On May 17, Zhang Dejiang, a Chinese high ranking official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, began a three day visit in Hong Kong by speaking at the One Belt, One Road economic policy summit. Mr. Dejiang’s visit prompted pro-democracy protests, causing seven arrests. Local authorities have decided to implement heavy security measures such as the deployment of, 6,000 police officers daily. Though Dejiang “[came] to see, to listen and to speak,” Hong Kongers feel that he hasn’t listened to their demands, as Hong Kong-China relations continue to worsen.
Hong Kong was annexed by the People’s Republic of China in 1997. However, Hong Kong was established as a Special Administrative Region and allowed to remain sovereign. The Basic Law, Hong Kong’s closest document to a constitution, established that the ultimate goal is for a leader to be elected through universal suffrage. The Chinese Government had promised direct elections for 2017; however, in 2014 Beijing announced it would limit the number of candidates to two or three, and these candidates would have to be approved by a pro-Beijing nominating committee. Pro-democracy riots began.
Occupy Central, one of the many pro-democracy groups, organized a referendum attended by twenty percent of Hong Kong residents. Around eighty-eight percent of the people who took the referendum believed the government should veto any attempts to change policies to favor Beijing, arguing it wouldn’t be democratic. Thousands joined a massive pro-democracy rally on July 1st. Yellow, the color for pro-democracy movements, filled the streets.
Dubbed the Umbrella Revolution, massive city-wide protests began in late 2014 demanding that the government relinquish control over Hong Kong’s elections. Protesters used umbrellas to fend off the police’s pepper spray. Tens of thousands camped in the main streets for weeks to no avail, as the protests were slowly dismantled and the Hong Kong government changed nothing.
Last February, the Mok Kong riots mobilized hundreds of protesters who dug out bricks to attack the police after a traditional food market was shut down. It is this same fear, fear that the Chinese government is trying to limit Hong Kongers’ freedom, that ripples through the minds of protesters going into the 2017 election.