In a direct appeal to Chinese President Xi Jinping, students behind the mass pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have asked him to repeal a decision restricting election reforms in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, vowing to sacrifice their lives for political change.
As the protests entered its third week, the Hong Kong Federation of Students and activist group Scholarism said in an open letter to Xi that they had "high hope" for him "to take this matter closely," blaming Hong Kong's embattled leader C.Y. Leung for not being "honest" to Beijing about the people's aspirations for democracy.
"For the sake of a democratic political system, fellow students are willing to give up their studies or even risk their lives" to back their key demand for public nomination of candidates in 2017 polls for the post of Hong Kong chief executive, the city’s top leader, according to an English translation of the letter posted on the HKFS website.
Thousands in Hong Kong have taken to the streets to protest an Aug. 31 decision by China's main parliamentary body, the National People's Congress (NPC) that while Hong Kongers will be able to vote for Leung's successor in 2017, only two or three vetted candidates will be allowed to stand — an arrangement the protesters dismiss as "fake universal suffrage."
The letter charged that the NPC decision was based on an "untrue report" by Leung, who the student groups said failed to consider the wishes of 700,000 Hong Kong residents who voted in an online referendum supporting public nominations for the chief executive's position.
"If the Hong Kong government had been honest about public opinion, they would have confessed to their fault, rectify and, most importantly, include Hong Kong people’s genuine wishes in the direction of electoral reform," the letter said.
Anti-Occupy group members shout slogans as they take part in a protest march, Oct. 12, 2014. (AFP Photo)
The letter reminded Xi that in mainland China, voters could nominate their local governments.
"Civil nomination, therefore, has its legal ground. There can be no reasons for the Hong Kong government to fear practicing civil nomination."
Beijing's ruling Chinese Communist Party leaders have administered Hong Kong since its 1997 handover from Britain, using the "one country, two systems" formula, which allows wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed by cities on the mainland.
The student groups in their letter moved to allay concerns in Beijing that a vibrant democracy in Hong Kong could lay the groundwork for similar demands in mainland China that may cause a possible breakup of the country.
"The occupy movement today in Hong Kong is definitely not a color revolution or its alike, but rather a movement for democracy," they said.
At the weekend in Hong Kong, demonstrators continued to occupy key sections of the regional financial hub, blocking major roads as they camped out in dozens of tents.
They vowed to continue their protests until the government responds to these demands.
Leung's office last week decided to call off scheduled negotiations with students, whose key demands are full democracy and his resignation.Defiant
Leung remains defiant in the face of the demands, saying in a Sunday television interview that the pro-democracy protesters have an "almost zero chance" of reversing Beijing's decision on election reforms, and maintaining that he would not resign.
He told local channel TVB Sunday that the protests had "spiraled out of control" and police may use a "minimum amount of force" if the protests sites had to be cleared.
Calls for Leung to step down escalated after police used tear gas, pepper spray, and batons on demonstrations two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, a Hong Kong pro-government group has set an ultimatum to the authorities to dismantle three sites the protesters have closed to traffic by Tuesday night.
"If the HK government will not do that, we're planning to surround those people who occupy Mong Kok, Causeway Bay and Admiralty," Tsoi Hak-kin, vice chairman of the pro-government movement told Agence France-Presse.
"Hong Kong people have suffered too much," Tsoi said, without giving further details of how or when the group would surround sites that have attracted tens of thousands in the past two weeks, far outnumbering the turnout of counter-protesters.Reported by RFA's Cantonese and Mandarin Services. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.