Jun 25, 2012|
July 1 looms before us, and Hong Kong’s political activists are gearing up for perhaps the fiercest protests yet amidst celebrations marking the 15th anniversary of the territory’s handover back to China.
In general, pressure is mounting on the new SAR administration, headed by chief executive-elect CY Leung, to answer the citizens’ calls for democratic reform. Adding fuel to the fire, though, anti-government sentiment has reached a boiling point in recent months over a series of incidents.
Most notably, there was an outpouring of dissatisfaction over the results of the chief executive election in March, which many felt was tainted by preferences handed down from Beijing, not to mention the existence of a string of scandals surrounding the two primary candidates that left them both unpalatable to the public. The alarming exposé of illegal structures at the residences of some of the city’s most senior officials—among them Leung himself and his defeated opponent Henry Tang—have resulted in lost credibility.
Our investigation into post-handover identity issues left us wondering: What makes a true Hongkonger?
More immediately, the suspicious death of mainland activist Li Wangyang—which officials are calling a suicide—has stoked public outrage in the city, and thousands of people took to the streets calling for a thorough investigation of the case.
Also on the radar are shocking revelations about outgoing chief executive Donald Tsang’s overly cozy relationships with local businessmen and acceptance of lavish free trips. Corruption is a big issue this year, given that allegations have also been launched against some of Hong Kong’s richest real-estate developers, the three Kwok brothers, who have been arrested by the city’s anti-corruption agency, the ICAC, and since released on bail.
All these events have been seen by many Hongkongers as a serious violation of the city’s core values—human rights, democracy and rule of law—as well as a stain on its reputation as one of the world’s least corrupt cities. Behind all the political scuffles, too, lurk the nagging issues of rising property prices and an ever-widening wealth gap.
So it is with these grievances in mind that this year’s July 1 marchers will call for change as they blaze their way through Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to the new government office building at Tamar in Admiralty.
Eric Lai, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, has participated in every July 1 march since 2003. He says he’s witnessed greater public engagement in socio-political causes over the years, which culminated in a high turnout—220,000 people—for last year’s demonstration.
“This year’s July 1 march will be a reflection of what has occurred in the last 15 years since the city’s return to China, especially the growing real-estate monopolization, corporate-government collusion and slow-motion democratization seen in the past seven years under the Tsang administration,” Lai says. “It serves as a reminder for the Leung government to address the concerns of the July 1 demonstrators.”
If you want to join in: the July 1st demonstration will start at Victoria Park (by the status of Queen Victoria) and proceed down Hennessy Road, along Queensway and then turn right onto switch to Harcourt Road and before ending at the new Tamar government headquarters on Tim Mei Avenue. Some marchers may continue on to the Liaison’s Office in Sai Wan, where mainland Chinese officials work.