As China Plays Waiting Game, 'Umbrella Revolution' Vows Escalation
Pro-democracy movement leaders say that if their demands are not met, they will move to take over government buildings
Leaders of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong on Wednesday used China's National Holiday to announce their determination to escalate tactics against what they see as unjust rule by the pro-Beijing government that now controls seven million people who live in the former British colony.
Though the Wall Street Journal reports that Hong Kong's chief executive Leung Chun-ying, taking orders from Beijing, has determined the best course of action is to "wait out protesters" that have held central sections of the city since last week, the leaders of the movement—first initiated with a call to Occupy Central with Peace and Love but now broadly referred to as the 'Umbrella Revolution'—say that they don't plan to wait much longer for their demands to be met.
As CNN reports:
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon (local time), the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the main protest organizing groups, said that they were prepared to up the campaign of civil disobedience if the chief executive did not resign.
"If C.Y. Leung doesn't step down by tonight or tomorrow night, we will announce (plans) to escalate the operation" Lester Shum, one of the organization's figureheads, said. "This means: to occupy different important government buildings."
The student movement also ruled out direct discussions with the chief executive, C.Y. Leung.
"We are open to negotiate with the Hong Kong and Chinese government, but we will not talk to C.Y. Leung," Shum said.
According to the South China Morning Post, if the demonstrators follow through with their promises of escalation, it "would almost inevitably lead to physical confrontation with security agencies."
Offering an informative background primer on the political tensions in Hong Kong on Wednesday, the Guardian's Jonathan Kaiman points out:
The civil disobedience campaign is about more than open elections – it’s about the future of the city’s relationship with Beijing. Hong Kong residents say that over the past few years, the central government has been slowly and systematically tightening its grip over the city, leading them to feel politically marginalised and economically squeezed. Real estate markets have flooded with mainland money, making home ownership prohibitively expensive. Local media outlets have begun to rigorously self-censor, for fear of losing advertisers. Outspoken voices have been threatened, even attacked.
Echoes of Tiananmen
The main question burning in the minds of most Hong Kongers is how this will all end – and almost everyone involved can surmise a worst-case scenario. Hong Kong’s former security chief Regina Ip said on Monday that the city government fears a “mini-Tiananmen” – presumably that the protests would be violently dispersed, perhaps by the Chinese military. Nobody wants to see a repeat of 4 June 1989, when Beijing dispatched the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to open fire on peaceful pro-democracy protesters. The PLA maintains a garrison in Hong Kong, but Leung said in a televised address on Monday morning that the Hong Kong government would not call in the troops. Chinese state media has also emphasised the central government’s confidence in Hong Kong authorities to deal with the protests themselves. That said, the protests continue to escalate, and Beijing seems ready to stand its ground, no matter what the cost.
At formal National Day celebrations—marking the 65th anniversary of Chinese self-rule under the Communist Party—students, including 17-year-old pro-democracy leader Joshua Wong, showed their disdain for the lack of democratic protections at a flag-raising ceremony in the city. Again from CNN:
Led by Wong, who was arrested Friday during critical protests before being released two days later, the group silently turned their backs and raised their arms in crosses as the Chinese and Hong Kong flags were raised.
"We crossed our arms because we want to express our dissatisfaction toward the government, to reflect our mistrust towards the central Chinese government, and to object to the National People's Congress decision on August 31," said Wong, referring to Beijing's controversial ruling to allow only candidates approved by a nominating committee to run for office as Hong Kong's chief executive.
In the build-up to the flag-raising, a statement from Wong's Scholarism group calling for calm and restraint during the ceremony was widely circulated among protesters on social media networks.
"Just wear black, stay quiet with your chin down or carry an umbrella," read a message. "No matter how much you dislike a country, disturbing its flag-raising ceremony will only be disrespectful."