Hong Kong

Edward Leung, center, shown in 2016, is a leading independence activist now serving a six-year prison sentence for “rioting.”CreditAnthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

More than two dozen of Hong Kong’s young pro-democracy activists have been convicted of minor offenses in recent weeks, and some have received lengthy jail terms. Most are being put away for their involvement in the so-called Fishball Revolution, a spontaneous protest that turned violent on the first night of Chinese New Year in 2016 in the popular shopping district of Mong Kok.

On Monday, Edward Leung, the charismatic former spokesman of a young party that has called for Hong Kong’s independence from mainland China, was given a six-year jail sentence for mere skirmishes with the police. He is one of the leading figures among those known here as “localists”: activists, many of them separatists, who cut their political teeth during the 2014 Umbrella Movement.…  Seguir leyendo »

A lone yellow umbrella, the symbol of the Umbrella Movement in 2014, among placards last May marking the 20th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China. Credit Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

One could say that long before 1997, the year that Britain handed Hong Kong back to China, the leaders of the city’s major pro-democracy parties had come to a tacit understanding with the Chinese government. The pan-dems, as these politicians are known here, would support the absorption of Hong Kong into a greater, unified Chinese state on the understanding that in time Beijing would grant Hong Kong genuine electoral democracy. That, at least, seemed to be the intention driving Hong Kong’s foundational legal text, the Basic Law.

Twenty years later, the Chinese government, apparently bolstered by its newfound wealth and might, seems to have reneged on these terms.…  Seguir leyendo »

Construction on the West Kowloon railway terminus station in Hong Kong, slated to open in late 2018. Plans are underway to place an immigration and customs checkpoint inside that would be operated by mainland China security personnel and enforce Chinese law. Credit Bobby Yip/Reuters

Not that slowly and very steadily, the Chinese government is making political inroads in Hong Kong.

Over the past year or so, it maneuvered to expel pro-democracy legislators from Hong Kong’s lawmaking body, sidelined a popular candidate for the city’s top post to give the job to a proven hard-liner and got local high schools to beam to their students an ideologue’s speech about the Chinese Communist Party’s latest national congress. Now it is demanding that the Hong Kong legislature, known as LegCo, pass a law, modeled after one in force on the mainland, to enforce respect for the Chinese national anthem.…  Seguir leyendo »

A student union member makes more space on the so-called Democracy Wall at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in September. The posted signs advocate for the territory’s independence. Credit Anthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hong Kong’s universities reopened in September to a small on-campus fracas that soon ignited into a virulent controversy about the future of the most basic freedoms in the territory.

It started when a student from mainland China at Chinese University of Hong Kong tore down posters calling for the city’s independence from the so-called Democracy Wall, a space for free expression under the management of a student union. The university’s president, previously thought to be liberal-leaning, asked for the signs’ removal, suggesting that the very notion of independence was illegal under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law.

Yet, Article 27 of the Basic Law stipulates, among other things, that “Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication.”

Student unions on other campuses objected, and more posters went up.…  Seguir leyendo »

Here’s a suggestion for the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, which opens its nominating season next month: Look to the three young men who earlier today became Hong Kong’s first prisoners of conscience.

In 2014, the courageous trio helped lead what become known as the Umbrella Movement — an enormous political protest defending Hong Kong’s freedoms from an increasingly aggressive Beijing. Like Andrei Sakharov, Vaclav Havel, Aung San Suu Kyi and so many dissidents that came before them, the men were hit with a bogus charge (“unlawful assembly”), were found guilty and served out their punishments last year.

But today, Hong Kong’s Department of Justice decided that those penalties were too lenient.…  Seguir leyendo »

El 1 de julio se cumple el 20.º aniversario del traspaso de Hong Kong del Reino Unido a China, según un modelo denominado “un país, dos sistemas”. En las ceremonias oficiales sobrevolará una pregunta inevitable: ¿hay realmente algo que celebrar?

