Understanding the Protests in Hong Kong
with Sharon Hom from Human Rights in China
Sharon Hom, Executive Director and Professor of Law Emerita (CUNY School of Law), leads HRIC’s human rights and media advocacy, as well as strategic policy engagement with NGOs, governments, and multi-stakeholder initiatives. She has testified on a variety of human rights issues before key EU, U.S. and international policymakers, including think tanks and government bodies, and participated in five of the EU- China Human Rights Legal seminars since 2004. She has appeared as guest and commentator in broadcast programs worldwide and is frequently interviewed by and quoted in major print media. She was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of 2007’s “50 Women to Watch” for their impact on business.
Hom also taught law for 18 years, including training judges, lawyers, and law teachers at eight law schools in China over a 14-year period in the 1980s and 1990s. She has published extensively on Chinese legal reforms, trade, technology, and international human rights and women’s rights, including most recently chapters in The Unfinished Revolution: Voices from the Global Fight for Women’s Rights (2012) and Gender Equality, Citizenship and Human Rights: Controversies and challenges in China and the Nordic countries (2010).
Human Rights in China (HRIC) is a Chinese non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in March 1989 by overseas Chinese students and scientists. We actively engage in case and policy advocacy, media and press work, and capacity building. Through our original publications and extensive translation work, HRIC provides bridges and uncensored platforms for diverse Chinese voices.
HONG KONG IN PERSPECTIVE
HONG KONG PROTESTS 101
Hong Kong was a British territory but operating under a 99-year lease. With that lease expiring, Great Britain and China negotiated the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997 under the principle of “one country, two systems” .
Under this principle, Hong Kong would enjoy “a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs” for 50 years after the transfer of sovereignty.
The Basic Law of Hong Kong was ratified in 1990 in the wake of the bloodshed at the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. This “mini-constitution” of Hong Kong came into force on the day of the handover in 1997 and prescribed that Hong Kong’s leader, the Chief Executive, would be eventually elected through universal suffrage. . . .
Protests and mass civil disobedience began in Hong Kong soon after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress announced its decision onproposed electoral reform for the upcoming 2017 Hong Kong Chief Executive election. The Standing Committee would require a nomination committee to pre-approve up to three electoral candidates before proceeding to a vote involving the general population. After this election, the Chief Executive-elect would then still need to be formally appointed by the central government before officially taking the post. The decision also stipulates that “the Chief Executive shall be a person who loves the country and loves Hong Kong.”These requirements are regarded by pro-democracy activists as a potential breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which states that the Chief Executive should eventually be chosen through elections, and the Hong Kong Basic Law, which further clarifies that universal suffrage should be implemented for this selection.
The HRIC has an ongoing timeline of events on the protests on its site.
MAPPING THE DEMONSTRATIONS
Among the actions that China has taken in response to the protests are:
- Sept 25: Police raid the home of Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong media tycoon and supporter of the Hong Kong Democracy Movement. This came after a pro-Beijing newspaper in Hong Kong had published his “obituary” weeks earlier. The CBC viewed the actions as ” a message as clear as the horse’s head studio boss Jack Woltz found in his bed in The Godfather.”
- Sept 26: The student leader behind the protests, 17-year old Joshua Wong, was arrested but released “unconditionally” after being held for 40 hours.
- Oct 1: People’s Daily Editorial states China’s position is “unshakable,” calls the protests “illegal” and harmful to Hong Kong and that “If it continues, the consequences will be unimaginable”. Reports note that this statement is eerily similar to one issued prior to the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.
China also has used its Great Firewall to censor discussion of the protests. Mashable reports that
On Sunday, authorities ordered Chinese media websites to “clear away” all information related to the protests in Hong Kong. Terms, including “police,” “Hong Kong” or “Umbrella Revolution,” have also been blocked on the Chinese Twitter-like microblogging platform Weibo. And on Tuesday, reporters from the South China Morning Post said that their Weibo accounts had been suspended, along with those of many other Hong Kong-based users. China also blocked Instagram altogether on Monday to prevent Chinese users from seeing pictures of the protests, which some have dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution.”
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