Pro-democracy crowds return to Hong Kong streets

Anti-occupy central protesters attend a rally against pro-democracy protesters at a main street in Hong Kong's Mongkok shopping district on Sunday.  

Protests in Hong Kong continue to follow a roller-coaster path, with huge crowds which have once again converged on the streets, facing a Monday ultimatum by authorities to disperse.

After a sharp decline in mobilisation following an initial high, crowds supporting the protests surged yet again on Saturday night in the Admiralty area, the political heart of Hong Kong. The build-up followed calls for a demonstration of street power by protests leaders, after the government earlier stepped back from proposed

talks, which it said were possible only if the agitators stayed at home.

But in the back-and-forth between the protesters and the authorities, it was now the government’s turn to warn students to clear the roads by Monday. In a televised address on Saturday, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying, made it plain that the protesters would have to be dispersed by Monday morning so that normality could return. He warned that officials and police would take “all necessary actions” to restore order. Student leaders, taking the ultimatum seriously are hinting at a via media-provide access lanes through which government vehicles can pass, without abandoning the protests.

At the Saturday night rally at Admiralty, Benny Tai, one of the leaders of the Occupy Central movement, told the crowd: “We only target CY [Leung], not other government officials. By opening a route, CY will have no reason or excuse to clear our occupation and spread foul rumours.” His assertion also marked the return of the demand for the Chief Executive’s resignation, which had been dropped earlier ahead of the proposed talks.

While the students gathered in strength, their movement did not appear to find significant support among a broad section of the working class. The construction workers union of Hong Kong exhorted the protesters to leave the streets. Taxi drivers, whose incomes have shrunk on account of the blockades, also urged protesters occupying main roads on Hong Kong to head home as soon as possible.

As the tussle on the ground persisted, the agitation is acquiring a larger context, after People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese government, launched a scathing attack on the United States government, the U.S. media and NGOs for attempting a “colour revolution” in Hong Kong.

Broadening the perspective on the protests, the daily, citing “media reports” asserted that Louisa Greve, a director of the National Endowment for Democracy of the US (NED), was already meeting with the key people from "Occupy Central" several months ago, to talk about the movement. “For many years, her name has frequently appeared on reports about "Tibetan independence", "eastern Turkistan", "democracy movement" and other forces destabilising Chinese affairs and interfering with the Chinese government. She also hosted or participated in conferences about the "Arab spring" and the "Colour Revolutions" of other regions,” the newspaper observed. 

It also pointed to an open letter published by three former consul-generals in Hong Kong criticising the nomination committee system, which would vet candidates eligible for elections for the Chief Executive's post in the 2017 polls, as illustration of interference in China’s domestic affairs. The daily slammed that U.S. for purporting to promote “ the "universal values" of "democracy", "freedom" and "human rights", but in reality the US is simply defending its own strategic interests and undermining governments it considers to be "insubordinate".” The daily warned that “on the issue of Hong Kong it (the U.S.) stands little chance of overcoming the determination of the Chinese government to maintain stability and prosperity”.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 3:27:30 PM |

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