Hong Kong Protesters Demand Democratic Elections

Hong Kong saw a number of protesters taking to the streets this week to demand the Chinese government allow democratic elections. The government in Beijing had promised the former British colony to hold elections for city leadership in 2017. Many citizens, however, share concerns over China’s likely desire to control any election in Hong Kong.

Thousands were seen in Hong Kong’s streets Wednesday shouting slogans and waving flags. Some carried banners with messages like “Real Universal Suffrage. No pre-screened election.” A number of demonstrators are also calling for Hong Kong’s current city-leader, Leung Chun-ying, to resign his office. Many are critical of the Beijing-supported leader, especially in the aftermath of several scandals.

The public show of disapproval of the Chinese government’s handling of elections in Hong Kong has become an annual tradition. For years, Hong Kong residents have taken to the streets on New Year’s Day seeking full democratic elections.

Citizens’ concern over Beijing’s growing influence in Hong Kong has seen the event numbers grow each year. According to the protest’s organizers, nearly 30,000 people came out this year. Hong Kong police, however, give a lower count of 11,100 demonstrators.

As it stands, the Hong Kong elections set for 2017 will be between candidates pre-screened and approved by the Communist Party in Beijing. Chinese leadership has hinted at “patriots” being the only people eligible to run for office more recently. This has only stoked resentment of Beijing’s wish to restrict and control Hong Kong. As one demonstrator explains, Hong Kong residents are “foolish for being too obedient.” Another says that he and other citizens “need to equip ourselves for mass action.”

As such, pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong are looking to push their issues more aggressively. Some have threatened a protest this summer dubbed “Occupy Central.” Activists would crowd the Hong Kong central business district, shutting it down. Frustration over Beijing’s unwillingness to budge on their plans for 2017 is likely to result in more frequent and disruptive Hong Kong demonstrations in coming years.

[Image via flickr / Inmediahk]