Hong Kong Students Boycott Classes To Protest Election Restrictions

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By Joanna Chiu



HONG KONG — Thousands of students from two dozen schools in Hong Kong skipped classes Monday to protest “dictatorial” control by the Chinese central government over the territory’s election rules.

Students began a week-long boycott with a rally on the campus of Chinese University of Hong Kong, where they demanded that Beijing withdraw its election reform plan and issue an “apology to the Hong Kong people.”

The Hong Kong Federation of Students called for the resignation of the city’s top three officials and demanded that citizens be allowed to nominate candidates for the next chief executive election.

“How can a few people decide Hong Kong’s future? Why not 7 million of Hong Kong’s people?” federation general secretary Alex Chow said.

The protest followed a decision last month by China’s top legislative body to restrict the right of Hong Kong residents to elect their next leader in 2017.

A 1,200-member committee will nominate two or three candidates for the election, according to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

The candidate who wins the popular vote would also have to be formally appointed by the central government before taking office.

Students planned daily rallies at government headquarters in Admiralty, where academics in support of the democracy movement are scheduled to deliver lectures on topics related to political reform.

A group opposed to the protesters established a hotline to counter the plans by informing schools and the Education Bureau about student activities.

Beijing had promised Hong Kong residents universal suffrage in 2017, but if local legislators veto the framework, the next chief executive would be elected according to the existing rules.

Current chief executive Leung Chun-ying said the mini-constitution governing Hong Kong makes the list of candidates a “matter for the nominating committee only,” and that Beijing has no obligation to offer universal suffrage to Hong Kong.

The student strike was organized independently of Occupy Central, an alliance of pro-democracy activists. Occupy Central plans to stage a mass sit-in that would block streets in Hong Kong’s business district and will hold a rally on October 1 as a “curtain raiser” for the civil disobedience movement.

Some students at the Monday rally said they did not plan to participate in the Occupy Central sit-in because they did not want to break any laws.

“I believe students have a social responsibility to speak out, but many of us aren’t willing to take on the consequences of an arrest record for our future careers,” Chinese University of Hong Kong student Eric Chan told dpa.

Britain negotiated the “one country, two systems” principle as part of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule.

It grants freedoms to Hong Kong residents that are not given to ordinary Chinese citizens and allows Hong Kong relative autonomy until 2047.


©2014 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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