Si uno le hubiera preguntado a Deng Xiaoping, arquitecto del modelo “un país, dos sistemas”, cómo imaginaba que sería el 20.º aniversario del traspaso, tal vez dijera que ese día los residentes de Hong Kong brindarían por su prosperidad y libertad, y que la dirigencia china, por su parte, estaría dando una exhibición de credibilidad y capacidad de gobierno, que acallaría finalmente al coro de escépticos que dudaban del Partido Comunista de China (PCC) y de la sinceridad de sus promesas a Hong Kong.…  Seguir leyendo »

Can China be trusted?

In 1992-97, the last years that Hong Kong was a British colony, I was its governor. I endured round after round of difficult negotiations with the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, over the protection of human rights and the development of the first stages of democracy in Hong Kong.

People often said to me, “At least once Beijing leaders reach an agreement, they stick to it.” I thought then that this view was probably based on faith rather than fact. And so it has clearly proved.

Hong Kong was never like Britain’s other colonies. Acquired after one of many Western interventions in China during the 19th century — which still understandably rankle the Chinese — the territory was picked up on a 99-year lease.…  Seguir leyendo »

As Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Hong Kong to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China, many citizens are out protesting the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Beijing and Hong Kong officials, meanwhile, plan to commemorate the June 30, 1997, transition with fireworks, flag-raising ceremonies, carnivals, concerts, exhibitions and more. Here are five key points to understand the tense relationship:

1) The Tiananmen movement of 1989 fundamentally shifted Beijing-Hong Kong relations.

When London and Beijing announced the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the future of Hong Kong in 1984, the “one country, two systems” model promised to give Hong Kong “a high degree of autonomy” from mainland China.…  Seguir leyendo »

How sustainable is the ‘one country, two systems’ framework? Will the arrangement last the full 50 years (until 2047) as originally envisioned?

It is questionable whether the arrangement that exists today was the one envisioned in 1997 when the handover happened. It was always a very abstract, flexible system, granting Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, meaning it could maintain its capitalist system. Of course, in the lead up to 1997 all these things were broadly seen as being in Beijing’s interests to preserve.

But these days, the one thing that few said in 1997 has come to pass – the People’s Republic has maintained one-party rule as a political system, but become one of the world’s great economies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Twenty years after the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese sovereignty, the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement – the main aim of which was to guarantee the continuity of Hong Kong’s open society and way of life – can be said to have worked well. Street protests remain a regular feature of Hong Kong’s political culture. Freedom of information and expression are alive and well. Hong Kong retains its ‘capitalist way of life’, its legal system based on common law and independent judiciary, and its status as an international financial centre. As a result the city remains one of the most open economies across Asia, with robust institutions and transparency which are hard to find anywhere else in the region.…  Seguir leyendo »

Fifty years ago this weekend broke out what arguably remains the most violent and most traumatic incident in the city’s history since World War II. On May 6, 1967, a labor dispute at a factory producing plastic flowers in the district of Kowloon triggered an eight-month crisis that killed 51 people and injured 832, and momentarily brought the Cultural Revolution to Hong Kong.

Both internal and external factors contributed to the crisis. The policies of the British colonial government had heightened disparities between the bourgeois and the working class, and the poor faced even greater poverty after an influx of refugees fleeing communist China.…  Seguir leyendo »

The selection in March of the Beijing loyalist Carrie Lam as Hong Kong’s next leader is the latest sign that China will continue to tighten its grip on this city. Political divisions will deepen and mistrust of the government will rise.

Ms. Lam, who was picked to be chief executive by an election committee stacked in Beijing’s favor, has long taken a hard-line approach to suppressing dissent. As the former No. 2 official under the unpopular outgoing leader, Leung Chun-ying, she presided over the political reform process that ignited the Umbrella Movement of 2014, in which tens of thousands of Hong Kongers occupied major thoroughfares for three months demanding democratic rights.…  Seguir leyendo »

Carrie Lam, formerly number two in the Hong Kong government, was selected as the Special Administrative Region’s new chief executive on 26 March. What does the process and her selection say about Hong Kong’s political future?

