Commentary: The Hong Kong pro-democracy movement compared to other nonviolent freedom struggles, part 2

In my last piece, I compared the Hong Kong democracy movement to other nonviolent freedom struggles, focusing on three ultimately successful ones, the Indian independence struggle, the US civil rights movement, and the eastern European fight against Communist dictatorship. While these movements are today regarded retrospectively as successes, we noted that what they have in common is that 1) they took decades to accomplish their aims and 2) they required a deus ex machina beyond their control as a catalyst for realization of their aims (respectively, World War II, Lyndon Baines Johnson and Gorbachev). The conclusion drawn from the comparison is that freedom struggles are often long, hard and uncertain, and rarely are freedom struggles powerful enough in themselves to accomplish their aims; they usually need other forces to align with their interests. Those struggling for freedom must persevere even when the outcome appears highly uncertain and distant. They must continue to exist until the opportune moment.

Today I look at some ‘failed’ freedom struggles, namely China ‘89, Iran ’77-‘79, Burma ’88-’90, and Egypt ’11-present. Note that all four of those countries are still ruled by authoritarian regimes.

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17 tweets in response to Liu Xiaoming’s attack on Chris Patten for ‘rankest hypocrisy’

Liu Xiaoming’s attack in the Telegraph.

Hong Kong has not, as Lord Patten appears to believe, been bequeathed democracy by Britain. For more than a century and a half, Britain had total responsibility for the territory – and did nothing to encourage or produce democracy. It is therefore the rankest hypocrisy of people such as Lord Patten to criticise China for any perceived failings to introduce democracy.
— Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to the UK

1. Since Liu Xiaoming is so interested in history & ‘rankest hypocrisy’, we’ll take up the matter ourselves in the following tweets.

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Did Reuters Get Lost in Translation Over Official Quote?

12 September 2014 | Hong Wrong

Reuters apparently scored quite a scoop yesterday when it quoted an official offering up what amounts to a death threat against a local pro-democracy figure…

According to the article, two anonymous sources confirmed that Zhang Xiaoming, the head of Hong Kong’s China Liaison Office, made the comment to pro-democracy lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung when asked whether a democrat could ever become Chief Executive.

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Taiwan Backs Democracy Movement in Hong Kong

12 Sept 2014 | Voice of America

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Wu Mei-hung urged the governments in Hong Kong and Beijing to use tolerance.

She said that with respect to the Hong Kong people’s desire for universal suffrage, her office and every segment of Taiwan expresses a high level of concern and support. Wu said her office hopes the Hong Kong government and leaders in mainland China can use wisdom, tolerance of different opinions and rational dialogue and other peaceful means to reach a consensus.

Lai I-chung, vice president of Taiwan Think Tank, said Hong Kong has lost its appeal for Taiwanese since Communist China took it back from Britain.

“I think they’re now looking at Hong Kong as a place that’s a Chinese territory. Since Taiwan democratized and Hong Kong is reverting back to China, Hong Kong is no longer presented as a new place for hope or place for modernity, not a place Taiwan would like to learn from,” said I-Chung.

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Showdown in Hong Kong

Zoher Abdoolcarim | 11 September 2014 | Time

Beijing must realize that the territory’s openness is what gives it real value to China

To China’s leaders, what’s different about Hong Kong is what makes it dangerous. Some local activists have called for the end to Communist Party rule of the mainland, making them, from Beijing’s standpoint, subversives. Beijing’s harder and more intimidating line toward Hong Kong reflects its harder and more intimidating line at home and toward much of the rest of the world. If powers like the U.S. and Russia are reluctant to challenge China, goes the thinking in Beijing, who is tiny Hong Kong to do so?

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Commentary: ‘When you’re pushed around, what else can you do?’ – The dilemma of Hong Kong people in facing a big bully

Our friend the accountant is, typical of a certain sort of Hong Kong person, generally apolitical. Whatever else you might say about him, he certainly isn’t a rabble-rouser. But that was his sympathetic comment about Occupy Central: “When you’re pushed around, what else can you do?” To him, Occupy Central is a logical response to bullying: Either you back down and comply with the bully’s wishes, or you stand up to the bully- there isn’t much middle ground. In a nutshell, that is the dilemma Hong Kong faces at the moment—what to do with a big bully.

