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Locals question effectiveness of Hong Kong protests

BY ALEKSANDRA VUJICIC | OCTOBER 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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Protesters have been occupying the streets of Hong Kong since September, joined by a common cause: democracy.

The protesters, many of them students, want universal suffrage rights.

In other words, they want to be able to vote for their chief executive directly in the 2017 election, and they aren’t willing to settle for a list of candidates approved by a 1,200-person committee, which supposedly has members with Beijing interest. 

Currently, a legislative council controls the nomination process and any candidate has to have more than 50 percent of the committee’s vote to be put on the ballot, said UI political-science Professor Wenfang Tang.

Protesters believe people who want to run in the election should be able to get their names on the ballot, he said.

The 2017 election will be voted on directly by the citizens, but this committee will still control the nomination process. 

Tang said he doesn’t think the protests will change the government’s current system, especially because the protests seem to be losing momentum.

“I don’t think the Beijing government will back down,” Tang said. “But I think it is making a point to the Beijing government about the kind of energy among the young people that they might have underestimated.”

Hong Kong is a former colony of Britain that was returned to China in 1997.

In an agreement between the British and Chinese, Hong Kong was allowed to keep its political system unchanged under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. Tang said a direct election was never promised in the final agreement.

UI sophomore Atlas Leung, who is from Hong Kong, said he supports the protesters but doesn’t think their efforts will change the way things are. 

Although he thinks making a change in the current system will not be an easy task, he said the protests are demonstrating to the world what a peaceful protest should look like.

UI freshman Sammi Wu, who is from a region near Hong Kong, said she has stayed neutral about the protests.

She said she has friends from Hong Kong who think it is “stupid” to start the protest because it’s hard to pick candidates directly by the citizens. But the students taking part in the protests think the current system is unfair, she said.

She said in past years, when the United Kingdom ruled Hong Kong, the citizens were inferior and now the Chinese government is giving them rights, prompting some to question why they are still fighting for their rights.

Leung said Hong Kong has gained several Western values from the British rule, which distinguishes them from China.

“That’s what Hong Kong stands for: democracy, freedom, freedom of speech, liberty,” Leung said. “Hong Kong is special, judging by its values and politics; you can’t say it’s a part of China because it’s special.”


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