The run-up to the Sept. 4 election for Legislative Council is getting tense, and the governments of both Hong Kong and Beijing are watching with keen interest, notes analyst Lian Yi-zheng. For the first time, a crop of fresh-faced candidates who cut their political teeth during the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014 are hoping to bring to the lawmaking body their battle to emancipate Hong Kong from Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian control, she writes for The New York Times:
The activists, most of whom are in their 20s, no longer believe in the promises of the “one country, two systems” principle set out in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution since Britain handed the territory back to China in 1997. Even after paralyzing major traffic hubs in the city for 79 days in 2014, they failed to obtain any concession to democratize the rules by which the head of Hong Kong’s government, the chief executive, is nominated and elected. They concluded from the experience that democracy is impossible in Hong Kong as long as the territory remains under Chinese sovereignty.
These “paratroopers” — as they are affectionately called by supporters in homage to their standing up to police brutality — are now asking for more than they were during the Umbrella Movement, or than the mainstream pro-democracy camp known as the pan-democrats.
Beijing has already done much to erode that independence, starting with its 1999 assertion of the power to overrule Hong Kong courts on constitutional matters, The Wall Street Journal adds:
In 2014 Beijing issued an unprecedented white paper identifying judges in Hong Kong as “administrators” subject to a “basic political requirement” to love the country—which means loyalty to the Communist Party. Local officials recently disqualified six candidates from next month’s legislative elections for failing to recognize Hong Kong as an “inalienable” part of China. Disqualified candidates are now suing.
Notwithstanding Monday’s welcome news, Hong Kong officials clearly seem committed to squeezing political dissent to please Beijing. Their creeping authoritarianism underscores the importance of brave activists like Messrs. Wong, Law and Chow (right).
On the mainland, four activists were sentenced in April to up to four and a half years in prison for unfurling banners and posting online comments in support of the Umbrella protests, notes China Digital Times, a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy. More recently, Wong was featured in a video warning of foreign efforts to foment a Chinese “Color Revolution” that was shared on Weibo by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.