US Launches Wars and Backs Coups in the Name of Democracy, but Won’t Back Real Democracy Activists in Hong Kong
The US claims to be supporting democracy from Ukraine to Cuba, and from Somalia to Iraq, often by bombing the alleged opposition, or by supporting proxy wars and subversion. But one place where real democracy activists are battling against the forces of repression they are curiously getting no backing from the United States: Hong Kong.
There, student activists, a local occupy movement, and now the independent trade union movement and massive numbers of ordinary working class and middle class people are mobilizing to prevent China from going back on a pledge made in 1997 to allow Hong Kong people in 2017 to elect their city’s “mayor,” called the chief executive, by popular vote.
The government in China, which assumed sovereignty over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, at the time established what was called a Basic Law governing Hong Kong, and granting the former British Colony self-rule. As part of that Basic Law, the partially-elected, partially-appointed legislative council (Legco) was dissolved, and new elections were held. The appointed British governor was replaced with a chief executive appointed by a panel of business leaders and other prominent figures selected by the central government in Beijing. But over the course of the next 20 years, the number of members of the Legislative Council who are directly elected by the citizens of Hong Kong was to be gradually increased (it is currently 40 out of 70, with the balance elected by so-called functional constituencies -- basically the professions like law, banking, etc.), and in 2017, the chief executive was to be directly elected from a slate of candidates.
Now China says that this last crucial democratic reform will be curtailed. Instead of picking their own “mayor” democratically, China says Hong Kong residents will have to choose between candidates who will first be vetted by the government in Beijing, which will only allow to run for office those deemed to be suitably “patriotic” and to “love China.”
That backslide from popular suffrage has sparked a huge and growing protest in Hong Kong which began with students, who tried to occupy the grounds in front of the Legislative Council building. The students last week were joined by the large Hong Kong Occupy Central movement--the latter a local outgrowth of the 2011 global occupy movement. Earlier this week Hong Kong police, who have over the years generally have shown considerable restraint in dealing with public protests, acted more like today’s militarized American cops, firing rounds of teargas into the peaceful crowds, spraying pepper spray into the faces of sitting protesters, and making large-scale arrests.