Public support for Hong Kong protesters on rise, survey shows

United Nations Human Rights Committee urges China to allow open elections

Pro-democracy protesters gather on a main street they occupy at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong today. Photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters

Pro-democracy protesters gather on a main street they occupy at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong today. Photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters

 

Public support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters appears to be growing, especially among young people, according to a survey, highlighting the problems the government faces in resolving the stand-off after four weeks of unrest.

The opinion poll conducted October 8 to October 15 by the Chinese University of Hong Kong showed 37.8 per cent of respondents support the Occupy movement, an increase from 31.3 per cent in mid-September.

Tens of thousands of protesters have occupied parts of Hong Kong to show their anger at a decision by the China’s National People’s Congress in Beijing to allow only candidates vetted by the central government to stand in elections in Hong Kong in 2017, even though Hong Kong’s Basic Law allows for greater representation.

The democracy protesters, many of whom are students, want Hong Kong’s chief executive Leung Chun-ying to step down.

Mr Leung said public patience for the demonstrations was wearing thin. Student leaders have pledged to continue their street occupation after a first round of talks this week foundered.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva has called on China to allow open elections.

A committee of 18 independent experts agreed on “the need to ensure universal suffrage, which means both the right to be elected as well as the right to vote.”

“The main concerns of Committee members were focused on the right to stand for elections without unreasonable restrictions,” Konstantine Vardzelashvili, who chaired the session, said at its conclusion.

An opinion piece in the Communist Party organ, the People’s Daily, said the students were impeding democratic development.

“By resorting to the extreme “occupy” measures to hijack Hong Kong public opinion and express their own views, the illegal movement is running counter to legal procedures and the democratic spirit,” ran the commentary.

“Without the rule of law, so-called ‘democracy’ may be led astray into peril,” it said.

The protesters had an unexpected visitor the other night in the form of the light jazz clarinetist Kenny G, who, to put it mildly, is vastly popular in China – every elevator, shopping mall and wedding party happens to a Kenny G soundtrack. You hear his schmaltzy piece Going Home more often than you hear the national anthem.

China reacted with disapproval.

“Kenny G’s musical works are widely popular in China, but China’s position on the illegal Occupy Central activities in Hong Kong is very clear,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters. “We hope that foreign governments and individuals speak and act cautiously and not support the Occupy Central and other illegal activities in any form.”

He later distanced himself from any rebellious stance, saying he wasn’t supporting the protesters or trying to defy Beijing, tweeting: “It’s unfair that I am being used by anyone to say that I am showing support for the demonstrators. I am not supporting the demonstrators”.