Hong Kong expects democracy protests to last for ‘long period’

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SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – CY Leung, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said the democracy protests sweeping the territory would last “quite a long period” as protesters prepare for the October 1 National Day holiday which is expected to bring massive crowds on to the streets.

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Thousands of protesters camped outside government headquarters in Admiralty on Monday night, calling for the resignation of Mr Leung who is considered pro-Beijing. Students carried cardboard cutouts, complete with horns, of the embattled chief.

Earlier on Monday, huge numbers of people poured into the area to join protesters calling on Beijing to reverse course on a controversial electoral reform plan. China last month agreed to introduce universal suffrage for the chief executive election, including restrictions that make it impossible for critics of Beijing to run.

Chinese media have been ordered not to cover the protests which have created the biggest crisis for the Communist party since Tiananmen Square. On Tuesday, Global Times, a Communist party tabloid, wrote that the activists were “jeopardising the global image of Hong Kong”.

“US media is linking the Occupy Central with the Tiananmen Incident in 1989. By hyping such a groundless comparison, they attempt to mislead and stir up Hong Kong society,” Global Times said.

Protest organisers estimated that 80,000 people gathered in Admiralty on Monday. The large numbers materialised after the government removed riot police who had fired tear gas and pepper spray at protesters during a tense stand-off on Sunday.

Many people said the decision to use tear gas on the peaceful protesters backfired by sparking more sympathy for the pro-democracy movement. Critics added that the decision to arrest several student leaders on Friday, including Joshua Wong, the 17-year-old leader of a group called Scholarism, also sparked a backlash.

On Tuesday, protesters started stockpiling supplies ahead of the National Day holiday. Hong Kong has also cancelled the firework display held annually on October 1 to celebrate the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

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Social media such as Twitter, Facebook and WeChat and communication apps such as FireChat have exploded with images of the huge demonstration in Hong Kong – the only place in China where people can protest without retribution.

People created hashtags for #OccupyHongKong and #UmbrellaRevolution, in a reference to the umbrellas that protesters used to protect themselves from tear gas.

Chinese censors have blocked Instagram to prevent images of the protesters on Hong Kong’s streets being seen in the mainland. They also blocked searches for terms such as “tear gas” and “Occupy Central” – one of the democracy groups leading the protests – on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service.

“Hong Kong people have never let me down,” said Martin Lee, a 76-year-old democracy activist, adding that Sunday’s protest was the “most dramatic” of his life.

The protests in Hong Kong have spilled over into Taiwan where about 100 demonstrators on Monday called for the immediate end of economic and political talks with China to show solidarity with Hong Kong.

Since Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the territory has been ruled under the “one country, two systems” formula agreed by Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping. China later agreed to introduce universal suffrage – one person, one vote – for the election of chief executive, the top political job in Hong Kong.

But when China launched the plan last month, critics called it a “sham democracy”. Potential candidates for chief executive would need support from a majority of the 1,200 members of a nomination committee that is stacked with Beijing loyalists.

Source: FT

www.shafaqna.com/english

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