Protest in Hong Kong
Monsoon of their discontent
An annual ritual turns into an expression of grievances
Jul 7th 2011 | HONG KONG | from the print edition
ON JULY 1st 2003 half a million people took to the streets of Hong Kong, forced the government to give up on a reviled law and ended the career of the territory’s chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa. This is not a Tung Chee-hwa moment, but the kettle is boiling again. On July 1st throngs of angry Hong Kong people rallied between Victoria Park and the government buildings in Central—more than 200,000, according to organisers—shouting, singing, whistling and waving banners demanding democratic rights, great and small. It was the largest popular demonstration on Chinese territory in several years. The people of Hong Kong, so often quiescent, are angry again: at their local government and at meddling by the national authorities in faraway Beijing.
On the next business day, July 4th, the government blinked, postponing a controversial revision to Hong Kong’s electoral law, which would have banned by-elections for vacated seats in the Legislative Council (Legco). The government had wanted to do this to prevent its opponents from repeating a stunt from last year, when they engineered by-elections to improvise a kind of straw poll on democracy itself.
Never mind that those by-elections drew only 17% of registered voters to the polls. The government is hell-bent on keeping voters away from anything that looks like a referendum. It thinks its very legitimacy is at stake.
Before the July 1st protest, it had argued that the proposed change was urgently needed before Legco’s next session could begin. Now there will be a “public consultation”, meaning a two-month pause in which the government must hope the protesters lose interest or go on holiday.