/ 1 October 2014

Tutu salutes Hong Kong, urges support for democracy

Buses covered with messages of support stop at a main street at Mongkok shopping district
Buses covered with messages of support stop at a main street at Mongkok shopping district

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has called on all who believe in democracy to support the people of Hong Kong in their protests, his foundation said on Wednesday.

“I salute the courage of the hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens who have participated in mass demonstrations in the territory in recent days to assert peacefully their right to have a say in the election of their leaders,” Tutu said in a statement.

“Their struggle is one that all who believe in the principles of democracy and justice should support.” 

The Deutsche Presse-Agentur on Wednesday reported that thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators were blocking major roads in various districts of Hong Kong, continuing a protest that began Sunday. In the early hours of Wednesday, protesters extended their demonstration to Tsim Sha Tsui, a popular tourism and shopping district. 

Protesters hold their hands as they gather around the Golden Bauhinia Square (Reuters)

Protesters are demanding reforms ahead of the 2017 elections, including the public nomination of candidates for next chief executive. Tutu said peaceful demonstrations presented opportunities for various points of views to be ventilated, and for parties to demonstrate their commitment to the principles of freedom of expression, dialogue and rule of law. He slammed the attack on protesters by law enforcement agencies.

“The firing of teargas at demonstrators, as happened on Sunday, was a bitter blow to what many still hope will be a peaceful, inclusive and dignified transformation process. I pray that the voices of the people of Hong Kong will never be stifled,” he said.

China won’t give in to independence
China has condemned the Hong Kong protests as “illegal”, but Hong Kong’s leadership has denied speculation that Beijing would send in the army to quash dissent.

The People’s Daily said in a commentary on its website the protesters were an “extreme minority” who have “destroyed the rule of law” in the city.

“This breach of the peace and extreme behaviour will ultimately lead to a breakdown in social order,” it added.

The state-run China Daily said that the protests were “taking a toll on local harmony and stability”.

The Global Times said the “tide will turn against the oppositionists” if Beijing stands firm.

“The central government will not step back just because of the chaos created by the oppositionists,” it said.

“Hong Kong people see it clearly that the central government [Beijing] will not change its mind, they will recognise the dramas staged by the oppositionists are just making things worse,” the paper added

Chinese activists detained
Authorities have detained more than a dozen activists across China and questioned as many as 60 others who expressed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in recent days, campaign groups said Wednesday.

The clampdown comes with Beijing’s propaganda machine in overdrive to suppress news of the protests, which are expected to draw their biggest crowds yet as the former British colony begins a two-day public holiday Wednesday.

A pro-democracy protester argues with a pro-Beijing demonstrator (not pictured) as people block areas around the government headquarters building in Hong Kong. (Reuters)

Since the dramatic escalation on Sunday of the Hong Kong protests, “a number of Chinese citizens have faced reprisals” for voicing their support, according to the overseas-based advocacy group China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).

The group, which has compiled accounts from campaigners within China, said at least a dozen people had been detained and several others threatened. 

Amnesty International put the figures even higher, saying at least 20 were detained and another 60 called in for questioning. “The rounding up of activists in mainland China only underlines why so many people in Hong Kong fear the growing control Beijing has in their city’s affairs,” Amnesty’s China researcher William Nee said in a statement.

The group called on Chinese authorities to “immediately release all those being detained for peacefully expressing their support for protesters in Hong Kong”.

Those detained include activist Wang Long, who was taken away by police in the southern boom town of Shenzhen bordering Hong Kong on Monday for “creating a disturbance” after he posted messages about the protests online, CHRD said.

Protests will spread like ‘blossoming flowers’
One of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy leaders struggled to contain his emotions Wednesday as he warned protests would spread like “blossoming flowers” and pleaded with residents to understand why the city has been brought to a standstill.

Occupy Central co-founder Chan Kin-man told reporters it was inevitable the protests, which have already taken over several main roads and intersections, would grow if the government maintained its hardline stance.

“We understand why citizens are continuing to expand the occupation, it is because the government is so cold,” Chan said, regularly having to stop speaking to compose himself.

“Despite such a large occupation, the government is still using such an attitude, so a lot of people think that the action now is not enough and that flowers must continue to blossom everywhere.”

“I hope everyone will understand what we are doing is not to harm Hong Kong.

“With this short-term inconvenience, we hope to bring about a system that is more fair.” – Sapa, AFP