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RISE Reporter “Bumps” Into Unexpected Demonstration At Thai Consulate in Admiralty After Wong’s Deportation

By Raphael Blet

Around a hundred protesters marched to the Thai consulate, prompting the Thai government to explain Joshua Wong’s deportation.

On Wednesday afternoon, about one-hundred protesters marched to Fairmont House in Admiralty, where the Thai consulate is located.

The protesters attempted to enter the office building to reach the consulate but were blocked by the police and security guards who cordoned the building’s main lobby.

Protesters demanded Thailand’s government some explanations on Joshua Wong’s detention and removal from the country.

Amongst the protesters were Demosistō members, legislators Leung Kwok-hung (Long Hair), Raymond Chan, Fernando Cheung and the newly elected Eddie Chu.

Protesters were later able to handle petitions to representatives from the delegation.

Joshua Wong was due to give a speech at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. He was invited by local students activists to commemorate the the fortieth anniversary of the Thammasat University massacre.

After spending hours being detained at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, Wong arrived in Hong Kong during the evening.

While it is too early to determine the official reason behind Wong’s detention, a Thai immigration officer reportedly said that Wong was blacklisted ‘on Beijing’s request’. However, the Thai government denied the officer’s allegations.

Before departing for Bangkok where he is due to head a delegation promoting Hong Kong’s legal profession, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen promised to use this opportunity get more information from the Thai authorities and Chinese government.

Speaking to the press, Wong said that he was prepared to such a situation. Last year, Wong was barred from entering Malaysia and returned to Hong Kong on the same plane.

Hong Kong citizens visiting Thailand are not required to hold visas prior to their arrivals.

Hong Kong residents who need consular help abroad can contact the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents 24-Hour Hotline (+852) 1868.

This is a developing story. Stay with RISE NEWS. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Ethnic Minorities Need To Be Embraced As Fellow Hong Kongers

By Raphael Blet

Ethnic minorities are Hong Kongers, and only by assuming this fact can we achieve harmomy.

In recent years, debates concerning ethnic minorities and their role in our society have been ongoing.

Every now and then, it is common to read articles and hear media statements from the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) in regards to ethnic minorities and possible ways to include them in our society.

Nevertheless, this debate has only been dominated by talk, not actions.

If actions were taken, they were either limited or temporary ones.

So then, how can ethnic minorities be fully part of our society?

What effective measures can we take to create cohesion?

First off, we should stop constantly referring to them as ‘minorities’, this is not about political correctness, but common sense.

In Hong Kong, those referred to as ‘ethnic minorities’ are mostly Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalese and other persons of Asian origins.

As around 92 per cent of Hong Kong’s population consists of ethnic Chinese, the territory’s non-ethnic Chinese population is undeniably smaller than the majority.

Read More: What The Revolution Wrought: The Umbrella Movement Two Years On

Thus, it is technically accurate to label them as ‘minorities’ given that their proportion is significantly lower than the majority.

However – in Hong Kong – commonly used words are usually a reflection of the city’s inequalities.

Technically speaking, all non-Chinese people living in the city should be referred as ‘minorities’ given that their races, cultures and native languages differ from the majority.

Nevertheless, Caucasians as well as foreigners holding important positions are instead called ‘expatriates’.

Rush hour in Hong Kong. Photo Credit: David Guyler/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Rush hour in Hong Kong. Photo Credit: David Guyler/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

This makes even less sense as the so called ‘expatriates’ are minorities within the minority.
We should not forget that – despite being ethnic minorities – the majority of Nepalese, Indians, Pakistanis and other non-Ethnic Chinese are Hong Kong citizens too.

Many of them are fluent in both English and Cantonese, shortening the differences only to their cultural background.

As previously said, this is not about political correctness.

Read More: Does The Government Even Want To Save Cantonese From Going Extinct In Hong Kong?

While South Asians and East Asians are ethnic minorities due to racial factors, they are technically Hong Kongers as they were born and raised in the territory, thus giving them the same rights as all other members of the community.

Yet, many feel that they are being separated if not segregated (e.g. in schools) by the administrative system.

Singapore is a great example of this problem. 

One of Singapore’s core principles is racial harmony, their pledge starting as follows: ‘We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people. Regardless of race, language or religion…’

While Singapore’s Chinese population constitutes of around 76 per cent of the total population, the rest of the population, which is composed mainly of Malays and Indians is equally and fairly represented.

In Singapore, Malays and Indians are not called ‘ethnic minorities’ but instead, all Singapore citizens are seen as Singaporeans regardless of whether they constitute a demographic minority or majority.

