By Mick Krever, CNN
With a new decision by the Chinese government on how Hong Kong elects its leader, the dream of democracy “is nearly dead,” Hong Kong legislator and democracy activist Claudia Mo told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
What China has offered instead, Mo said, is a “sort of fake democracy.”
It was not too long ago that Hong Kong was not Chinese at all; in 1997, the United Kingdom handed control of the territory over to Beijing. The agreement the two powers then signed promised “a high degree of autonomy” and “universal suffrage” Hong Kong’s population.
Now, activists say, China has reneged on that agreement. The government last week said that while Hong Kong’s population will be able to directly elect their leader for the first time, the candidates for the position of chief executive must be approved by a committee of Communist Party leaders.
China’s decision must still be approved by Hong Kong’s legislative council before it goes into effect.
“I think China, Beijing, is essentially very insecure and paranoid, and they want to play tough with Hong Kong. And the message is ‘We don't care about Hong Kong anymore. Hong Kong is disposable.’ The supposed financial hub in Asia; the supposed cosmopolitan city, never mind. If you don't like it here, Hong Kong people, you can leave.’”
China, she said, only cares at this point about its “international image.”
“They're so paranoid. They're terrified of Hong Kong becoming some subversive base.”
Hong Kong has a strong pro-democracy movement. It has of late manifested itself in the form of “Occupy Central,” a protest movement modelled on America’s “Occupy Wall Street.”
The movement has been peaceful. What the future now holds, after Beijing’s ruling, is uncertain.
“We know in life, if you fight, you may not get what you want. But if you don't fight, you definitely won't get what you want.”
Could Hong Kong fall victim to a Chinese crackdown, the next Tiananmen?
“If they send out APCs or tanks into central district in Hong Kong, will people be terribly surprised? I don't know. There's been a threat lingering on.”
“We're appealing to basic humanity. We're appealing to basic political rights to be, you know, enjoyed by Hong Kong people.”
The United Kingdom may not have heard that message. Its Foreign Office last week put out a statement, saying that while it recognizes that “there is no perfect model,” “We welcome the confirmation that China’s objective is for the election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive through universal suffrage.”
Mo called the stance “a lot of diplomatic gobbledy gook.”
“At least have some sense of honor. It has the moral obligation for Hong Kong, and they should at least speak up. In life, we really have to realize that there is some bottom line. And we have to draw the line somewhere. Speak up at least.”
Amanpour asked Mo whether she was frightened for her safety.
“Personally, at my age – you look at me, right – I have nothing to lose anymore. My parents are gone and my boys are grown up. They're young adults, they're doing fine and I have a steady, married, happy life and I have nothing to lose.”
“But then I am worried about our next generation and more next generations.”