Written by Marcos Margarido
Thursday, 02 October 2014 01:14
University students boycott classes for a week and occupy the streets of the financial center (known as Central) of Hong Kong to demand democratic elections in 2017.
Hong Kong, a Chinese “protectorate”, lives days of tension and a lot of demonstrations since a group of pro-democracy activists launched the movement “Occupy the Central with Love and Peace” and challenged the local government and the central government in Beijing. According to organizers, it would open a “new era of civil disobedience” in the city.
The movement, inspired by the various “Occupy” movements, as the Occupy Wall Street, which swept the United States and countries in Europe, plans to block the buildings of the financial district to protest against new electoral proceedings imposed by the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of China, only valid for Hong Kong. University students massively supported the idea and anticipated it: they approved a 5-days strike from September 22, in support of the movement.
Hong Kong has a population of 7.2 million inhabitants and 78,000 students. On the first day of the strike about 13 000 participated in the protest, but it is estimated that at least half didn’t attend the classes.
Alex Chow, general secretary of the student federation, said that “we want the Communist Party to understand that students and teenagers of Hong Kong will not obey this ridiculous decision”, and hoped that their action could inspire other strikes, as the workers’.
The strike was taken over by thousands of students gathered on the campus on the first day, protected by colorful umbrellas due to the scorching sun, but also as a “shield” against the tear and pepper gases, whose image is making the media call it the “umbrella revolution.” The high school students also agreed to join the movement for a day, what happened on Friday, September 26.
And it was on the 26th of September that thousands gathered in the town center and began blocking streets and buildings. The police failed to stop hundreds of students from charging into a forecourt at the city government headquarters, drawing thousands who occupied an avenue and open areas next to the fenced-in forecourt. The students inside the forecourt were dragged off by the police only in the next day, but the supporters outside have stayed. Seventy-four students were arrested during the police crackdown and many others were hit by gases.
The scenes of police brutality were shown on television, prompting new crowd to join the protest on Saturday. The residents supported the occupation donating water and food to the students, which accumulated into mountains of supplies. On Sunday, 28, all the Central was seized by demonstrators.
The Central became a “liberated area”, including the government headquarters close to Victoria Harbour, forming a huge camp of tens of thousands of students. The organizers of the “Occupy Central” anticipated his own occupation, which was announced for the 1st of October, and joined the students.
Police repression happened again on Sunday night. According to the People’s Daily, from the Communist Party of China, “Dozens of tear gas canisters were fired at protesters assembling near the central government offices after 6pm. In spite of occasional retreats, the blockade that halted traffic in the heart of the city persisted into the night.”
The newspaper also said that the chief executive Leung Chun-Hong Kong Yingde is resolute inopposingtheunlawfuloccupationactionsby OccupyCentral. “The police shall continue to handle the situation in accordance with the law,” he said.
Hong Kong was a British colony from 1841 to 1997, when the Chinese army occupied the city and, after an agreement with England and the United States, declared it part of Chinese territory, but governed by special laws, called the Basic Law, a kind of mini-constitution. The Basic Law guarantees some democratic freedoms for the population, as the rights of speech, press, assembly and religion, non-existent in the rest of China. However, the population had not guaranteed the right to elect their government, whose decision was also supported by the two countries.
Thus, since 1997, the ruler of Hong Kong (called the Chief Executive) is chosen by an committee of 1,200 persons nominated by the central government of China, which always guarantee that the members’ choice according to the will of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The current Chief Executive, Leung Chun-Yingde, for example, was elected in 2012 with 689 votes.
In 2007, however, the People’s Congressruledthat in 2017 the chief executive would be chosen by universal suffrage, but maintained the Article 45 of the Basic Law, which states that the candidates would be nominated “by a broadly representative committee in accordance with democratic procedures.”
On August 31 the People’s Congress Standing Committee ruled that to appear on the ballot, candidates had to get more than half the votes of the “broadly representative nominating committee” would be identical to the election committee that had picked previous chief executives. This is called “democratic procedures”.
With this, the Chinese government ensures that only “acceptable” candidates can participate in the electoral process, which turns the process of “free” choice into a farce. According to the chairman of the Standing Committee, Zhang Dejiang, candidates “do not have to love the Communist Party, but they cannot be opposed to the party and its one-party rule.” That is, the ruler elected by Hong Kong’s people is a puppet of the Communist Party.
It is against this undemocratic imposition that the youth of Hong Kong is struggling. According to them, or the Standing Committee’s decision is revoked or all electoral reform should be vetoed (this mechanism is possible, provided there is sufficient number of opponents in the judicial institution of Hong Kong). For them, to accept it is tantamount to abandoning the struggle for democracy that exists in Hong Kong for several years.
One country, two systems?
When the Basic Law was passed, the CCP has justified the granting of freedoms to the people of Hong Kong with the famous formula of “one country, two systems”. According to the party, what is valid to Hong Kong is not to China, because in that city reigned the capitalist system, while in the rest of the country there is another system, the “Socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Indeed, the capitalist restoration in China had already occurred at least 15 years before 1997. At that time there was a boom period for the introduction of capitalism in the country. In 1978 Deng Xiaoping initiated a policy of “openness to the Western world” to face serious economic and political crisis that swept the country after 10 years of social chaos caused by the “Cultural Revolution”.
In practical terms, a series of reforms of the economy was applied, known as the “four modernizations”, whose official purpose was to strengthen socialism by adopting some market mechanisms to stimulate the economy, to institute the “market socialism.”
