An estimated 180,000 people marched into the city center of Hong Kong to demand democracy on Tuesday and an end to communist China. They didn’t mind the weather or if Beijing didn’t approve. They did it anyway.
China had pledged in a bilateral agreement with Britain in 1984 to respect a high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong after the 1997 handover. But in the so-called white paper released by Beijing last month, China’s cabinet glossed over that and emphasized that Hong Kong was a local unit of the People’s Republic of China — an assertion that appears to have fanned support here for greater democracy.
Beijing has said that it “may” allow universal suffrage, the principle of one vote for each adult, in the next election for chief executive in 2017. But Beijing has made it clear that it wants to be able to vet those who appear on the ballot.
Democracy advocates are divided on how far to go in challenging this. Groups like Scholarism are calling for “civil nomination,” in which the broader public would be able to nominate essentially anyone. Others, like Mrs. Chan, the former Hong Kong official, call for closely following the Basic Law, which specifies that a nomination committee control access to the ballot, but they want that committee structured in such a way that no one is excluded from seeking office.