HONG KONG – Hong Kong roads were filled of protesters, mostly students who demand absolute democracy against People’s Republic of China on Monday.
China rules Hong Kong under a “one country, two systems” formula that accords the territory limited democracy. This formula guarantees Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, with universal suffrage set as an eventual goal.
However, Beijing last month rejected demands for people to freely choose the city’s next leader, prompting threats from activists to shut down the Central business district.
China wants to limit 2017 elections to a handful of candidates loyal to Beijing. Its insistence on using a committee to screen candidates on the basis of their patriotism to China- similar to the one that currently hand-picks Hong Kong’s leaders- has stoked fears among pro-democracy groups that Hong Kong will never get genuine democracy.
Although the protest has been spearheaded largely by student activists, it has gathered momentum among a broad range of people from high school students to the elderly. Protesters also occupied streets in other parts of Hong Kong island including the upscale shopping area of Causeway Bay as well as across the harbour in densely populated MongKok on the Kowloon peninsula.
“We need to strike for freedom and for our democracy. We’ve come to Mongkok because it’s very dangerous now in Central and Admiralty,” 20-year-old student Calvin Chan told AFP.
As riot police withdrew on Monday, weary protesters slept beside roads or sheltered from the sun beneath umbrellas, which have become a symbol of what some are calling the “Umbrella Revolution”.
“Yes, it’s going to get violent again because the Hong Kong government isn’t going to stand for us occupying this area,” Nicola Cheung, 18-year-old student from Baptist University said. “We are fighting for our core values of democracy and freedom, and that is not something violence can scare us away from,” she added.
Meanwhile, the protests are expected to escalate on Oct. 1, China’s National Day holiday, with residents of the nearby former Portuguese enclave of Macau planning a rally. Pro-democracy supporters from other countries are also expected to protest, causing Beijing further embarrassment.
The movement represents one of the biggest threats for Beijing’s Communist Party leadership since its bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy student protests in and around Tiananmen Square.
ARCHIE FAYE V. BELCHES
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