Planned Hong Kong Protest Trip to Beijing 'Not a Challenge': Student Leaders

china-hk-chow-and-chung-announcement-nov-13-2014.jpg Alex Chow (R) announces his plan to travel to Beijing along with fellow student union leaders Eason Chung (L) and Nathan Law (not pictured), Nov. 13, 2014.

Student leaders of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement say they are planning to travel to Beijing on Saturday in a bid to get a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) leader Alex Chow told protesters encamped near government headquarters in the downtown Admiralty district that he would head to China along with fellow student union leaders Eason Chung and Nathan Law.

"In traveling to Beijing, the student federation is seeking to challenge the authority of the central government," the HKFS said in statement.

"We just want to talk about two things: electoral reforms and 'one country, two systems'," it said, referring to the formula conceived by late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping to allow Hong Kong to return to China.

The statement hit out at pro-Beijing politicians and government officials in Hong Kong for failing to "exercise their constitutional duty" and act as a bridge between the "two systems."

"They have failed to provide a channel for the views of Hong Kong people to be heard under 'one country, two systems,'" it said.

The move comes after the Hong Kong government said there is "no room" for further dialogue with student protest leaders following a two-hour live television debate between students and Hong Kong officials on Oct. 21.

Protest demands

Occupy Central protesters have been encamped on three major roads and intersections in Hong Kong since Sept. 28, when police use of tear-gas and pepper spray against umbrella-wielding protesters brought hundreds of thousands of citizens onto the streets at the movement's height.

But Hong Kong officials have repeatedly told the protesters to leave, saying that Beijing won't withdraw an Aug. 31 decision ruling out public nomination of candidates in the 2017 election for the chief executive.

China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), said that while Hong Kong's five million voters will cast a ballot to elect the next chief executive, they may only choose between two or three candidates approved by a pro-Beijing committee.

Protesters and pan-democratic politicians, who currently only have around seven percent of the nominating committee vote compared with 56 percent of the popular vote in the last legislative election, have dismissed the proposed electoral reforms as "fake universal suffrage."

Hong Kong activists are also angry at the British government for failing to stand up to Beijing over what they say are breaches of a 1983 treaty setting out the terms of the handover.

Chinese president Xi Jinping called the protests "illegal" earlier this week, while President Barack Obama has denied any U.S. involvement in the movement, following accusations in the ruling Chinese Communist Party's official media.

A banner which reads “determined to fight” is displayed at a protest encampment in Kowloon's Mongkok district, Nov. 14, 2014. Credit: RFA
A banner which reads “determined to fight” is displayed at a protest encampment in Kowloon's Mongkok district, Nov. 14, 2014. Credit: RFA
Hope for meeting

Chow said the three student representatives are traveling to Beijing in the hope of meeting with Premier Li Keqiang.

However, repeated attempts to set up meetings with Chinese leaders via pro-Beijing politicians from Hong Kong have failed, and it is unclear whether the three will even be allowed to cross the internal border to mainland China.

Hong Kong was promised a 'high degree of autonomy' and the preservation of traditional freedoms of speech and association under the terms of its 1997 handover from Britain to China.

Its citizens are issued with a special travel permit for trips to mainland China, but border guards have been known to deny entry to Hong Kong-based critics of Beijing in the past.

Protesters have clashed sporadically with anti-Occupy protesters, who claim growing public support.

And they face possible clearance of barriers blocking roads they are camping on, under civil injunctions granted by the city's High Court to transportation industry groups, who say they are losing business because of blocked bus and tram routes.


On Thursday, the High Court rejected a bid by protesters to delay implementation of injunctions, leading to accusations of bias from Occupy protesters.

"I think this is very bad," one protester surnamed Leung told RFA. "I feel as if the court has been supporting the other side all along."

"I am very worried, because the court has authorized police involvement in clearing the barricades," Leung said. "I am worried they will try to force us to leave."

Police have been authorized by the High Court to arrest anyone obstructing court bailiffs in unblocking the roads, but a lawyer for the transportation groups said the injunctions won't be enforced before next Monday.

Even political commentators have been divided on the protesters, with older pro-democracy voices calling for a strategic withdrawal.

"To say that they will stay there until Hong Kong has universal suffrage sounds very courageous, but what they're really saying is they will interfere with other people's daily lives until Hong Kong has universal suffrage," Hu Ping, editor of the U.S.-based online political magazine Beijing Spring, said in a recent commentary carried by RFA's Mandarin Service.

"The freedom to protest is a basic freedom, like the freedom of speech and publication, but people don't usually infringe on other people's freedoms in exercising it," he said.

"In this respect, Occupy Central is unlike other peaceful gatherings."

He said parallels between the pro-democracy movement and the civil rights campaign in the U.S. are strained, because black civil rights activists deliberately disobeyed segregation laws that discriminated against them.

Xi to blame

But Hu Shaojiang, a former banker and Hong Kong-based political commentator, placed the blame on President Xi, saying the protesters are only asking for promises made by Deng Xiaoping to be kept.

"Xi Jinping should implement this promise, because it won't harm China's international interests to do so," Hu wrote in a commentary for RFA's Cantonese Service.

"The problem is that China's ruling party can't tolerate a leader of Hong Kong who doesn't do as they are told," he said.

"The only route left open to them is to revoke the promise of Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong."

Reported by Fung Tze-yue for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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