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


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


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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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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