Activists march through Hong Kong in protest at ‘backward democracy’

Tensions growing over universal suffrage

A protester carries a banner demanding universal suffrage during protests in Hong Kong earlier this week. Photograph:  Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

A protester carries a banner demanding universal suffrage during protests in Hong Kong earlier this week. Photograph: Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

 

Dressed in black and carrying large black shrouds, thousands of activists marched through Hong Kong at the weekend protesting against the territory’s “backward democracy”, the latest sign of growing tensions over universal suffrage.

Under the terms of the handover of the former crown colony to China in 1997, Hong Kong was supposed to allow its citizens to pick its top official in the poll in three years’ time.

Last week, however, China decided to limit nominations for elections for chief executive in 2017 to a handful of candidates vetted by Beijing. The decision looks set to lead to ramped-up protests.

In London, Beijing’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, took aim at former governor Chris Patten saying it was the “rankest hypocrisy” for people such as Mr Patten to criticise China for failing to introduce democracy to Hong Kong, after Britain did not encourage democracy during colonial rule.

‘Anachronistic views’

Mr Liu

In one chilling conversation which illustrates the bitterness of the divide between the two sides, Zhang Xiaoming, the head of China’s liaison office in Hong Kong, was asked by pro-democracy lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung whether Beijing would allow any democrat to run for the city’s highest office.

“The fact that you are allowed to stay alive already shows the country’s inclusiveness,” Mr Zhang said, highlighting how any deal on democracy in Hong Kong is a long way off.

Former leader

Mr Hui was formerly the second most powerful official in Hong Kong. He told his trial of how he met the Kwok brothers, Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, who are accused of bribing Mr Hui with HK$34 million in cash and other inducements to be their “eyes and ears” in government.

Last month, anti-corruption officers raided the home of media tycoon Jimmy Lai, one of the territory’s most outspoken critics of the central government in Beijing. His spokesman later said it was “not uncoincidental” the raid came after Beijing’s decision to restrict the candidates.

Deciding how to deal with protests have divided two of Hong Kong’s biggest education providers, the Catholic Church and the Anglicans. A class boycott is planned at secondary schools from next Monday.

The Catholic diocese, which runs 87 schools with more than 70,000 pupils, told its schools not to penalise pupils for taking part. The Anglican Church, with 30 schools, has said students will get lower marks for conduct if they take part.