Tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators have taken to the streets in Hong Kong after the Chinese government ruled that it would continue to limit, vet and pre-approve candidates eligible to stand in the region’s 2017 elections.
Protests, organized by activist group “Occupy Central”, were due to commence on October 1st, but were pushed forward in support of students who forced entry into the main government compound on Friday, receiving a heavy handed response from security forces.
The protests, which began on Saturday evening, have primarily involved students and other young people, although a much wider demographic have attended in recent days.
The yellow ribbon has become a symbol of the movement, commonly referred to as the ‘Umbrella Revolution’. This ribbon is photographed in front of the People’s Liberation Army Forces Building.
Whilst the protests have been largely peaceful, the Hong Kong police has used tear gas and pepper spray in order to dispel crowds. Reporters have also noted a high degree of tension amongst police, with scenes of demonstrators being verbally abused being reported on the scene. Student groups have announced that they will occupy government buildings tomorrow if the current administration does not resign, creating fears for a rapid escalation of the situation.
The origins of the protest lie in Hong Kong’s electoral system. Beijing has promised Hong Kong universal suffrage by 2017 but has mitigated democratization by forcing Hong Kong voters to choose only among candidates pre-approved by a Beijing-friendly commission. One of the main demands being made by the protesters, according to Mr. Clarence Leong, a St. Andrews student and Hong Kong national, is for the Chinese Communist Party to ‘reconsider the framework’ of Hong Kong elections, allowing for more choices among candidates and parties. There has also been major discontent with how the Legco, the Hong Kong legislature, operates. Hong Kong policy has long been heavily influenced by business interests represented in the Legco, often at the cost of democratic interests.
In this video, protestors chant “Ha Toi”, Cantonese for “Step Down”, directed at Hong Kong Chief executive CY Leung.
Photography by Amanda Sheppard.