Hong Kong protest: Why are pro-democracy supporters staging a sit-in?

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SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A mass-sit in is being staged by thousands of pro-democracy supporters angry at China’s decision not to allow the citizens of the former British colony free choice in who their next leader is.

The fast-moving, non-violent civil disobedience, known as the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement, formally began in the early hours of Sunday morning aiming to paralyse an administrative area of Hong Kong and place pressure on the Beijing establishment. The protesters are camped outside the government headquarters and have now had their site sealed off by police.

The demonstration was actually due to start on Wednesday but was brought forward after informal and unrelated action began late on Friday started by students, with a sit-in aiming to reclaim Hong Kong’s Tamar site, which is also known as Civic Square.

What had Beijing decreed that protesters are not happy about?

Elections for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive – its leader – is due to take place in 2017 and for the first time will use votes from the general public.

However last month, China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) ruled out further voting reforms, meaning that only the candidates that Beijing approves of can run.

The four previous Chief Executives – following the end of British rule in 1997 – were elected by a committee of 1,200 people, many of whom had strong ties to China. This committee size has grown from 400 in 1996.

Though China declared that its bold move to allow “universal suffrage” for the 2017 elections is something “we should all feel proud of”, it didn’t go far enough for the protesters, who criticised it as still muzzling those with differing political views.

Occupy Central said in a statement at the time: “Genuine universal suffrage includes both the rights to elect and to be elected.

“The decision of the NPC Standing Committee has deprived people with different political views of the right to run for election and be elected by imposing unreasonable restrictions, thereby perpetuating ‘handpicked politics’.”

Today’s statement added: “The two nights of occupation of Civic Square in Admiralty have completely embodied the awakening of Hong Kong people’s desire to decide their own lives.

“The courage of the students and members of the public in their spontaneous decision stay has touched many Hong Kong people. Yet, the government has remained unmoved. As the wheel of time has reached this point, we have decided to arise and act.”

Who initiated Occupy Central?

A law professor called Benny Tai Yiu-ting, who started the campaign in January 2013.

What is the police and governmental response to today’s formal sit-in?

Police have sealed off the site at Tamar, leaving hundreds of other people not able to reach that protest blocking other thoroughfares instead, the South China Morning Post says. It is thought there are as many as 30,000 people in and around the protest.

The current Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, has implored people not to participate in “illegal” protests.

He also said today that the government will start a new round of consultations on electoral reform shortly, according to Reuters, though there was no mention of when this would be.

Some violent clashes happened in the two days until Sunday, with riot police targeting students with pepper spray and arresting at least 78.

Protesters are today equipped with umbrellas, goggles and masks ready for further confrontations with police and possible further pepper praying as officers warned people to “leave now, for the sake of their personal safety”.

Source: The Independent

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