JULY 1: WORLD IS SURE OF HONG KONG’S RESILIENCE TO WITHSTAND CHINESE PRESSURE

July 1, the day comes every year. But for Hong Kongers, the day has increasingly become an occasion to reflect on what their protests have been so far – to think what they should do ahead.

Hong Kong was ‘handed over’ to China on July 1, 1997 under a British-Chinese agreement that laid down certain conditions for the city-state and former British colony. For Hong Kong, a ‘one country two systems’ norm was set up and China promised to give the citizens universal suffrage in a phased manner.

But that was just the story as it was thought to be. The reality of the day is starkly different.

Since its takeover, Beijing has been trying to impose the culture and the system of the mainland on this global financial powerhouse. Chinese national anthem is being more and more used. Sometimes, Beijing tries to introduce elements like altering textbooks. One of the regular features is propping up and supporting pro-Beijing lobby of politicians and pro-Beijing group of local Hong Kongers. And the most prominent of Beijing’s efforts is a panel of pro-Beijing politicians and its chief executive officer that governs the administration in the city state.

Beijing has even tried to show Hong Kong that the mainland can do better on the parameter Hong Kong has been known globally for – the economic might with a global financial pull. Beijing tried to do that with Shanghai and its stock market last year but failed in its attempt.

Majority of the Hong Kongers, who make the city-state population it but who are in minority in the ruling elite, are worried of the designs Beijing is trying to impose.

Hong Kong always maintained a culture of free speech and expression in an otherwise oppressive dictatorship that China has been and is. Tiananmen massacre incident is a taboo subject in China and many in the generation now see it just a political incident from country’s past. But Hong Kong has always maintained the spirit of June 4 Vigil every year with remembrance march and associated events to commemorate the brutal crackdown by Chinese leadership on students and political activists on June 4, 1989. Hong Kong’s Victoria Park echoes the global sentiments on this day, be it the British rule or the Chinese autocracy.

Obviously, Beijing does not like it. But it cannot openly do anything about it. So, the other way is to try and prop up elements that support the Chinese viewpoint as is on the mainland. In spite of its sociological problems around income distribution, Hong Kong is still a financial powerhouse and an important global connect centre for the Chinese economy. Beijing realizes it and cannot, therefore, impose itself forcefully on Hong Kong.

So, even if it agreed to give universal suffrage to the residents of Hong Kong, it came with the rider that Beijing was going to be the ultimate holder of power. Hong Kongers are free to elect their next leader (chief executive) in 2017 but they are not free to elect ‘whom to elect’ – that is what Beijing had proposed in the name of ‘universal suffrage’ leading to ‘more democratic rights’. The Beijing proposal that was voted down on June 18 by pro-democracy legislators after an intense debate of two days required Hong Kongers to elect their next chief executive from a panel of three names ‘shortlisted by Beijing’.

Now that the proposal is struck down by the pro-democracy groups, the old mechanism of electing the next chief executive would be followed in 2017 – sans any pseudo-democratic assurance. A pro-Beijing electoral college of few will install someone who will be no more than a Beijing puppet, the case now. And that would be without any spectacle of ‘democracy’. And it is routine business for Beijing administrators in China. They have been far more ruthless in crushing dissent on the mainland.

When the pro-democracy protesters were gathering for their march on July 1 ‘handover’ day last year, they were talking about the way ahead on pressurizing Beijing for a ‘true democratic’ proposal. The mood on that day was optimistic and resilient about fighting ahead as the Beijing’s proposal was still not in.

Beijing did what it had to do. Hundreds of thousands took to the street to oppose the ‘autocratic proposal’ in the garb of democracy’. Protests, that were named Umbrella Revolution, raged for months. The civil disobedience nature had few incidents of minor violence. But, as expected, Beijing did not relent.

This year, on July 1, the mood is driven by the developments since then. With the so called ‘democracy proposal’ by Beijing struck down, the political deadlock is in the air. Protester are very clear now that Beijing will not relent, not in the near term and their ‘struggle for democracy’ needs to go back to the drawing board at the thought level to decide on what they have to do ahead. The multitude of such thoughts, reflecting on the developments so far, will come with a spontaneous response ahead. The world is sure of that.