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A Chinese Author Takes On China

Steven Thompson | 10 September 2014 | Asia Sentinel

How much did Joe Chung anger the Hong Kong and Beijing establishment, and what were the results?

Chung was one of the most controversial authors on the popular but now-defunct House News, a Hong Kong-based news website and content aggregator founded by former radio personality Tony Tsoi and others to cover covers politics, business, lifestyle, media, and local news.

Tsoi abruptly killed the site on July 26 despite a readership of 300,000 unique visitors a day. He has been incommunicado since.  However, in a notation on the website, he said he and his family were under pressure and that he was particularly fearful of what he called the White Terror.

Some observers credit Chung’s aggressiveness as one of the factors in the closure. Among other articles, his allegations of academic plagiarism of Xi Jinping’s PhD were believed to have caused House News to be shut down for several days due to hacking allegedly carried out by Chinese hackers.

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“Don’t let the striking students stand alone” – An appeal from and views of a group of teachers and staff at tertiary education institutes

Chinese

The August 31st decision by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Hong Kong’s Chief Executive election stated that the threshold for nomination would be the support of “more than half of Nominating Committee members”, that the number of candidates be limited to two or three, and that the composition of the Nominating Committee be based on the four sectors of the Election Committee. As teachers and as citizens, we are pained and outraged to see the advancement of democracy in Hong Kong stifled and suppressed. Even though it is unlikely that democratic universal suffrage can be realized in the short term, we absolutely must not give up. During these dark days, we must resolutely guard our stations and stand together to shoulder the responsibility of our time.

A new round of protests in the form of class boycotts is currently being discussed and planned in the education sector. When we look back at history, both in China and overseas, we see that student movements have been an important force in pushing for social progress. Our hope in Hong Kong’s future lies in the passion and spirit shown by our young people and their willingness to take up the mantle in the fight for democracy and social justice.

Yet, while the students are pure of heart, they have recently become subject to unreasonable smears and attacks. We appeal to all sectors of society, and particularly to our colleagues in the education field, to cherish the innocent hearts of the students – do not let them stand alone to face the white terror, give them our staunchest support and protection. During the class boycott action, every student should have freedom from fear.

Here follows some specific suggestions for consideration by colleagues:

  1. As citizens of society, tertiary students have the freedom ofassociation and expression; they have the right to express their opinions onpolitical issues and teachers should respect this. Student movements provide great opportunities for civic education. We suggest that teachers discuss issues with students in an interactive way and in an atmosphere of mutual respect; encourage students to care about society and to make independent and rational judgments.
  2. As class boycotts may affect day-to-day teaching, we call on teachers to be understanding of students’ difficulties. While upholding educational principles, we hope teachers can be lenient in dealing with student absences arising from class boycotts. We also suggest that teachers should, as much as possible, avoid setting any important tests or assignments during the period of the class boycott.
  3. We urge teachers to do as much as they can to allow striking students to catch up with their studies. For example, they could provide make-up classes, offer guidance and classroom audio/visual recordings to help students complete their academic requirements smoothly.
  4. Colleagues in the education sector and other sectors of society can show their support to the striking students during the period of the class boycott by wearing yellow ribbons.

Link

A lot left to play for (and our fate is in our hands)

Our last piece two days ago, “A resolute no to fake democracy”, argued that the Chinese Communist Party’s vision for Hong Kong as articulated in the National People’s Congress Standing Committee decision of August 31 is far worse than no reform at all. Following on that, this piece argues that while the CCP has shown clearly that it has no intention of allowing genuine universal suffrage in Hong Kong any time soon, if ever, there are still important objectives for the pro-democracy movement to accomplish, and we have the power to do so.