Photo Credit: james j8246/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: james j8246/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Not only were Malays and Indians superficially recognized by simple terms but many of them are holding important position within the government.

Singapore’s first President, Yusof bin Ishak was an ethnic Malay.

Singapore’s sixth President, the late S.R. Nathan who served until 2011 was a Singaporean of Tamil Indian origins.

The current Minister of Home Affairs and Law, K. Shanmugam is also ethnically Indian.

Unfortunately, ethnic minorities in Hong Kong have no democratic representation as there has so far never been a legislator issued from an ethnic minority background.

In Hong Kong, Gurkhas have been contributing to the community for many years which they still do today.

However, they have been left aside by the public service, obliging them to apply for short term jobs while their professional skills would be of great use to the public.

While the number of Nepalese in the Hong Kong disciplined service is low (due to the lack of opportunities and language restrictions), the Singapore Police Force has equipped itself with a prestigious unit known as the Gurkha Contingent which is comprised of 2000 men who are mostly non-Singaporeans.

Through their knowledge, this unit strongly contributes to Singapore’s security.

Hong Kong might consider to elaborate a similar mechanism.

The Education system plays an important role 

Schools play an important role in this issue.

Indeed, non-Chinese students are de-facto segregated from their fellow native Chinese speaking friends.

The Education Bureau’s (EDB) policies are partly responsible.

Instead of designing particular schools for particular groups, the EDB’s main goal should be to emphasize togetherness so that both Chinese and non-Chinese students can learn from each other and share their experiences.

Read More: What Are The Wukan Protests And Why Should Young People Care?

Such reciprocity would be mutually beneficial and would avoid unnecessary stereotyping of one another.

Yet, only the contrary seems to prevail.

So what has been done in Hong Kong so far?

In recent years, some local figures including some legislators have shown their willingness to build cohesion amongst Hong Kong people, Claudia Mo being a great example.

Numerous NGO’s are pressing the government to take measures which would allow more ‘minorities’ to join the civil service.

Yet, we have to assume that some government departments took some important steps in including non-ethnic Chinese (NEC’s) despite the many restrictions imposed by the Civil Service Bureau (CSB).

The Hong Kong Police Force has made some symbolic yet noticeable progress in the past five years.

In 2012, the first Hong Kong born woman of Pakistani origins named Heina Rizwan Mohammad joined the organization.

The police also created a scheme of community liaison assistants (known as NEC) in order to build a bridge between NEC’s and the force.

At the same, the police has recently played emphasis on community relations with NEC’s by organizing different activities and seminars.

Yet, there are some Indians, Pakistanis and Nepalese in the Police Force and Correctional Services but it is still not proportionally representative.

Read More: Was There Massive Voter Fraud In The Hong Kong LegCo Elections?

The only South Asian high ranking official in Hong Kong was Harnam Singh Grewal who was Commissioner of Customs and later Secretary for the Civil Service.

It isn’t difficult to achieve, all we need to be is rational.

Contrasted to Singapore, there is still some work to be done in Hong Kong.

Nevertheless, cohesion amongst Hong Kong citizens is truly achievable.

We have the people, we have the ideas.

All what we need to do is remember that ethnic minorities are Hong Kongers, change the education system and employment regulations.

If we do those things then we can have the Hong Kong that we all want.

Let’s all play our part in making this place a better one.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover Photo Credit: Jirka Matousek/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

What The Revolution Wrought: The Umbrella Movement Two Years On

By Joy Pamnani

HONG KONG-It’s been two years since Hong Kong people took to the streets to fight for genuine universal suffrage.

The protests drew global attention, as protestors expressed their demands in peaceful, artistic ways.

The movement seems to have worked in bringing about a different political reality in Hong Kong.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the major events throughout the protests, and changes in Hong Kong’s political scene since.

Political background in the 852

Hong Kong was ruled by the British in the 20th century, and got handed over to China in 1997.

The great difference between Hong Kong and the mainland’s political atmosphere at the time saw both sides reach a deal of “one country, two systems”, granting the city a semi-autonomous status.

That deal lasts until 2047.

Debate however, continues about liberties granted under the agreement. A hot topic being universal suffrage.

Read More: Does The Government Even Want To Save Cantonese From Going Extinct In Hong Kong?

According to Article 45 of the Basic Law, “the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People’s Government.”

Moreover, the article states “ the ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.”

