'The People Are Acting, And Heaven is Watching'

A commentary by Bao Tong
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Demonstrators gather in front of a government building in Hong Kong, Sept. 29, 2014.
Demonstrators gather in front of a government building in Hong Kong, Sept. 29, 2014.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on the Chinese authorities to resolve their differences with protesters in Hong Kong peacefully. I agree with this. He didn't interfere in China's internal affairs; he put it forward as a suggestion, in good faith.

Some differences of opinion aren't urgent, and progress comes when they are resolved. It's best that there is a peaceful settlement, with maximum gain at the smallest possible cost.

But problems must be solved. And the need to do so peacefully shouldn't be used as an excuse for not addressing them at all. Such is the summation of experience of a people who have been lied to over a very long period of time.

These difference are over elections.

In 1997, the Chinese government made a promise to Hong Kong that they would have universal suffrage after 20 years.

Seventeen years later, with only three years left to go, the National People's Congress (NPC) standing committee told Hong Kong people that candidates would have to be approved by a body set up by Beijing, and that Hong Kong people could only choose from among candidates pre-selected by the government, thus effectively taking away the right of the voters to nominate candidates.

So the protesters' call for universal suffrage is a call for elections according to international standards.

Demands declared 'illegal'

The protesters' demands have been declared to be "illegal" by some people.

If universal suffrage is illegal, then the Chinese government is guilty of such illegality, as are all reformers, should international standards be also declared "illegal."

At first, the campaigners called for a peaceful dialogue, according to law. But the NPC standing committee refused, as did the chief executive [of Hong Kong].

So the protesters staged a peaceful, and legal, demonstration. This demonstration was then declared to be "illegal."

Prior to this, some of the advocates of fake universal suffrage also staged a demonstration, winning recognition, protection and reward from the chief executive.

But when the advocates of genuine universal suffrage marched in protest, they were met with police firing tear gas. Those winning the protection of the chief executive in this case were the 87 public servants who fired tear gas at citizens.

So who is acting legally, and who is breaking the law? Who has continued in an indomitable search for a peaceful solution to the problem, and who has stubbornly refused to solve it?

'Heaven is watching'

The people are acting, and Heaven is watching. The whole of Hong Kong, the whole of mainland China, the whole world cares about this. They care about peace, they care about justice, and they care about civilization.

Hong Kong people are civilized, rational, peaceful, strong, and on the side of justice. But no one achieves a mighty goal with just a single battle.

Now, these worthy protesters have won a brilliant and historic first round. They have clearly distinguished right from wrong, exposed hypocrisy, and sounded the alarm, displaying the unstoppable will and power of Hong Kong people when it comes to fighting for freedom and democracy.

Up until this point, few second- and third-rate voices have been heard. The central government hasn't made a formal statement. How the Chinese government reacts will determine its place in the hearts of the people.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.





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