  1. Elections for Hong Kong’s top job are still within Beijing’s control. Due to the failure of political reform proposals in 2015, Lam was elected on the basis of 777 votes from the 1,194 members of the Chief Executive Election Committee. This ‘small-circle’ process was essentially the same as that used since 1997 (the only change being the expansion of the committee from its initial size of 800).
…  Seguir leyendo »

The more formidable challenger is John Tsang Chun-wah, Mr. Leung’s former finance secretary, whose folksy style and smooth P.R. skills contrast with Ms. Lam’s stern and strait-jacketed ways. Mr. Tsang has jokingly called the chief executive position a “thankless, rotten job.” His tickling likeness to the mustachioed Pringles character has earned him the endearing nickname Uncle Chips. Mr. Tsang’s platform promotes conciliation between the government and the various opposition forces, a popular view. He leads Ms. Lam by some 20 percentage points in many recent polls.

The pro-democracy camp, which has no credible candidate of its own but is eager to see Ms.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s election season in Hong Kong. Candidates for the city’s top leadership position are busily campaigning, and TV and the newspapers are filled with reports about their doings.

Yet it’s a strange kind of election, and visitors from abroad could be forgiven for finding the whole thing a bit bewildering. In this race, the contenders don’t waste any time reaching out to the public by making promises or explaining platforms. Instead, the candidates schmooze behind closed doors with property tycoons, seasoned politicians, and representatives of professional bodies and trade associations. That’s because those are the sorts of people who make up the 1,194-member election committee that will select the city’s next chief executive on March 26.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the quiet of a recent Friday afternoon, Hong Kong’s hard-line leader, Leung Chun-ying, announced in a subdued, sometimes hesitant, voice that he would not seek a second term as chief executive. He cited the need for more time with his family: One of Mr. Leung’s daughters has long been afflicted with mental-health issues.

Within minutes, the news had inundated local media, and the political opposition — which won nearly 55 percent of the open seats in recent legislative elections — was cheering. Even a good part of the pro-government camp seemed to give a collective sigh of relief.

For a leader with persistently low approval ratings, Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two months after tumultuous legislative elections, and two years after the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement paralyzed the city center, Hong Kong is in the throes of another great political crisis.

Last Monday, the Chinese government intervened in the territory’s political affairs in an unprecedented way. Brazenly exploiting a technicality, and to the extreme, it barred two young legislators-elect who advocate for greater freedoms for Hong Kong from taking their seats.

The night before, demonstrators had briefly turned the cramped area around Beijing’s Central Liaison Office in Hong Kong into a battleground reminiscent of the worst of the 2014 protests, replete with police batons and tear gas.…  Seguir leyendo »

I returned to my native Hong Kong in 1998 after more than two decades of working as a reporter in New York City. I was hired to start a journalism program at the University of Hong Kong, my alma mater, and train a new generation of reporters to tell the stories of Hong Kong, China and Asia. It was a big and timely beat.

Hong Kong was handed over to China after 156 years of British rule 10 months before I returned. In an ingenious stroke designed to reassure the international community and Hong Kong people, China’s paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, devised the “one country, two systems” arrangement: Beijing would assume sovereignty, but Hong Kong would keep its rule of law and capitalist ways for 50 years.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two years after China’s leadership slammed the door on political reform for Hong Kong, six young candidates running on separatist platforms won seats in the Sept. 4 election for the territory’s legislature. The rapid rise of a youthful political movement intent on gaining more independence for Hong Kong is a direct result of Beijing’s tightening grip on this former British colony.

The ascendance of separatists is a crisis not only for the Hong Kong government and Beijing, which already faces independence movements in Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan. It also threatens the political power of aging leaders of Hong Kong’s democratic camp, who have been advocating political reform for decades and now find themselves outflanked by young radicals with little patience for Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian ways.…  Seguir leyendo »

It has been a tumultuous recent period in Hong Kong politics. Following the 79-day ‘occupy’ movement in autumn 2014 and the subsequent rejection of a political reform package in 2015, Sunday’s elections for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) represented an important moment for the territory. Tensions have been growing between Hong Kong and both the central government in Beijing and mainland Chinese economic and social influence in Hong Kong.

Understanding Hong Kong’s complex electoral system is important to interpreting the results.  Half of LegCo’s 70 seats come from geographical constituencies, with the other 35 from functional constituencies: 30 of these cover professional, social, and labour groups (for a list see here) with relatively small electorates, and five are selected by the rest of the electorate from district councilors using a list system with proportional representation.…  Seguir leyendo »