Media from around the world came to report on the growing Occupy movement in Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Max/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Media from around the world came to report on the growing Occupy movement in Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Max/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Controversy began in August 2014 when Beijing ruled out public nomination, saying Hong Kong voters would only be able to choose from a list of two or three candidates selected by a nominating committee.

The committee likely to contain pro-Beijing election candidates, saw democracy activists argue the announcement was a way for China the ability to screen out any candidates it disapproves of.

Criticism was ignited across the city.

Young people’s call for action

On September 22, 2014, a student class boycott was held at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, at the same time some of Hong Kong’s top tycoons crossed the border to discuss politics with President Xi Jinping.

Students from more than 20 universities and colleges joined the movement.

During the week of 26 September, activist groups Scholarism and the Hong Kong Federation of Students, had staged protests outside government offices in Admiralty.

The Galvanizing Effect

As the protests escalated, police used pepper spray against the demonstrators.

Benny Tai, initiator of the Occupy Central movement, officially declared the start of Occupy Central at the central government offices.

Later that evening, police also used the tear gas in dismissing the protests.

The tear gas surprisingly proved galvanizing, drawing Hong Kongers from all walks of life to occupy streets for 79 days.

 

Protest elementals

During the days, activists blocked several traffic junctions, shutting down the city’s central business districts.

Aside from the Admiralty camp outside government offices, protestors occupied areas in Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Canton Road.

The protest spirits were held high in the city, as the yellow ribbon symbol was seen across social media sites in the city.

Read More: What Are The Wukan Protests And Why Should Young People Care?

Many artists contributed to the protest’s peaceful forms of expression, from creating paintings of politicians, origami-inspired yellow umbrellas, and periodic tables defining Hong Kong core values.

Artists gathered to express political opinions of Hong Kong people

A periodic table defining Hong Kong’s core values.

Protestors even hung a banner on Lion Rock Tunnel, calling on CY Leung to step down

Subjects of debate

According to an article by the Australian news network ABC, ANZ economists sent out a research estimating the protests may have cost retailers $400 million, given occupation of roads at core business districts such as Tsim Sha Tsui.

Ordinary citizens fed up of the demonstrations formed an anti-Occupy group in an attempt to dismantle camps across core business districts in the city.

Another debate triggered was the role of police in the protests.

Read More: Was There Massive Voter Fraud In The Hong Kong LegCo Elections?

Throughout the protest, a viral video showing police beating up protestors went viral in the city, triggering a debate about police violence.

City opinion was divided on the issue, but those who supported the police wore blue ribbons.

A man was filmed being kicked and punched by seven police officers near government headquarters in Admiralty during the movement:

Yellow ribbon photos spread across social media sites in Hong Kong.

Political progress

Students managed to hold talks with the government, yet didn’t gain much ground through official channels.

Alex Chow of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and two other activists sought a meeting with China’s leaders to discuss the issue.

However, their visas were declared invalid after they tried to cross the border.

Clearing Camps

In later stages of the movement, camps began to be cleared off after the High Court stepped in.

In early December, three organizers of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement turned themselves in to the police for “participating in an unauthorized assembly”, calling their act a symbolic way to end the street protests.

They called for a shift in the movement’s focus to a long-term march towards democracy.

The three leaders were quickly released.

On 11 December, over 7,000 police arrived at the protest sites, and began making arrests.

The main camp was cleared out, thereby putting an end to the 79-day political movement.

Success of the movement

Despite securing international attention, the Umbrella Revolution failed to win concessions from Beijing.

As of now, Hong Kong isn’t seeing universal suffrage, and many believe the movement wasn’t successful in changing the longterm political agenda.

Some, however, disagree, on the grounds of the fact that political momentum was gained among the population.

“Even if we cannot change the system immediately, if the movement provided more momentum for the fight for democracy, then it’s not a failure,” Dr Chan Kin-man, an Occupy organizer said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.

Two years on

Hong Kongers gathered to commemorate the second anniversary of the Umbrella Revolution last Wednesday (28 Sept).

Right before 6pm, protestors stood in silence to mark police firing tear gas on those who gathered early in the protest timelines.

Nathan Law is the youngest lawmaker at Hong Kong’s legislature Photo: Facebook/Nathan Law.

Nathan Law is the youngest lawmaker in Hong Kong’s legislature.
Photo: Facebook/Nathan Law.

Although the Umbrella Revolution isn’t occupying the streets of Hong Kong, its leaders have continued to persist in their democratic demands, as evidenced in the July 1st March and June 4th Tiananmen Massacre Anniversary gatherings celebrated every year.

