Focus shifts to call for Chief Executive’s resignation
Crowds of protesters continued to gather in strength in Hong Kong’s financial district, but demands for the resignation of the Chief Executive (CE) of the territory, seemed to overtake calls for full-fledged democracy in the 2017 elections.
Despite the show of strength by the opposition, Hong Kong authorities managed to successfully hold the ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Activists from the Occupy Central held an unofficial referendum, which showed that the majority of 800,000 people support public nomination of the candidates, who should contest for the CE’s post in the 2017 elections. But, they were effectively countered by the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, a cocktail of pro-Beijing groups, which collected close to 1.5 million signatures of residents, who opposed the Occupy Central Movement.
Direct elections have never been held in Hong Kong, either during British colonial rule, or later, when a 1200-member Electoral College elected the Chief Executive. But under reforms that have been proposed, Hong Kong electorate would, for first time in 2017, elect the CE, out of candidates that have been vetted by a committee, over which, Beijing exercises control.
Analysts point out that Beijing has legitimate concerns that a premature opening up of unqualified direct elections, can provide room for an Eastern Europe-style uprising, covertly supported by elite Western foundations, backed by foreign intelligence services.
Speaking at a National Day reception on Wednesday, Hong Kong CE CY Leung acknowledged that that it is “understandable that different people may have different ideas about a desirable reform package”. But he added that it is “definitely better to have the CE elected by five million eligible voters than by 1,200 people”.
Despite the build-up of crowds, the opposition seemed to gun for Mr. Leung’s resignation, rather than press the democracy button. Reuters quoted Hong Kong student leader Lester Shum issuing an ultimatum for Mr. Leung’s resignation. “We will escalate the action if CY Leung doesn’t resign by tonight or tomorrow night. We will occupy more government facilities and offices,” he told reporters, without elaborating.
By the evening on Wednesday, the protesters and the authorities seemed to be prepared for the long haul. An early crackdown seemed unlikely, as police scrupulously avoided confrontations with the protesters.