Chinese Gov’t Mouthpiece: Hong Kong Protests Won’t Spread to Mainland

By Patrick Goodenough | September 30, 2014 | 4:34am EDT

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters gather at Hong Kong's Mongkok district Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

(CNSNews.com) – A Chinese state media outlet on Tuesday expressed confidence that growing street protests in Hong Kong, triggered by what demonstrators view as yet another broken democratization pledge, would spread to mainland cities.

The Global Times also shot down any hopes by territory residents who support the so-called “Occupy Central” protests that Beijing would reverse its recent decision to deny them the right to freely elect their own chief executive in 2017.

“The central government will not step back just because of the chaos created by the oppositionists,” the Communist Party-affiliated paper said in an editorial.

“The Occupy Central campaign appears to be boisterous, but it will not spread out of Hong Kong. The majority of mainlanders back the central government’s Hong Kong policies. So it is unlikely the chaos in Hong Kong could turn into a crisis in the mainland.”

Global Times predicted that once Hong Kong residents realize “that the central government will not change its mind, they will recognize the dramas staged by the oppositionists are just making things worse. The tide will turn against the oppositionists.”

The protests began modestly on Friday, but grew on Saturday after protest leaders were arrested.

After using teargas, pepper spray and batons Sunday in an unsuccessful bid to disperse protestors, riot police were ordered to back off on Monday, manning barricades to block off some areas but otherwise not reacting to their presence, including on major thoroughfares.

The authorities have, however, canceled scheduled fireworks displays on Wednesday, the National Day holiday, when large numbers of people customarily take to the streets.

Chinese media highlighted the disruption the protests were causing to the normal smooth functioning of the territory, including traffic and public transport delays, and suspension of banking services and school classes in some areas.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday the U.S. government was closely watching the situation and supports freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. He said it urged authorities to exercise restraint and protestors to express their views peacefully.

A spokeswoman for Beijing’s foreign ministry said foreign governments should not interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs.

“Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong, said Hua Chunying. “Hong Kong affairs fully fall within China’s domestic affairs. We hope that relevant countries can be prudent in their words and deeds, refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Hong Kong in any way, stay away from supporting the illegal acts such as Occupy Central, and do not send out wrong signals.”

Since the former British colony was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997, the promise of “universal suffrage” elections for the chief executive (CE) and Legislative Council has eluded its residents.

Currently, the CE is chosen by a 1,200-member body comprising representatives of business, labor and professional groups largely approved by Beijing, while only half of the 70 legislators are directly elected.

Democrats argue that under the territory’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, they should have been allowed to directly elect their leaders and representatives by the  2007-8 electoral cycle. In 2004, however, the Standing Committee of China’s rubberstamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), ruled that out, declaring that it was for China alone to decide whether Hong Kong needed electoral reform.

Four years later, the NPC committee disappointed many in Hong Kong again, announcing that its voters would not elect their leaders by universal suffrage in 2012, but that they “may” be allowed direct elections in 2017.

The latest decision came as yet another blow: the NPC committee said there will indeed by direct elections for the CE in 2017, but voters will get to choose from just “two to three candidates,” selected by a mostly pro-Beijing “nominating committee.”

Critics view this a another breach of the “one country, two systems” promised by Beijing when it negotiated the territory’s return from British administration – that Hong Kong would enjoy a significant level of autonomy and freedom to enjoy its capitalist way of life for at least 50 years.

China experts say Beijing is determined not to allow too much freedom, too soon, for fear it would boost demands for democratization on the mainland.

‘Stability and prosperity’

At Monday’s White House press briefing, Earnest reiterated that the U.S. supports universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

“We believe that an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by the rule of law is essential for Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity. Indeed, this is what has made Hong Kong such a successful and truly global city to this point.”

Earnest said the U.S. government makes a point, in “every interaction” with Beijing, of stressing the importance of  respect for basic universal human rights. He was confident President Obama would do so again when he visits China in November, for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Global Times on Monday accused unnamed American media outlets of trying to “mislead and stir up Hong Kong society” by drawing comparisons between the current protests by “radical activists” and “the Tiananmen Incident in 1989” – China’s favored term for the deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protestors in the capital’s landmark square.

“China is no longer the same nation it was 25 years ago,” it said. “We have accumulated experience and drawn lessons from others, which help strengthen our judgment when faced with social disorder. The country now has more feasible approaches to deal with varied disturbances.”

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