In April 2015, the government formally announced a new voting system, but it failed to gather two-thirds vote at the Legislative Council because it had ignored calls for a more democratic process.

This would leave Hong Kong with the same political system that brought the current chief executive to power.

However, the city’s political scene saw hope after lawmaker elections were held last month.

Being the city’s first major elections since Occupy Central, the results spoke volumes for political sentiment.

A few Occupy politicians secured seats, including student leader Nathan Law, who participated in the protests and is Legco’s youngest ever lawmaker.

Law sees people voting for a democratic future, and with the trust and support of the public, he hopes to bring about political change in the future. “We inherited some spirit from the (Umbrella) Movement and I hope that that can continue in the future,” Law said, in an interview with Hong Kong Free Press.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover Photo Credit: Studio Incendo/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

 

Does The Government Even Want To Save Cantonese From Going Extinct In Hong Kong?

By Jessie Pang

The linguistic diversity of China is fading rapidly in recent years.

According to the Globe and Mail, 88 Chinese languages or dialects are endangered.

Cantonese, one of the widely spoken languages of Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Macau, does not escape from this trend.

However, unlike many other endangered Chinese languages or dialects, from “Protecting Cantonese Movement” in Guangzhou to “Opposing Putonghua as a Medium of Instruction (PMI)” in Hong Kong, the regional lingua franca Cantonese receives the most viral discussion and debate across the Pearl River Delta (PRD) on safeguarding its language status and the use of it.

There are many reasons behind such importance and growing concern.

1. Government policies endanger the existence of Cantonese

To start with, the active promotion of Putonghua by Hong Kong and the Central Government in recent years harms the continued existence of Cantonese.

Although “committed to promoting trilingualism” across English, Cantonese and Putonghua is the official stance of the Hong Kong government, the Education Bureau once claimed “Cantonese is not an official language” in 2014  and states that PMI “is a long-term and developmental target” in a report to the Legislative Council’s education panel in 2015.

Despite the contradictive stance of the government, it’s no doubt that Hong Kong has long been adopting a pro-Putonghua education policy.

READ MORE: What Are The Wukan Protests And Why Should Young People Care?

“Scheme to Support Schools in Using Putonghua to Teach the Chinese Language Subject” was launched as a pilot scheme for all schools to adopt PMI since 2008.

As a result, about 71 percent of local primary and 31 percent of secondary schools are now adopting PMI together with Putonghua as a separate language subject.

The situation Cantonese speakers are facing in the Guangdong province is even worse.

A proposal on increasing the use of Putonghua in local television programs was once put forward by the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Guangzhou Committee in 2010.

Despite the strong opposition that suggestion has faced, another manuscript, the Guangdong National Language Regulations was enacted by the local government in 2012 to ensure Putonghua is the only workplace language throughout the province.

This was done as part of a national push to standardize communication and enhance state unity and stability according to the Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. 

A scene in downtown Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Anton/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

A scene in downtown Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Anton/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Lacking of the Cantonese context, children in both Hong Kong and Guangdong province are now found using Putonghua naturally in their daily life and some have started having difficulties in understanding Cantonese.

Seeing the possibility of losing their mother tongue, citizens thus become more aware of the preservation of Cantonese.

2. Cantonese is the foundation of local culture

The loss of Cantonese could also mean a loss of local culture.

Cantonese has verbally blended different languages together and as a result becomes a carrier of local culture and eyewitness of the societal development.

During the British colonial period, many common terms in Cantonese, such as dik-si (taxi) and si-do-be-lei (strawberry) were translated from English directly.

In recent years, as the contact of different cultures increases, Japanese terms have also been used in Cantonese directly, such as kawayi (cute) and fong tai (Japanese buffet).

Furthermore, many popular and distinctive local cultural products are made in Cantonese.

For instance, Cantonese opera is one of the three Chinese opera genres on the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity Representative List. 

Also, Cantopop has had a significant influence in the Asia-Pacific Rim since the 1970s. The “god of song” Sam Hui and the “four heavenly kings” Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, Leon Lai and Aaron Kwok are still very popular in both mainland China and overseas.

What’s more, almost all popular Hong Kong classic movies made in the 1980s were produced in Cantonese and the Cantonese-speaking actors are still famous superstars.

Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are two popular examples of the Canto Kung Fu movie icons.

These explain the significant role played by Cantonese in the local culture and the growing importance of preserving Cantonese.

3. Cantonese is a traditional intangible heritage with international prestige

In addition, Cantonese is a precious traditional intangible heritage with a long held international prestige.

