Hong Kong — Understanding Their Civil Disobedience.
In 1997, through a negotiated agreement, the former British colony of Hong Kong was reverted back to the Chinese government. This negotiation ended 156 years of British rule.
Under the Chinese, Hong Kong is classified as a “Special Administrative Region” with a unique set of management conditions. Under the SAR scenario, Hong Kong is granted a range of freedoms much greater than those currently allowed on Mainland China. China’s willingness to grant Hong Kong a series of special privileges was a savvy business decision. Hong Kong has been distinguished as a major financial center for Asia therefore it would not be in China’s best interest to rock the boat.
A major concession within the negotiations obligated the Chinese government to offer Hong Kong a high degree of administrative autonomy for a period no less than 50 years.
Nonetheless, in recent years Hong Kong has become increasingly concerned that China would not hold up their side of the bargain. They perceive that their guaranteed freedoms (freedom of speech, freedom to worship) are being steadily eroded. Hong Kong sees China as exercising their authority more directly over them in an effort to control their internal ideology.
Hong Kong’s fears came into fruition earlier this month when China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee voted to amend the manner in which Hong Kong elects their Chief Executive (this is the person that administrates Hong Kong).
In September, Beijing announced that moving forward Hong Kong would not be voting in their chief executive through an open election process, but instead would be required to choose their candidates from a pre-approved slate, which is put together by the Standing committee through their own vetting process.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Occupy Central movement sees this as China’s way of sliding into the management of Hong Kong, stifling democracy and censoring people from different political view points. As a result there has been a call to citizens to take to the streets to protest the decision. Protesting in China is against the law, and characterized as an act of civil disobedience. Local riot police have retaliated against the crowds by releasing tear gas and arresting hundreds of protestors.
Protestors have not backed down but instead issued a deadline of this coming Wednesday for their demands to be met. They are asking China to retract their decision and to allow Hong Kong to continue under the “one country, two systems” doctrine, which grants them the freedom to choose who they want to represent their interests.
U.S reaction: The White House has asked the authorities to use restraint when dealing with the protestors, and cautioned protestors to conduct their demonstrations peacefully.