Hong Kong students take to streets for democracy protest

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 China had said it would limit nominations for election of chief executive

 Clifford Coonan

 Thousands of students from all over Hong Kong began a week-long boycott yesterday to protest against the Beijing government’s decision to rule out an open election of the chief executive in the territory in 2017.

Students from secondary schools and universities are taking part in the boycott, which is seen as signalling a wave of civil disobedience in the former crown colony.The protest is part of a broader campaign known as Occupy Central, in which thousands of Hong Kongers are expected to blockade the financial hub to protest at what they see as interference by Beijing.

Under the terms of the handover of the former colony to China in 1997, after 150 years of British rule, Hong Kong was to allow its citizens to pick its top official in the poll by 2017.

However, earlier this month China said it would limit nominations for elections for chief executive in 2017 to a handful of candidates vetted by Beijing.

“The Communist Party has always been afraid of students because of our ideals, because we stick to our convictions,” said Lester Shum of the Federation of Students, which is organising the boycott.

Mr Shum said that by allowing the central government and tycoons of Hong Kong to manipulate the election, they were applying the same colonial approach to the territory as the British had done.

Price for democracy

Thousands of students gathered on the campus of the Chinese University wearing white T-shirts with yellow ribbons, which has become the trademark uniform of the democracy movement.

 

They were backed by university staff, including Dr Chan Kin-man, an associate professor at CUHK’s sociology department and one of the co-founders of the Occupy movement.

Alex Chow, secretary general of the student federation, said the students were willing to pay the price for democracy, and that the boycott would “wake up society, let them know our city’s death-knell is ringing”.

The focus of the boycott was expected to move to Tamar Park today, near the government headquarters, where a series of speeches was planned by dozens of academics and student leaders, as well as civic figures such as Cardinal Joseph Zen.

The state-owned Chinese newspaper Global Times said the protests benefitted “nobody, whether it be the activists, the public or relations with the mainland, and will accomplish nothing good for Hong Kong”.

 Delegation of tycoons

While the Catholic Church has told its schools in the territory not to punish students who take part, the Anglican church has said schoolchildren who get involved will get lower marks for conduct.

 As the students were gathering in Hong Kong, a delegation of tycoons from the territory were in Beijing to see President Xi Jinping.

Mr Xi told the delegation, which included Hong Kong’s two richest men, Li Ka-shing and Lee Shau-kee, that Beijing “unwaveringly” supported Hong Kong’s democratic development, prosperity and stability.

 

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