It has a richer traditional heritage. It it had been spoken by the ancient Chinese since the Tang Dynasty while Putonghua is a language introduced by the northern nomadic invaders during the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties.

READ MORE: Was There Massive Voter Fraud In The Hong Kong LegCo Elections?

Hence, it has inherited the pronunciation, lexis, meaning and beauty of Chinese classical language. For instance, Cantonese has 9 tones while Putonghua only has 4 tones. Also, ancient Chinese literature can only be fully understood and read in Cantonese.

Moreover, such importance has gained a growing international recognition and concern.

Apart from its legal language status acknowledged by UNESCO, universities have long been offering credit-bearing and non-credit-bearing Cantonese courses which have received strong support from the public.

Photo Credit: Toomore Chiang/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Toomore Chiang/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

One significant example is the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. That institution received a large amount of thank you emails after it announced to offer credit-bearing Cantonese courses.

Therefore, people often regard Cantonese as the last resort of protecting traditional Chinese culture and languages and proud to be its defenders.

4. Cantonese is the symbol of local identity and the yardstick of distinctiveness

With such unique importance and status of Cantonese, the language has become the symbol of identity and the indication of the local political and socio-economical difference with the rest of China, especially in Hong Kong.

Lacking of confidence in the central government and fearing Hong Kong may lose its status as an international city and its competitive edge, many Hong Kong people have committed to preserve and enhance the distinctiveness of Hong Kong from China since the handover in 1997.

According to the ethno-linguistic identity model and the communication accommodation theory, when people strongly identify with their ethnic group, they tend to communicate in their ethnic language to symbolically distinguish themselves from others.

In this way, people with a strong Hongkonger identification incline to resist learning Putonghua and focus more on preserving Cantonese (Tong, 1999. International Journal of Intercultural Relations,23(2), 281-296.)

Such inclination is further intensified as the entitled ways of life and valued linguistic practices changed rapidly by the mass migration from northern China.

Guangdong province has attracted lots of migrants from the northern part of China with all walks of life ever since the economic reforms and the open up policy.

Yet, most of them failed to adapt the local culture and even demanded the city to change for them.

Hence, Guangdong citizens feel that they are the root cause of all problems, such as the recent acceleration in the strong competition in the job market, exploiting the social welfare benefit which the locals do not have and causing the rise of crime rate and more.

Hong Kong has shared a similar situation but the reaction in Hong Kong is much stronger owing to intense Hong Kong-China conflict in recent years and the three concrete promises: “once country, two systems”, “high degree of autonomy and “remained unchanged for 50 years” made by the central government before the handover.

Mao even said “language is the most significant part of life style. According to the above stipulation, therefore, the status of Cantonese can at least remain unchanged for 50 years”.

For instance, Hong Kong Airlines fight attendants launched a “No Putonghua” protest in response to a mainland passengers’ sit-in.

Also, jeering at the Chinese national anthem has gradually become a habit of Hong Kong football fans to express their anti-China feeling.

With a fear that they may lose their identities and cities, the potential of losing Cantonese has become a warning alarm in many people’s mind.

Thus, Cantonese has become a way of struggle against the domination of the outsiders for the locals with strong ethnic consciousness.

To conclude, protecting Cantonese in PRD has become more important since the 1990s mainly because Hong Kong and central government fail to understand Cantonese is not just a regional lingual franca and suppress its existence rapidly.

On the contrary, the genuine public uphold Cantonese as a precious intangible heritage with international prestige, the foundation of local culture, the symbol of local identity and hence defend the linguistic status and use of Cantonese fiercely.

Although many countries try to achieve solidarity through linguistic conformity, there are also prosperous multiethnic and multilingual countries that achieve the same goal by preserving the linguistic diversity.

If policy makers really hope to achieve a harmonious society, they should recognize the complex multicultural and multi-linguistic reality of China, respect the linguistic right of individuals and preserve Cantonese and other dialects or languages at their upmost through revising the current national policy.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Photo Credit: green_intruder/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

What Are The Wukan Protests And Why Should Young People Care?

By Joy Pamnani

HONG KONG- The Wukan protests have hit global news headlines over the past few weeks, and yet many people, still don’t have a good idea of what it is all about.

The controversy seems to have begun in 2011, and it is certainly complicated.

But in this piece, we’re just boiling it down to the basics.

What sparked the protests?

Back in September 2011, the Wukan protests began as a result of land sales disputes in the Chinese coastal village.

Protestors argue that corrupt government officials got involved in land sales in the region without properly compensating villagers for their land that was sold.

