People Power Comes To Hong Kongby Doug Mataconis
If the Chinese Communists thought that it would just be business as usual when they took over the former British colongy of Hong Kong in 1997, it appears that they may be sadly mistaken:
Hong Kong pro-democracy leader Martin Lee said that citizens of the former British colony have no option but to use “people power” in a bid to pressure Beijing for greater freedom. Ahead of a mass democracy rally in Hong Kong on Sunday, Lee blamed the Chinese-administered territory’s chief executive Donald Tsang “for not reflecting the strong aspirations of the people of Hong Kong to Beijing.”
“The people of Hong Kong have no other option but to show solidarity by joining together by taking part in peaceful assembly to voice our aspirations, to let the Beijing leaders know we really want and deserve democracy,” Lee told a public forum in Washington.
The source of this call for protests appers to be the fact that the Chinese are reneging on committments to greater democracy they made when they took over the city from the British:
When Britain handed sovereignty of Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the post-colonial constitution, or Basic Law, provided for the eventual full democratic election of the territory’s leaders.
However, the timing of the provision was hotly debated and led to a political dispute between Hong Kong democrats and communist leaders in Beijing.
Beijing reinterpreted the provision in April 2004 and ruled out a swift transition to full elections by 2007, apparently fearing it could spark political instability in the rest of China.
And there’s the key. If China allows full democracy in Hong Kong, then what are the people in Shanghai, Beijing, and elsewhere going to think ? China is becoming more interconnected every day, and news of democratic elections in Hong Kong will quickly spread elsewhere.
And, it appears that the people of Hong Kong are willing to fight to gain the freedom they were promised:
Lee urged the international community to support the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, reminding them of their backing of a 1984 Sino-British declaration under which Hong Kong was returned to China with an assurance of a high degree of autonomy except on defence and foreign policy.
“Ideally, we don’t have to take to the streets but let’s be realistic. Democracy doesn’t often fall from the sky, it doesn’t find itself in a silver platter. I think the people of Hong Kong realise that ultimately it is for us to fight for democracy although any help from overseas is greatly appreciated,” Lee said.
And how is the rest of the world reacting to these developments?
“Hong Kong in the eyes of Britain, which is a signatory to the Sino-British Declaration, is nothing more than trade (which) is so important they would not sacrifice the opportunity to get more business from China than take a principled stand,” he said. “I am happy to say the US government is different.”
Speaking as an American, that is a reassuring thing to hear.
Cross-posted at Below The Beltway