Something big has been brewing in Hong Kong for months, and it's been coming to a head lately. After 17 years under Chinese control, the pro-democracy movement has mobilized into widespread protest, and Sunday, things got violent — Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests were teargassed by police forces in the early morning. Some direct clashes also broke out between riot-geared police and the assembled protesters, who were blocking a road into the city's Central financial district. The name the protest has adopted might sound slightly familiar: "Occupy Central with Love and Peace."
The inciting incident for this recent wave of protest came in late August, when China's parliament — the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress — endorsed a new framework for Hong Kong's 2017 elections. It was meant to be the first time Hong Kong would directly elect its chief executive since it was turned over from British to Chinese control in 1997. But under the new rules agreed upon by the Chinese parliament, the ballot would only include two or three candidates, and all those candidates would need to be approved by a nominating committee. In other words, the Chinese government would still have an enormous amount of power to shape the election's outcome, and it's sparked fury among Hong Kong's pro-democracy activists.
The movement has been backed in a high-profile way by billionaire mogul Jimmy Lai, whose home was raided and searched by authorities in late August, on claims he'd bribed officials. According to The Guardian, the raid occurred shortly following a document leak which revealed Lai's donations to pro-democracy groups, a fact which has fueled suspicion that he was targeted for his politics. He's since remained an outspoken voice in support of the protests, encouraging as many people as possible to turn out, according to Reuters.
The more Hong Kong citizens come, the more unlikely the police can clear up the place. Even if we get beaten up, we cannot fight back. We will win this war with love and peace.
Hong Kong's government has made it clear they intend to combat the protests — Reuters reports that leader Leung Chun-ying vowed for "resolute" action against the movement, and that might reflect a certain insecurity on the part of the ruling powers. In the last few years, the increased strength of acts of protest in the age of social media has been on full display. Protests one place can find solidarity even across hemispheres, as revealed by support from the people of Gaza to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. To the extent that the current movement is a threat to China's control over Hong Kong, it could also inflame activism directly against Beijing.
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