To these initial steps followed the expropriation of large sectors of the peasantry and the permission to install “family businesses” in the field, the opening of “special zones” on the coast, where capitalist companies could settle freely and the privatization of state owned enterprises that had arisen after the socialist revolution of 1949.
This deployment process of capitalism under the dictatorial leadership of the Communist Party suffered a strong reaction in 1989, when large sectors of youth and workers began to organize themselves into parties and independent trade unions from the CCP to demand an end to the famine in the country, the end of corruption in state agencies and democratic freedoms. The end of this process became known as the “Tiananmen Square’s massacre “, the main square in Beijing, in front of the government headquarters, which was occupied by protesters. The tanks of the dictatorship invaded the square killing hundreds of oppositionists and the imprisonment of thousands. The death toll was never published.
After 1989, with the defeat of the revolutionary movement, the process of privatization and withdrawal of workers’ revolutionary conquests were accelerated and in 1997, launching year of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the capitalist system was already fully established in China.
Therefore, CCP’s assertion of the existence of two opposing systems at that time (and even today) is nothing but a smokescreen to hide two facts: both in Hong Kong and in China the economic system is capitalist, and in both regions the political regime is a capitalist dictatorship under the iron hand of a party whose name, by tradition, is “communist”.
So what does exist is “one country, one system”: A single capitalist system with a dictatorial political regime.
The response of the CPC
It is enough seeing the CCP’s reaction against the youth’s struggle in Hong Kong to realize clearly this affirmation. The political response was typical of South American dictatorships and in other countries: the most brutal repression, as has been seen, added with threats by the press. In a story on Sept. 1, after a small protest rally called by the “Occupy Central”, the Global Times website (controlled by the CCP) criticizes the “radical opposition” to be a “paper tiger” and states that ” They will definitely be called to account if they resort to illegal confrontation…. Hong Kong is not Ukraine, … If radical opposition groups fail to understand this and believe they play a dominant role in Hong Kong’s political reform, then facts will give them a lesson.”
Obviously there are more than facts; the dictatorship’s bullets and cannons pointed to the protesters if they dare to have an independent policy, as Ukrainian protesters dared to.
But it is in the economic field that the dictatorship took pains. On the first day of the student strike, Xi Jinping, leader of the CCP and Chinese President met with the biggest millionaires in Hong Kong to ensure that he would not change the rules and obviously to require their support in exchange for the privilege, that made them millionaires, to continue exploiting the Chinese working class under the protection of the dictatorship.
The president guests, who have a combined fortune estimated at tens of billions of dollars, included the president of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, Stanley Lau; Henderson Land Development chairman, Lee Shau-kee, and the Wharf Holdings chairman, Peter Woo Kwong-ching. But the star of the show was Li Ka-shing, head of Cheung Kong Holdings and Asia’s wealthiest man, with a fortune of $30.7 billion, according to Bloomberg. Xi Jinping made sure to be placed next to him in the official picture of the meeting.
There is nothing more symptomatic for a government of a capitalist country than resorting to capitalists to ensure “order” and the peace so they can continue exploiting the working class, whether in Hong Kong, or in China.
But the scenario would not be complete if the eternal allies of the bosses against the workers did not arise on the scene: the union bureaucracy. A delegation of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, headed by its chairman, Lam Shuk-yee, was received by the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress, Zhang Dejiang. He said “he hoped the federation would hold on to its principles of patriotism and loving Hong Kong” and urged “the federation to improve its service and contribute more to the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.” It is clear that these gentlemen have volunteered to work for the prosperity of the capitalists and stability of the dictatorship in Hong Kong, in exchange for keeping their jobs.
The hypocrisy of imperialism
The mainstream media of imperialism have systematically covering the protests, demanding that the Chinese government grant democratic freedoms for which the people of Hong Kong fight. But they reveal their true colors by stating, as the New York Times editorial on the 1st of October, that “such a result [of strong repression] would be devastating to the people of Hong Kong and would severely damage the political stability that multinational corporations seek when establishing their business there.”
Multinational corporations settle in Hong Kong to have the same advantages of the local bourgeoisie in exploiting the Chinese working class, as they enjoy a special status in relation to foreign companies. And that is the major concern of imperialism: not damage their business in the Chinese “factory of the world”.
So much so that at no time they criticize the fact that Britain has colonized Hong Kong for more than 150 years without ever having held a single election. In the 60s and 70s, for example, there were mass protests, which sometimes led to riots, against the British rule and the lack of democracy, which were suppressed by the colonial police, the same way it does today the dictatorship of the CCP. It’s the pot calling the kettle black…
Not another Tiananmen Square!
The youth and the people of Hong Kong are at great risk. The spectrum of the Tiananmen Square massacre rounds the financial center of the city and there are not a few who remember the tragic result occurred 25 years ago. Even more because every year the occupation of the Square is remembered with massive rallies, while its mere mention is severely suppressed in the rest of China.
For the Chinese dictatorship it is crucial to prevent this struggle from amplifying and reaching the working class, repeating the workers-student alliance occurred in 1989. This may set a precedent for the democratic struggles in the rest of the country and create a situation that might escape from control.
This occurs when economic growth is no longer as strong as in previous years. This could unify the economic struggles, which are very common in China, with the struggle for democracy, and would make an explosive mixture.
It is necessary that the youth in struggle and workers in Hong Kong receive the broadest solidarity from democratic and social activists around the world. The solidarity is crucial to strengthen their fight for democracy against the dictatorship of the CCP and to help them build their own independent unions and parties from the CCP, the employers and institutions linked to the dictatorship, as the Trades Union Federations in China and Hong Kong.