As student and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong wrap up their sixth week of protest against limitations to universal suffrage in the semi-autonomous region, they do so under the increasing threat of arrest following a new court injunction that will allow police to clear camps. After delaying a trip to Beijing to present their case to mainland leaders until after the recently concluded APEC summit, several student leaders are now hoping to make the northbound journey. Reuters Anne Marie Roantree, Diana Chan, and Kinling Lo report:
Three Hong Kong student leaders plan to take their fight for greater democracy to Beijing on Saturday as frustration grows over the city government’s inability to negotiate on electoral reforms in the former British colony.
[…] Hong Kong Federation of Students leader Alex Chow said on Thursday he planned to travel to ..] Beijing with fellow activists Eason Chung and Nathan Law and they hoped to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
Coverage from The Telegraph notes that many sympathetic to the protesters worry the student leaders may face arrest upon arriving in Beijing—if they’re allowed to board a plane at all. Tom Phillips reports:
However, there has been indication that the students will even be allowed to board a plane to Mainland China, which is currently in the midst of a major government crackdown on dissent, let alone be granted an audience with senior leaders.
“I think it is a good idea to go to Beijing to make sure they cannot pretend that they are not hearing,” Mr Zhou said.
“[But] of course there is a serious risk. They are not Hong Kong police [in mainland China] that we can hold accountable. We never know what kind of risk [the students might face] if they go to Beijing.
“Beijing is paranoid about its own stability,” he added. […] [Source]
Chinese state media has repeatedly blamed U.S. government actors and other foreign forces for instigating the street protests, accusations which the accused have denied. At Quartz, Heather Timmons notes that U.S. Congress is now considering a bill on the U.S. approach to the situation in Hong Kong that “threatens to inflame the contentious relations between the US and China”:
The bill asks for additional US monitoring of Hong Kong’s political system, and requires president Barack Obama to “certify that Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous before enacting any new laws or agreements affording Hong Kong different treatment from the People’s Republic of China.” Whether the measure stands any chance of passing is unclear.
A Nov. 20 Congressional hearing on the issue will “examine China’s commitments to Hong Kong and the international community in light of the recent pro-democracy protests,” and attempt to answer questions like “What do the protests mean for the future of human rights and democracy in Hong Kong and China?”
The proposed bill and the hearing are likely to infuriate officials in Beijing, which has warned against foreign governments supporting the protests, or even commenting on them, and blamed their very existenceon foreign backers determined to undermine China. [Source]