Protests soon erupted, and clashes between the police and villagers left dozens wounded.

The movements grew in scale when a protest leader in police custody died in December 2011, as villagers forced the entire local government, Communist Party leadership and police out of the village.

Why is Wukan known as the “democracy village” experiment?

Wukan became known as China’s democracy village after villagers were granted the right to vote for officials following protests in 2011.

The term “democracy village” comes as many of China’s villages are state-controlled.

Read More: Was There Massive Voter Fraud In The Hong Kong LegCo Elections?

The country has started to introduce grassroots democracy for its villagers, and Wukan is a place people see the impacts of democracy in China, akin to an experiment.

What brought the issue into the spotlight again recently?

Protests have been on-and-off for the past few years, as villagers call for an eradication of corruption and better protection of land rights in China.

Authorities, on the other hand, have sent police and troops to crack down on the protests.

Clashes have continued.

WATCH: BBC News Report from Wukan in June, 2016

One of the elected village leaders, Lin Zuluan, was looked up to by many villagers in his fight against land seizures.

In June, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment facing bribery charges after he drafted a letter to the government demanding an end to corruption.

Lin released a taped confession, admitting to his crimes.

However, villagers believed his confession was forced and began marching along the streets, calling on authorities to release him.

If corruption is prevalent in China, why is this one of the only few uprisings we’ve seen so far?

Many mass movements have been a result of corruption, yet mainland media censorship stops information about protests that get out of hand.

While most people think the news was spread as a result of large-scale of demonstrations, experts believe it had to do with villagers’ intentions of making the news circulate around the world.

“The protestors in Wukan were very smart and invited international media outlets to broadcast the story,” Chen Xi, an Associate Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong told RISE NEWS in an interview.

Yuan Weishi, a retired historian from the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, told the New York Times that geographical factors also play a role in Wukan’s mass coverage.

Guangdong is China’s wealthiest and most liberal province, and its citizens tend to look at uncensored news reports from Hong Kong, where people enjoy a higher degree of political freedom.

“People in Guangdong watch Hong Kong TV, rarely China Central Television, and so have a better understanding of civil society and the rule of law,” Weishi said, in a telephone interview with the New York Times back in 2011.“Being exposed to the Hong Kong media in their daily lives gives Guangdong people a better understanding of how the media works and what they can do.”

Hong Kong people held a democracy movement called the Umbrella Revolution two years back, and they didn’t receive as much backlash from the government. Why so?

Before going into comparisons, it’s important to understand the political context involved when comparing Hong Kong and Wukan.

Deciding whether or not to stop demonstrations in Wukan and Hong Kong don’t share the same dimensions in decision-making.

“Hong Kong was a British colony, and got handed over to China in 1997. The city has a considerable amount of autonomy, and a crackdown is an important decision related to national sovereignty,” Chen Xi told RISE NEWS. “An incident like Wukan is only a local matter.”

What’s in store for China’s democracy scene in the years to come?

Well, different experts have different thoughts on the issue.

According to a New York Times interview with Johan Lagerkvist, a professor at Stockholm University, Lagerkvist believes the Wukan incident will discourage the spread of democracy in China.

“It is now unlikely that other villages in China would adopt democracy in the mold of Wukan.” he said in the article.

However, Professor Chen Xi begs to differ, as grassroots democracy has spread well over China, as officials begin to embrace the concept of self-governance.

“Wukan is not a good model for democracy in China,” Chen Xi said. “Many elected officials have taken good care of their villages and I believe grassroots democracy will spread.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover Photo Credit: BBC News/ Youtube (Screengrab)

Was There Massive Voter Fraud In The Hong Kong LegCo Elections?

The latest Legislative Council elections were held across Hong Kong more than two weeks ago, but in recent days, serious questions have been raised about the results.

An investigation by the non-profit journalism organization FactWire found that more people voted in the election than there were ballot papers for, an impossibility.

FactWire also discovered counting irregularities at five of the 96 polling stations it looked at. There were 571 polling places across Hong Kong in total.

In those five polling stations that had irregularities, over 831 more votes were counted than there were actually ballot papers for.

Photo Credit: FactWire

Photo Credit: FactWire

A polling agent at one of the stations in question, Sheung Tak Community Hall blasted the way the official count was held. She gave her name to FactWire as Miss Law.

“The total voter turnout was found to be incorrect anyway,” Law told FactWire. “If the accuracy of this number is not that important and can be double-checked during the counting procedure, why wasn’t the polling station open earlier so that the general public could participate in monitoring the process”?

