News / Asia

    Hong Kong's Democracy 'Referendum' Likely to Rile China's Communists

    A protester, carrying a former Hong Kong colonial flag, demonstrates against China's intervention and control of the internal affairs of the former British colony, outside the British Consulate in Hong Kong June 15, 2014
    A protester, carrying a former Hong Kong colonial flag, demonstrates against China's intervention and control of the internal affairs of the former British colony, outside the British Consulate in Hong Kong June 15, 2014
    Reuters
    Hong Kong holds a controversial “referendum” on democracy on Friday, a prelude to an escalating campaign of dissent that could shut down the former British colony's financial district and further anger China's Communist Party leaders.
     
    An affluent city of seven million that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, Hong Kong's longstanding push for full democracy is reaching what could be boiling point with tens of thousands expected to vote in the unofficial referendum for full democracy from Friday until Sunday.
     
    While Beijing has allowed Hong Kong to go ahead with a popular vote for the city's top leader in 2017, the most far-reaching experiment in democracy in China since the Communist takeover in 1949, senior Chinese officials have ruled out allowing the public to nominate candidates.
     
    Instead, Beijing insists a small committee of largely pro-Beijing loyalists choose who gets on the ballot, which would effectively render the ability to vote meaningless.
     
    One of the founders of the Occupy Central protest movement, academic Benny Tai, hopes that its June 20-22 referendum will draw up to 300,000 people to strengthen the legitimacy of the group's demands for a fair and representative election in 2017 that would include opposition democrats.
     
    But a cyber-attack this week crippled the online voting system, meaning the organizers may have to rely on the results from 15 voting stations to be set up on Sunday instead if it is not fixed by then.
     
    “As I see it, we are under such serious attack it exactly shows that Beijing is taking us seriously,” law professor Tai said.
     
    Chinese and Hong Kong officials, editorials in pro-Beijing newspapers and businessmen have in recent weeks strongly criticized Occupy Central, which plans mass protests in the Central business district this summer, saying it will harm Hong Kong.
     
    “We are using the civil referendum to tell Beijing what is our baseline, that is true democracy must be something allowing electors to have genuine choices,” Tai said.
     
    Hong Kong returned to China with wide-ranging autonomy under the formula of “one country, two systems” - along with an undated promise of full democracy, an issue never broached by the British until the dying days of 150 years of colonial rule.
     
    The summer protests could see more activist groups spill on to the streets as political tensions rise. Already last week, the city's normally peaceful protests took on a violent edge.
     
    On Friday, a group of radical protesters tried storming their way into the Legislative Council, smashing glass and ramming doors with steel barricades and bamboo poles.
     
    Tai stressed his movement hadn't yet decided on an exact date to launch the street protests, though the results of the referendum would have a strong bearing.
     
    “It only hurts Hong Kong”
     
    Rita Fan, a senior Hong Kong delegate to China's parliament, the National People's Congress, said the Occupy protests would hurt Hong Kong and stoke Beijing's mistrust of the city.
     
    “I understand from listening to various people who are officials from the mainland that they do not wish to see this happen, but they are not afraid if it happens,” Fan told Reuters.
     
    “It only hurts Hong Kong... If the Hong Kong police force is unable to contain the situation then the international ratings agencies may consider that Hong Kong is politically not stable and that may affect our rating.”
     
    A Hong Kong police source told Reuters that mainland law enforcement officials had stepped up liaison work with police over the past year, forming an informal working group on how to tackle the protests.
     
    A police spokesman gave no immediate response, but stressed the force could deal with any “internal security incidents”.
     
    Banks in Central have been holding emergency drills and contingency planning for possible disruptions to operations.
     
    Several current and retired Chinese officials have warned in recent months, however, that China is prepared to unleash the  People's Liberation Army (PLA) garrison to handle riots in Hong Kong - a prospect dismissed by some analysts.
     
    “Disorder that is too intense for the Hong Kong police to handle could justify deployment of the PLA to restore stability,” wrote Hong Kong-based risk consultancy, Steve Vickers and Associates, in a report. “Such a scenario is unlikely, but would present a major threat to businesses and to Hong Kong's autonomy and reputation.”
     
    Retired Chinese diplomat Zhou Nan said in June that “we could not allow Hong Kong to turn into a base to subvert China's socialist regime under the guise of democracy”.
     
    Hong Kong police have staged drills to prepare for possible civil unrest, including mass mobilization of officers at short notice, according to two law enforcement sources.
     
    The PLA remains a relatively low-key presence at bases across the territory it inherited from the British but a foreign envoy in the city said the PLA had this year made improvements to facilities and boosted the quality of troops.
     
    A recent visit to major PLA barracks close to China's border found no unusual activity.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.