The world is sure of Hong Kong’s resilience to withstand the Chinese pressure. The world is sure of the culture of free speech and expression that has made June 4 Vigil and July 1 Handover Day march regular features of Hong Kong’s social fabric. The world believes in them. The protesters should have confidence in themselves.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

Here are some of the photographs from today’s march:

July 1-HK-Alex Ogle-The Telegraph

Image courtesy: Alex Ogle – The Telegraph

HONG KONG - JULY 01:  Protesters march on a street during a rally as they hold banners and shout slogans on July 1, 2015 in Hong Kong. July 1 is traditionally a day of protest in Hong Kong and also marks the anniversary of the handover from Britain to China in 1997, under a 'one country, two systems' agreement.  (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

 Image courtesy: Anthony Kwan – Getty Images

July 1-HK-AP

Image courtesy: AP

JULY 1-HK-ISAAC LAWRENCE-AFP-GETTY IMAGES

Image courtesy: Isaac Lawrence – AFP – Getty Images

Protesters carry Hong Kong colonial flags during a march in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2015, the day marking the 18th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from Britain to Chinese sovereignty. Thousands of Hong Kong protesters marched for full democracy on Wednesday and called on the Chinese-controlled city's leader to resign, just weeks after lawmakers voted down an electoral reform package backed by Communist Party leaders in Beijing. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

 Image courtesy: Bobby Yip – Reuters

Patrick Brousseau, 35, an English teacher from Canada, plays a bagpipe in support of a protest march in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2015, the day marking the 18th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from Britain to Chinese sovereignty. REUTERS/Liau Chung-ren

Image courtesy: Liau Chung Ren – Reuters

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters stage a march to demand universal suffrage in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2015.  REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Image courtesy: Tyrone Siu – Reuters

IT WAS JUNE 4 AGAIN..

It was June 4 again. Like it is carried, the world carried intense debates and coverage over what happened on this day 26 years ago. Like China has always done since June 4, 1989, it did this as well, suppressing the voices on mainland, while trying to find ways to scuttle the Hong Kong protests that have become an annual feature.

Yes, if any symbolic Chinese element is present in the protests over Tiananmen Massacre (or incident, a political incident China would rather like to its people to believe), it is the annual Hong Kong vigil, organized to remember the victims of Tiananmen Massacre in Beijing’s iconic public square, a large arena.

China has, so far, been able to effectively killed democracy on the mainland and Tiananmen is its living proof and will remain so for the world. The autocracy has done it so successfully that majority of the Chinese now, including majority of its millennial generation born in good times of economic surge believe that Chinese politicians are taking right steps as a New York Times survey study finds.

Their concern is more of financial in nature than political and that is the success story of communist party of China so far. Chinese rulers know they will face problems from a slowing economy first. If any hope of democracy has to find its voice in China again, it will be only after the economy has failed, leading to increased poverty levels and a large impoverished class. That looks a far-fetched conclusion given the economic indicators now.

Even if China is slowing down, it is slated to be the world’s second largest economy. Also, the country will have the maximum share of the middle class population groups by 2021.

It is a large market for the world community to ignore, led by America and other rich and developed nations.

China knows it and exploits the gains suppressing democratic voices ruthlessly on the mainland. It is one of the compromises in China the world community is making.

And its efforts are reaching to Hong Kong now, the only vocal Chinese participation from China for hopes of democracy in the country. China is trying to undermine the democratic voices of Hong Kong targeting subtly the generation behind events like June 4 vigil or July 1 marches every year.

It is trying to do that by exporting mainland system on Hong Kong. Long duration protests were held last year against the Beijing decision to install a puppet pro-Beijing panel for 2017 Hong Kong elections using universal suffrage for the first time. All candidates who will be in fray will be pro-Beijing (chosen by them) and universal suffrage will be joke in that case. Protesters were demanding full democracy in the matter that, as expected, they did not get. After all, Xi Jinping is being referred to as the strongest Chinese President since Mao Zedong in the global media and it has to have its designs all over, including Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was under Britain for many decades and was handed over to China in 1997 with many conditions including preserving political and economic structure of the city state under ‘one country, two systems’.

China knows it cannot employ its mainland tactics here. China knows it cannot take the risk of subverting the agreement openly and ruthlessly suppress the voices of democracy in Hong Kong. But it can always do so, subtly and clandestinely, with ways like trying to changes text-books with mainland design or denying the people of Hong Kong to choose their own leader.

And it is on the job.

For the moment, Hong Kong stood once again with the world, especially the global media, on June 4, to remember the democratic victims of an autocratic China, hoping to withstand the Chinese might to demand genuine democracy.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

I am sharing some of the images of the vigil protest by the media here giving due courtesy to the agencies.