The statistics at the 96 scrutinized polling stations were provided to FactWire by the Hong Kong Indigenous, Democratic Party, Neighbourhood and Workers Service Centre, Civic Party, Labour Party as well as some polling agents. There were also FactWire reporters on the scene.

RISE NEWS Hong Kong cannot independently verify the claims made by FactWire.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Steve Cadman/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

In Hong Kong, Young Demosistō Activists “Greet” Chinese Official In Tense Encounter

Chairman of the Standing Committee of the People’s National Congress, Zhang Dejiang spent three days in Hong Kong, between May 17th and May 19th.

Zhang is a member of the Chinese Politburo (the central governing organization of the CCP and therefore the country), and chief official in affairs related to both Macau and Hong Kong.

Zhang was met with some resistance from democracy advocates, including the youth led organization Demosistō.

Activists took actions to voice their displeasure with Zhang, such as displaying large banners with pro democratic messages.

Large scale protests were largely foiled by the impressive security measures taken, which ranged from utilizing divers and scores of police, to confiscating yellow towels and umbrellas; symbols of the 2014 Occupy Movement that gripped Hong Kong.

Read More: Here’s Why This Hong Kong College Student Scares The Shit Out Of The Chinese Government

The most dramatic of these protests was a premeditated “ambush” of Zhang’s convoy outside his hotel.

Several Demosistō members took part in the attempt, standing on the side of the highway or in the median. The police response was swift.


 #NathanLawKwunChung@demosisto was pressed down to ground and others were oppressed by police during protest#HongKong pic.twitter.com/ku2fkMRtWq

The activists were detained for a short while, reportedly receiving further abuse, as shown below.

Though all the activists were released today, the trouble seems to have not ended in relation to this incident.

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Demosistō’s Facebook page reports that five activists related to this display had their residences raided by police.

Zhang has been described as a rising star of the CCP by the Brookings Institute, having studied at Kim Il-Sung University, and been integral in Chinese policy towards that country in the early 1990s.

During Zhang’s visit, he made claims that the CCP was not attempting to subvert Hong Kong’s unique identity, or the principle of “one country, two systems”.

Despite these reassurances to the group of banquet invitees, security officials do not seem to think these arguments are compelling to a significant number of Hong Kongers, due to the significant police presence, and the gluing of bricks to the sidewalk to prevent their use as improvised weapons.

Are you in Hong Kong and have a tip about this story? Send us an email to editor@risenews.net

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: 羅冠聰 Nathan Law/ Facebook Video (Screengrab)

Here’s Why This Hong Kong College Student Scares The Shit Out Of The Chinese Government

On April 10th, the Hong Kong based political party Demosistō was formed by some of the youth leaders that led the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

The highlight of the party’s platform is the desire to hold a referendum on Hong Kong’s autonomy prior to 2047. It is a revolutionary desire in the eyes of the Chinese government and many pro Chinese political figures in Hong Kong.

When RISE NEWS  learned about the creation of Demosistō, we reached out to them in order to share their story.

After all, they are some of the most politically influential millennials that the world has seen.

We eventually secured an interview with Agnes Chow, the party’s Deputy Secretary General, and veteran of the student group Scholarism, which proved highly influential in the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

She is also a second year student at Hong Kong Baptist University, studying politics.

Chow first became involved in Hong Kong politics in 2012, after being exposed to Scholarism via Facebook.

The group was founded in opposition to the highly controversial Moral and National Education Curriculum, which was claimed by opponents to be pro Communist Party of China (CPC) brainwashing.

One of the more compelling pieces of evidence to this claim is one of the key seven priorities of the curriculum being “National Identity“, which is to say an identity indistinct from that of mainland China.

Scholarism, and its allied groups were ultimately successful in defeating the Moral and National Education Curriculum, but also in demonstrating that a grassroots movement of millennials in Hong Kong can make political change.

However, Scholarism’s next big outing, as well as other liberal organizations, proved even larger than the opposition to the Moral and National Education Curriculum.

The Umbrella Movement was a mass protest spanning several months in Hong Kong. Thousands of protesters gathered in opposition to constitutional reform imposed by the National People’s Congress (NPCSC). These reforms give a nominating committee, with purportedly strong ties to the CPC, the authority to pre-select a handful of candidates prior to a territory wide election.

The “suffrage” presented by Beijing outraged a tremendous number of Hong Kongers, and in particular, large swaths of young people, many of whom were in secondary school.

