Hong Kong Protesters Want Election Timetable – Keith Bradsher

From The New York Times:

A huge throng of pro-democracy protesters poured through the skyscraper canyons of Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon, defying warnings from senior Chinese officials who refuse to set a timetable for general elections here.

The march continued well past sunset, as more and more men, women and children of all ages emerged from side streets and subway stations to join. Organizers estimated the peaceful crowd at 250,000, while the police put it at 63,000.

At either measure, the turnout was surprising because Hong Kong’s economy is booming, unemployment is falling and the city now has a popular and charismatic chief executive, Donald Tsang.

See also: Thinking About Chinese Democracy: The Hong Kong March by Sam Crane on the Useless Tree blog.

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The following text is from Christine Loh, Civic Exchange – HK’s independent think tank.

Hong Kong people repeated their message today

Dear Subscribers & Friends

The evening news reported 250,000+ people marched peacefully for democracy today … again. Police figures are much smaller. Unlike previous marches, no one could say people came out because they were unhappy about the economy, suffered negative equity or didn’t like former chief executive CH Tung. They clearly flooded out because they wanted to tell the authorities here and in Beijing they wanted universal suffrage soon.

A. Hong Kong people recollect … 20+ years and not there

1. 1984: The British colonial administration promised progressively a system of representative government as part of the transition arrangements.

2. 1985: Hong Kong had functional elections to LegCo for the first time for a limited number of seats.

3. 1987-88: The British slowed the pace of introducing direct election to LegCo from 1988 to 1991 because of Beijing’s objection. The British justifed the delay through rigging a public opinion survey.

4. 1989: 4 June 1989.

5. Omelco Consensus: After 4/6/89, the political and business elites reached a compromise that 1/3 of LegCo should be directly elected by 1991, 50% by 1995, and 100% by 2003. London and Beijing reached their compromise there would be 18 directly elected seats in 1991, 20 by 1995, 24 by 1995 and 30 by 2003.

6. Basic Law 1990: The post-1997 constitution promulgated in 1990 followed the Sino-British compromise.

7. 1991 LegCo election: 1st direct election to LegCo.

8. 1995 LegCo election: These elections implemented the “Patten Proposals” that made functional constituencies more democratic by eliminated corporate voting and widened the franchise to all workers. The results were unacceptable to Beijing, who decided the legislature would be disbanded.

9. Provisional legislature set-up: On 1/7/97, the 1995 elected LegCo was replaced by an appointed body. It passed laws to narrow the functional franchise and brought back corporate voting. The next term would be for 2 years only.

10. 1998 and 2000 LegCo elections: 1st direct election after transition. All the democrats who stayed out of the provisional LegCo got back their seats. The next election was in 2000.

11. Article 23 controversy 2003: Led to large demonstration where 500,000-700,000 people marched against government’s proposed legislation. The government and Beijing said people were “unhappy” because of the poor economy.

12. District Council election 2003: The democrats and newcomers won a large number of seats as a result of the Article 23 backlash.

13. 1 January 2004: 150,000 people marched specifically for democracy.

14. April 2004: Beijing had the Standing Committee of the NPC reinterpret the Basic Law to rule out Hong Kong achieving universal suffrage for the 2007 (chief executive) and 2008 (LegCo) elections.

15. 1 July 2004: 200-,000-250,000 people marched specifically for democracy. The government and Beijing rationalized that the number of protesters were much smaller because the economy was better.

16. 2004 LegCo election: The democrats did less well than expected because of their poor campaign strategies.

17. March 2005: CH Tung resigned and by May, it became clear Donald Tsang was the favoured successor.

18. April-May 2005: The government asked Beijing to reinterpret the Basic Law on the term of office of the next chief executive. This provoked the city’s lawyers to march silently lamenting the attack on the rule of law because the Basic Law was clear the term should be for 5 years.

19. June 2005: Donald Tsang’s candidacy was unchallenged as it had the clear support of Beijing.

20. October 2005: Package of reforms for 2007 and 2008 released, and LegCo is scheduled to vote on its acceptability on 21/12/05. The 26 democrats in LegCo are demanding a better package and a time table when universal suffrage can be achieved.

B. Words of encouragements … time to be counted

1. Wu: Hopewell Holding chairman said the government could not give into demonstrators, if it did, it would be “mob rule”.

2. Ho: Gambling tycoon Stanley Ho didn’t think many people would show up today – “less than 50,000″.

3. Tsang: He surprised Hong Kong by doing a TV announcement to galvanized support for his package that backfired.

4. Chan: Former chief secretary Anson Chan walked briefly today saying it was time to stand up and be counted.

C. Observations

1. Long history: The demand for universal suffrage is not new. It is just that those in power and Beijing refused to see and hear the message.

2. Question: If Beijing agrees to set a time table for universal suffrage, say in 2012, and asks Tsang to work out a new electoral model for public consultation, will there be 200,000+ people marching to object? I doubt it.

The following text is from Xinhua News agency on the same evetn:

Some HK citizens go on march to make different demands

HONG KONG, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) — Some Hong Kong citizens took to the streets on a march in Hong Kong Island Sunday afternoon.

Organizers said the march is aimed at expressing discontentment over the government’s package proposals for Hong Kong’s constitutional development.

However, the demands raised by the people taking part in the march are quite different, judging from the slogans they are holding.

The marchers gathered in Victoria Park at 3:00 p.m., and 82 public buses have to alter their routes because of the march.

December 4, 2005 8:37 PM
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Categories: Hong Kong