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China Restricts Voting Reforms for Hong Kong

Chris Buckley and Michael Forsythe | 31 Aug 2014 | New York Times

HONG KONG — China’s legislature laid down strict limits on Sunday to proposed voting reforms in Hong Kong, pushing back against months of rallies calling for free, democratic elections.

Occupy Central says it will engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to avoid major disruption. Its organizers have said that they do not plan to plunge into mass protests immediately.

“We’re not making threats, we’re just sending warning signals,” said Mr. Tai, the group’s co-founder. “The house is on fire, something has to be done.”

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Hon Sir Richard Ottaway MP: We plan to continue with our inquiry

3 Sept 2014 | Foreign Affairs Committee

The Committee also published letters from the Chinese government and Hong Kong Trade Office threatening the UK to refrain from “interfering in China’s internal affairs.”

Hon Sir Richard Ottaway MP, Chairman of the Committee:

“I want to be quite clear that we are not seeking to interfere in China’s internal affairs. What we are investigating is the FCO’s ongoing assessment of the implementation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, under which sovereignty over Hong Kong was transferred to China. That is part of our role in oversight of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and it is an entirely legitimate interest of the Committee. We will also consider other aspects of how the FCO handles the relationship between the UK and Hong Kong, such as business and cultural ties.

We plan to continue with our inquiry, and I very much hope that we can find a way, through discussion with the Chinese authorities, for China to make a contribution to our understanding of how the principles of the Joint Declaration are being put into practice.”

Artists’ Petition and Statements against NPC’s Ruling

2 Sept 2014 | Facebook Album

China’s betrayal of Hong Kong

 2 Sept 2014 | Chicago Tribune

It’s enough to make you think you can’t trust a repressive authoritarian regime to honor its word. For years, the Chinese government had assured the people of Hong Kong that by 2017 they would be allowed to elect the city’s leader. On Sunday, though, it might as well have said, “It depends on the meaning of the word ‘elect.'”

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Occupy Central’s Greatest Weapon – The Law!

2 Sept 2014 | Rich Scotford | China Op-eds

Beijing wants a subjugated Hong Kong like Macau is today. High on money, low on morals and locked-down on any real freedoms. That’s the model they desire for Hong Kong. However, the political awakening that is happening in Hong Kong now rejects this model for the city. The students are now the foot soldiers in an opening front to protect the Rule OF Law in Hong Kong. The students know they can go onto the street and break the law in a small way to prove that the law is still just.

The CPC can not play this kind of game in Hong Kong yet without becoming the biggest loser. Currently the laws of Hong Kong are steadfast and are guarded by a robust and dynamic internationally recognised legal system. If things get bad, Beijing can throw out all the laws of Hong Kong  and declare a state of emergency and impose marital law on the city – but if they do this, they lose. They lose an international city and the Hong Kong stock markets will crash and China will be an international pariah once more. Enormous proportions of the CPC’s wealth will be lost in a HK crash. Most Hong Kongers on the streets at the time will not care if the HK Stock Exchange collapses, Why? Because they have no interest there. That ship sailed for them years ago. Most Hong Kongers can barely afford housing or schooling, let alone stocks. Even Hong Kong’s once influential middle class have been pushed out of this market and struggle to survive in a city dominated by CPC corrupt money,  The CPC will be the biggest loser in any lock down of the city. They will effectively be killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

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British parliament rejects Chinese call to halt Hong Kong democracy probe

Kylie Maclellan and Andrew Osborn | 2 Sept 2014 | Reuters

Britain’s parliament has rejected Chinese calls to scrap an inquiry into Hong Kong’s progress towards democracy, a senior lawmaker said, warning that reforms there may violate a 1984 deal on the former British colony’s sovereignty.

Richard Ottaway:

“My job is to see if Britain is living up to its side of the undertakings and secondly if China isn’t living up to their undertakings then what is the British government doing about it. This is not interfering in the internal affairs of China; that would be completely inappropriate.” 

“If you have a committee which is not neutral in nominating a limited number of candidates, there seems to be a prima facie case that the undertakings given have been breached. I don’t particularly want to irritate the Chinese. I want them to understand the way we work.”

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