HK-DALE DE LA REY -AFP - Getty Images
Image courtesy: Dale De La Rey-AFP-Getty Images

HK-GETTY IMAGE
Image courtesy: Getty Images

HK-Vincent Yu-AP
Image courtesy: Vincet Yu-AP

HK-VINCENT YU-ASSOCIATED PRESS
Image courtesy: Bobby Yip-Reuters

HK-WSJ
Image Courtesy: WSJ

CHINA OFFICIALLY SLAMS THE DOOR: NO ‘OPEN ELECTION’ IN ‘AUTONOMOUS’ HONG KONG

Being the largest functional democracy, we the Indians are inadvertent stakeholders in the democratic affairs of our two neighbours, Pakistan and China, because an undemocratic dispensation is basically confrontational in nature and the situation worsens when there are contentious boundary and territory issues involved, like we have with Pakistan and China.

And without any hesitation, it can be said these two countries are blots on the spirit of democracy. One is an occasional pseudo-democracy while the other is a preserved sanctuary of autocracy.

While Pakistan is facing yet another political crisis threatening to uproot the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif with the Army occupying the central position, China has continued to crush the voices of democracy with officially saying no to the demand of freedom to elect the top executive of Hong Kong directly.

The barbarism in crushing the democratic spirit on the mainland has had no restraints. And though Hong Kong is a different case with ‘one country, two systems’ concept, the Chinese government is increasingly spreading its tentacles to the island in efforts to kill the autonomy of the city-state, a global economic powerhouse, still and Alpha+ world city.

The agreement when Britain handed over the control of Hong Kong to China 17 years ago gave the city an autonomous administration to run its local rule. Preserving the democratic spirit in the day-to-day life and a free and open culture developed under a progressive British rule during the period when Hong Kong became the economic powerhouse might have been the idea behind it. But the Chinese autocracy (more of an aristocracy now) was not going to be content with just managing the security and foreign affairs of the megacity. They look to exercise iron grip here.

The democratic spirit of Hong Kong has been observing events like the June 4 Tiananmen Vigil or the increasingly critical version of the annual Handover Day march on July 1 each year. Protesters march to show solidarity for the victims of the Tiananmen Massacre and speak for the cause of their sacrifice – demands of political reforms and democracy in China.

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HONG KONG MARCH: DEMOCRATIC SPIRIT IS ALIVE AND KICKING

The protest march on the annual handover day in the Central Business District of Hong Kong was an expected success and that is the big news about it, this beautiful banner photograph from the South China Morning Post coverage tells us.

There were clashes with police and over 500 were arrested, that is the big news about it.

The protesters sounded motivated by the outcome and warned of more intense protests later this year demanding democratic reforms and that is the big news about it.

Over half-a-million turnout was expected and it did happen and it tells people are becoming more and more vocal and determined about their struggle.

And the slogan of this year’s July 1 handover day protest march, “defending Hong Kong Authority: No fear of Beijing’s threat of comprehensive control” explains this attitude well.

Two protest marches with largest turnouts in the recent history of Hong Kong, the June 4 Tiananmen protests vigil night and the July 1 handover day march, that has changed its character from being a ceremonial day to a day of protest, within a month, and that, too, against the might of a manipulative and oppressive government, give us inspiring shots for pro-democracy resistance movements.

Residents of Hong Kong who migrated from the mainland to have a life away from the Chinese wars during the imperial period and subsequently from the Communist rule are fighting to reclaim the life they had during the colonial years especially in the later half of the 20th Century that saw rapid economic growth making its per-capita-income among the highest in the world.

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HONG KONG MARCH: THE INSPIRING SHOTS

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Photo: South China Morning Post

The protest march on the annual handover day in the Central Business District of Hong Kong was an expected success and that is the big news about it, this beautiful banner photograph from the South China Morning Post coverage tells us.

There were clashes with police and over 500 were arrested, that is the big news about it.

The protesters sounded motivated by the outcome and warned of more intense protests later this year demanding democratic reforms and that is the big news about it.

Over half-a-million turnout was expected and it did happen and it tells people are becoming more and more vocal and determined about their struggle.

And the slogan of this year’s July 1 handover day protest march, “defending Hong Kong Authority: No fear of Beijing’s threat of comprehensive control” explains this attitude well.

