Getting less attention than the Egyptian protests, but perhaps nearly as important, is Hong Kong’s big protest for representative government:
The total number of protestors has been difficult to establish. The police, who can be relied on to deliver a significant underestimate, put the crowd at 66,000, while organizers claimed that 430,000 people turned out in the wet weather. The University of Hong Kong’s public opinion program came up with a figure of 93,000. Not at issue, however, was the deep discontent that lies at the heart of many in China’s freest city. Heard reverberating throughout the protest – as it did in Istanbul’s Taksim Square last month – was “Do You Hear The People Sing?” from the musical Les Misérables. Hong Kong’s old colonial flag was held aloft by many marchers, taunting Beijing with the notion that things were better under British rule and also signifying that Hong Kong Chinese feel very distinct from their mainland cousins in terms of culture and identity. Some demonstrators even held placards denouncing “Chinese colonists.” Unsurprisingly, young faces were prominent in the crowd. (Leung is so detested by Hong Kong youth that when he showed up earlier this year to confer diplomas at a ceremony at the city’s Academy for Performing Arts, several graduating students refused to accept their diplomas from him, while others turned their backs or made rude gestures.)
“It’s time to come out and speak loudly to say we are not slaves,” Oscar Yau, aged 20, said at yesterday’s rally. “We all want the right to select the chief executive.”
“One country, two systems,” was always a hollow promise. Beijing can tolerate Hong Kong having much more personal freedom than the rest of the country, but political freedom? What’s the Mandarin for fuggidaboudit?