Hong Kong police used tear gas Sunday evening to disperse peaceful protesters sitting downtown near government offices. The crowd of perhaps 50,000 quickly regrouped, even more determined to demand that Beijing withdraw a plan for sham democracy in 2017. More than 70 protesters have been arrested so far; police held banners threatening “military force” if the protests continue. The confrontation marks a turning point in the city’s quest for democracy. For years the people of Hong Kong avoided direct conflict with Beijing in the hope that Chinese authorities might be persuaded to grant them self-government. Now they realize that their only chance for democracy is to demand it.
Xi Jinping pushed Hong Kong to this point. A July white paper was the first clear indication that the supreme leader would take a harder line. China withdrew the autonomy that it had promised Hong Kong for 50 years as part of the agreement when Britain handed back its territory in 1997, saying the local government is subordinate to Beijing’s “comprehensive authority.”
When the National People’s Congress ruled on Aug. 31 that only pro-Beijing candidates would be allowed to become the city’s Chief Executive, it swept aside proposals for compromise. The government used the police to open investigations against its opponents. Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Chinese government’s Liaison Office, even told a gathering of opposition politicians that Beijing showed its tolerance with “the fact that you are allowed to stay alive.”
Full Article: Hong Kong’s Democratic Awakening – WSJ.