China slams protests but crackdown unlikely

China has slammed the “occupy central” movement in Hong Kong, but may not order a crackdown in anticipation of a turnaround in public opinion if the protests prolong.

The government has made it clear that it would not subscribe to any of the two core demands of the opposition: a change in Beijing’s position on the mechanics of the 2017 elections in Hong Kong, or the resignation of its Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

The authorities in China, where, for the first time on Tuesday, martyrs day was observed in memory of those who had fallen in the struggle for Independence, have firmly rejected comments by foreign governments on the fluid situation in Hong Kong. As the United States called for governance by “the rule of law” in Hong Kong, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying asserted that foreign governments should not send the “wrong signals” and interfere in China’s “internal affairs”.

Ms. Hua said that the central authorities in Beijing oppose “all kinds of illegal acts in Hong Kong that undermine the rule of law and sabotage social security and fully believes and strongly supports the lawful handling of the case by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government”.

Analysts point out that the basic accusation by the opposition, which has become one of the main rallying points of the agitation, that Beijing reneged from its promise not to interfere in the selection of eligible candidates for the 2017 polls is based on a false premise. An article posted on the website of the

Hong Kong based Asia Times points out that Article 45 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, which became the effective constitution of Hong Kong upon reversion in 1997 calls for “universal suffrage to vote for candidates put forth by a nominating committee, not universal suffrage in the nomination as well as election process, which is the Occupy Hong Kong movement's demand”. However, the daily notes that the alienation of many Hong Kong people, particularly those on the younger side of an increasingly stark generational divide, toward the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the disruptions that PRC citizens have brought to the economic and social life of the city, is “profound”.

In Hong Kong, Mr. Leung, the chief administrator, far from signalling that he could step down, on Tuesday exhorted thousands of protesters, who had intermittently gathered in the streets, to disperse. “Occupy Central founders had said repeatedly that if the movement is getting out of control, they would call for it to stop,” observed Mr. Leung. “I’m now asking them to fulfil the promise they made to society, and stop this campaign immediately.”

Following the caught-on-camera, extensive use of tear gas earlier by the police, which provided an emotive edge to the protests, the daily, Global Times, affiliated to the Chinese Communist Party, counselled restraint to tackle the dissent. While asking authorities to stay firm on basic issues, it advised the central and Hong Kong governments to “exercise a certain degree of restraint in handling the shutdown of the city's financial areas, so as to leave some time for local people to realise the harm done by the protesters' illegal acts”.

While the protesters are still a dominant force, anti-occupy forces, including the “Silent Majority,” group are also beginning to assert themselves in the streets of Hong Kong.

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 4:55:36 PM |

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