Two protest marches with largest turnouts in the recent history of Hong Kong, the June 4 Tiananmen protests vigil night and the July 1 handover day march, that has changed its character from being a ceremonial day to a day of protest, within a month, and that, too, against the might of a manipulative and oppressive government, give us inspiring shots for pro-democracy resistance movements.

These are some of the moments captured, sourced here from different agencies:

Related post: HONG KONG MARCH: PRO-DEMOCRACY SYMBOLISM OF HONG KONG SPEAKS AGAIN
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/hong-kong-march-pro-democracy-of-symbolism-of-hong-kong-speaks-once-again/

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HONG KONG MARCH: PRO-DEMOCRACY OF SYMBOLISM HONG KONG SPEAKS AGAIN

Hong Kong: hundreds of thousands participate in pro-democracy march – The Guardian
Hong Kong Democracy Protest: Thousands March Through City – The Wall Street Journal
Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protesters Emboldened by March – The Wall Street Journal
In Hong Kong, Tens of Thousands March for Democracy – TIME
Over 500 arrested after Hong Kong democracy rally – USA TODAY
Police accused of heavy-handed treatment of protesters arrested after July 1 march – South China Morning Post

It is laudable, it is brilliant, and it is there for us to see. Yes, it is not going to bring any immediate change, and possibly, not even in the near future. In fact, it can and will bring repression with the state machinery going tougher on the protesters and pro-democracy factions, parties and activists.

But, it is symbolically potent, like any such event in China, an oppressive democracy, is and has been, like the Tiananmen Protests and Massacre on mainland, like the Annual Tiananmen Vigil on June 4 in Hong Kong, like the Wukan protests on mainland or like this Annual Handover Day March on July 1, when Hong Kong was handed over to the Chinese rule 17 years ago.

The island of Hong Kong may be just a city state but being one of the economic powerhouses of the world and an industrialized and developed British colony till 1997, it is home to the values the developed Western economies cherish and that was the central reason behind the autonomy given to the islanders under ‘one country, two systems’ norms – with local rule to run the systems except foreign relations and defense.

But, then it was China, the global powerhouse of repression, the symbolism of a ruthless political system ruled by a single political party for over six decades – a period with number of events when pro-democracy voices were killed mercilessly – and the run is still continued.

And any tyrannical regime is stubbornly imperialist when it comes to expand geographically or when it comes to claim territories – or when it comes to transform the culture of the territories to suit its plans, like China has done in Tibet, like China has done with Falun Gong.

After Hong Kong came under Chinese sovereignty, the next aim was to make its civil liberties like the mainland – where no civil liberties exist.

It was never going to be easy in Hong Kong, with cherished values and atmosphere of self-rule and autonomy in existence for a long time. Yes, there was no universal suffrage in spite of the attempts to introduce it. It remained a core issue and now the Chinese government of Beijing has agreed to introduce the universal suffrage in 2017 when the city-state is slated to go polls to elect its next leader.

But this universal suffrage is nothing more than a sham step where the candidate to be chosen is from the pool proposed by Beijing. And this is a major reason among others making the Hong Kong residents worried and frightened about Beijing’s intentions and plans.

Beijing is methodically taking over institutions in Hong Kong with efforts like installing a pro-Beijing leader or introduction of the national education programme (the protests in 2012).

And realizing the real intent, the pro-autonomy and pro-democracy activists are protesting it. Organizers from the ‘Civil Human Rights Front’ claim over 5,00,000 protesters came forward to join the sit-in and participate in the March demanding democratic rights.

Over half-a-million were expected after an unofficial pro-democracy referendum by ‘Occupy Central with Love and Peace’ was signed by around 8,00,000 people, almost 10% of the Hong Kong population.

And though the police claim the turnout to be less than 1,00,000, we can believe in the higher turnout figure even if it was not over half-a-million.

And the importance of this turnout lies in its symbolic potential. Though its mention was blacked out on the mainland, such attempts are increasingly becoming difficult. Access to the information on the Hong Kong life was one of the reasons that had ‘inspired’ many of the Wukan protesters.

And with increased complexity of layers and sub-layers, controlling the virtual world of social media is going to be as difficult as raising a pro-democracy demand in Beijing today.

Yes, the June 4 Vigil or July 1 March are not going to bring any changes for the mainland China in the future we can foresee now, but it is going to make developments more intense in Hong Kong as the protesters have warned for more protests later this year.

And crushing such protests like the Beijing government does in China would not be possible without the whole world coming to know about every such development.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/