Blaming radicalization of the youth through the medium of internet responsible for the continued protests in Hong Kong, a former leader of the region claimed that the city was enjoying a unique autonomous status more than any other cities in the world, be that London, Paris, New York or Tokyo.
Hong Kong has been facing violent protests since July with around 2,400 people detained so far and dozens more injured.
“A third of the people arrested in the last four months are below the age of 18. And they have been radicalized on the internet and in certain schools,” former Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, told Anadolu Agency in an interview in Istanbul.
Leung, the predecessor of current Chief Executive Carrie Lam, was in office between 2012-2017.
The ongoing protests, which disrupted the world’s trade hub, started with the demand of withdrawal a proposed law that would have allowed extradition of suspects to mainland China.
Though Lam first postponed, then withdrew the draft law, protests continue unabated with additional demands.
Explaining that majority of the people simply do not understand the governing system of Hong Kong and are being misled and manipulated, Leung claimed that the scale of protests and riots are tending down. He also gave credit to authorities that no one died during the riots.
“The riots have been going on nearly every weekend in the last four months, petrol bombs were thrown at the police force, trade services were disrupted, roads leading to the airport were blockaded, rail transportations were disrupted by throwing chairs and trash pans onto railway tracks and therefore disrupting the normal function of a city.”
While praising restraint exercised by the police, he, however, cautioned that there are limits to any protest and the government has to ensure enforcement of law.
On the independence of judiciary, Leung, who is vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said in Hong Kong there are local Chinese judges. “We do not have mainland Chinese judges,” he said commenting on the demand of protesters about release of arrested people.
He expressed fears that other cities in China may possibly copy the tactics used by Hong Kong protesters and rioters, including a tactic of using the internet, to mobilize people to basically conduct city guerrilla warfare.
He said the mainland Chinese authorities did not interfere in the current crisis in the city. “Beijing has given the Hong Kong government a high degree of autonomy and they have left it to the local government to tackle protests.”
On the protesters’ demand for a universal suffrage that would allow them to choose the city leader, former Hong Kong chief executive said it “would basically be tantamount to separatism, cutting Hong Kong from China”.
In 2012, Beijing had pledged to allow Hong Kong’s chief executive to be elected by universal suffrage in the 2017 elections. It had also begun political consultations on the issue. However, according to the South China Morning Post, Pan-democratic lawmakers and pro-democracy activists in the city vehemently opposed the election framework approved by Beijing on Aug 31, 2014. They argued that the proposed system was failing to match international standards, necessary for a truly democratic and transparent election.
“So, we’re now back to square one. The protesters and rioters are now demanding a universal suffrage, and taking away the appointment authority from Beijing,” Leung added.
He argued that no country in the world would allow losing complete control or not having any say over any part of its region or a city. He said that would directly tantamount to separatism.
“The bottom line for a solution to the Hong Kong crisis is to ensure the constitutional principle of one country, two systems,” former Hong Kong leader said.
The system was formulated by the leader of the People’s Republic of China, Deng Xiaoping, in 1982.
When China regained sovereignty over Hong Kong from the British in 1997, it was agreed to allow the city a “high degree of autonomy” for 50 years.
“The majority of the people simply do not understand the provisions of the Basic Law are misled and manipulated. A lot of people particularly young people in Hong Kong, as well as the international community, also do not understand, because the principle of one country two systems is unique,” said Leung.
Going by the degree of autonomy enjoyed by Hong Kong, it “cannot be compared to the democratic systems in other cities of the world, for example, London, Paris, New York, Tokyo”.
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