In particular the student group Scholarism was the centerpiece of what little international media attention was put on the Umbrella Movement.  It was largely out of the ranks of Scholarism that Demosistō emerged.

However, size of opposition did not prove decisive in the Umbrella Movement, as the ultimate objective of the protesters was thwarted.

When asked if the three month event was a failure, Chow told RISE in a Skype interview;

“in terms of political goals, i think it was a failure, but it also had lots of influence on people’s minds.”

Indeed, there is something to be said of the conditions being created in which a handful of university students can exercise a considerable degree of influence in politics.

To those familiar with the Occupy Movement in the United States, the idea of using the political capital gained through the Umbrella Movement to work within a broken system may seem strange or counter intuitive.

“It is difficult to fight some things through the Parliament, or through the Legislative Council, and while I can understand these kinds of feelings, because in our legislative council now half of our council is not democratically elected, because of the Functional Constituency,” Chow said. “I still believe we can enter the Legislative Council, we can do something… because our aim is to not just work within the Council.

“Through the election we want to promote our ideas to more people. What we have to do is connect the Legislative Council and the Civil Society outside.”

The intentions of Demosistō and other liberal actors within Hong Kong has not gone unnoticed.

Earlier this year, Chow brought attention to the abduction of a man selling books that criticized the Communist party, or were otherwise banned in Mainland China.

Chow has also had the shadow of the CPC come upon her as well.

Limits on withdrawals were placed on her bank account which was intended to be used to accept donations on behalf of Demosistō, as they have thus far been unable to register as a company.

This has resulted in Demosistō relying on crowdfunding via Paypal.

Chow was more concerned with Demosistō’s hurdles in registering as a company. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t like this very much.

” In Hong Kong we do not have the legislation for political parties,” Chow said. “They all have to register as a company instead.”

These financial problems likely do not improve Demosistō’s opinion of the Hong Kong establishment.

” Of course the government and the companies will not support us, because we are opposing the government, and the business sectors are also always standing on the government’s side,” Chow said. “They have to cooperate with the Chinese side.”

Demosistō then will be relying on their proven ability to utilize grassroots tactics to gain wins in the Legislative Council, especially students, but not exclusively.

“We have involved a professor teaching in one of the arts schools… We believe that the new political party, because it’s not a student’ s organization anymore, and it’s important for us to involve more people from the older generations.”

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A Demosistō social media banner showing members of the party. Photo Credit: Demosistō/ Facebook.

She also notes that for future plans, the party will:

“Try to recruit them [volunteers], through our website, and different forums, and public locations we will try to send our message to Hong Kong People, and hope that they can join us later on.”

Spreading the message of a referendum on Hong Kong’s self determination by 2047, the year the Sino-British Joint Declaration expires, is the clear center piece of Demosistō’s platform, but is far from the only position taken.

Scholarism was deemed ill fitting for elevation to Demosistō’s status as a political party in part due to a lack of political cohesion, according to Chow.

Demosistō heavily invests in individualist language to describe their proposed policies, broken down into the ” Four Selves” :Self Initiating, Self Standing, Self Autonomy, and finally Self Determination. These are intended as steps over a ten year period.

” Self Determination does not mean dissolution of the Social Problems in Hong Kong”

” Even after self determination we still have lots of: education problems, housing problems, property hegemony, etc,” Chow said. “We still have a lot of problems to solve before the self determination of Hong Kong. Resources such as food and water heavily rely on the supply of the mainland China. No matter if it was an independent country or a city under a country, it has to have self sufficiency.”

Not only does Demosistō insist on self sufficiency for the city of Hong Kong, but also an advancement of Hong Kong’s unique identity.

” It is also important to build up the identity of Hong Kong People, so we propose a Hong Kong History subject be implemented,” Chow said in the interview. “Hong Kong people do not really know much about Hong Kong history; in our education system there are only World History and Chinese History.”

This idea of an independent Hong Kong identity seems pivotal in the dispute between Hong Kong and Beijing.  As previously noted, establishing a national identity was one of the objectives of the Moral and National Education Curriculum.

Beijing specifically does not want there to be any distinction between China and Hong Kong, and may be trying to begin laying the groundwork for 2047, and end this “salutary neglect” like relationship.

Chow concluded our chat by telling us about her vision of Hong Kong’s identity, saying;

“For me, the identity of Hong Kong people, or the characteristic of Hong Kong, is diversity. We have lots of different kinds of people, who believe in different core values, who came from different countries, who are different races, etc. It’s very important to emphasize the diversity, and not to exclude the others who disagree with us.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Agnes Chow Ting/ Facebook

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