widest in Asia, the government confirmed last month - and China’s perceived interference in Hong Kong’s chief executive election.

This contest in March saw Leung Chun-ying, 57, appointed to Hong Kong’s top political office by a committee of 1,200 pro-Beijing tycoons. Hu accepted Leung’s pledge of allegiance at an inauguration ceremony Sunday morning.

Chairman of the League of Social Democrats, Andrew To, argues Leung is merely a puppet leader.

“How can he rule Hong Kong? This is the problem of the central government - not letting the Hong Kong people have universal suffrage," said To. "Let us have the chance to elect our chief executive. He has no legitimacy at all.”

Leung already appears beleaguered. Questions are being asked about his integrity in light of allegations of illegal building work at his home on the exclusive Victoria Peak.

Leung’s new Cabinet has also been lambasted. It contains just one woman, and 14 officials who served under his unpopular predecessor Donald Tsang.

Aware that public support for Beijing is at an historic low in the city, Hu spoke in conciliatory terms before his departure.

He vowed China would uphold the One Country, Two Systems formula, and suggested Hong Kong’s next chief executive would be elected by universal suffrage in 2017 - a policy China has stalled on since it was mooted by the National People’s Congress in 2007.

Hu’s speech was interrupted by yet another protester yelling for an end to one-party rule - an incident edited from state television’s “live” transmission, which was in fact transmitting on a 20-second delay.  

Hu will soon retire. Should his legacy be universal suffrage in Hong Kong by 2017, the city’s next leader would be the first to be democratically elected in almost 200 years of either British or Chinese rule - and the first democratically elected senior official in modern China.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
July 03, 2012 1:23 AM
Hongkong passport allow them to travel to almost any country in the world. So just leave and go to your dream land, say UK or US or Australia and Canada.
You dont need have to stay in Hong Kong, do you?
Hong Kong is losing its competitive and then blame it on China government, funny.
In Response

by: Amy from: Hong Kong
July 04, 2012 10:14 PM
Jonathan Huang is a typical traitor that will defect to other countries. When his home is invaded by other armies, he will just flee. Of course he has freedom to live in Canada (a freedom that many others do not enjoy), but to laugh at other people who are fighting for the best of their homes? That is quite shameless.

by: remie from: canada
July 02, 2012 7:49 AM
Mainland china at its sneaky self

by: Jeremiah from: America
July 02, 2012 7:43 AM
They should join anonomous

by: Joshua from: U.S.A.
July 01, 2012 8:20 PM
Let's make it simple. For those who are not happy, just immigrate to, say, UK.

by: cece from: virginia
July 01, 2012 4:52 PM
In other words, Hong Kong is now becoming like the US, increasing limits placed on personal freedom by the government. The Patriot Act h as limited travel to and from the USA for its own citizens, for an example.
In Response

by: Amy from: Hong Kong
July 04, 2012 10:11 PM
"Hong Kong is now becoming like the US" is wrong, but Hong kong is turning slowly into communist-occupied mainland china.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs