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Hong Kong standoff shows ‘lack of confidence’ in Beijing

September 30th, 2014
03:31 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

The standoff between Beijing and Hong Kong over that territory’s right to choose its own leaders reflects “a lack of confidence on the part of Beijing leaders,” Anson Chan, who led Hong Kong during its transition from British to Chinese rule, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

“Quite frankly, [China’s leaders] have a number of very formidable challenges on their plate, and the last thing they want to risk is any suggestion of instability and the loss of control over Hong Kong.”

“But there are also moderate voices in Beijing who realize the role that Hong Kong plays not only in sustainable economic growth in the mainland, but also helping our country modernize and come into the twenty-first century.”

It does not help, however, that China’s international trade partners have by and large signalled that they are willing to do business with Beijing “almost on any terms” – Chinese domestic issues be damned.

Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong are digging in a day ahead of Chinese national day, but there is little sign that Beijing will change its position on who nominates candidates for chief executive of Hong Kong.

“China will not compromise, even if some people threaten them illegally,” C.Y. Leung, the current Hong Kong chief executive, said.

“I don’t suppose, realistically, it will budge anytime soon,” Chan, the former chief secretary of Hong Kong, said. “But both the chief executive and Beijing have got to show some signs that they are listening to the pleas from the people of Hong Kong.”

“The students are not going to remove themselves from the streets unless and until there is some indication of sincerity and a willingness to talk about universal suffrage for the election in 2017.”

“At the end of the day, what most people in Hong Kong are concerned about is whether we can preserve our core values and our lifestyle, both of which are guaranteed not only in the joint declaration, but in our mini-constitution, the Basic Law.”

The Basic Law was agreed to by China and the UK, when London handed control of Hong Kong over to Beijing in 1997.

“The Basic Law in black and white says universal suffrage means the right not only to vote, but the right of every permanent Hong Kong resident to vote, it says the nominating committee for the election of the chief executive have to be broadly representative, and the nomination process has to be democratic.”

China long followed that agreement, Chan said, but has over the past several years been chipping away at it.

Amanpour asked whether Chan ever anticipated China reneging on the commitments she said it made.

“I certainly did not. Otherwise I would not have put my whole heart and soul into helping to sell the joint declaration and the basic law and the point of the handover.”

Filed under:  China • Christiane Amanpour • Hong Kong • Latest Episode
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Dan

    In 1998,the Indonesian students stage a mass protest to demand what was then thought impossible and insane. They demanded that president Soeharto step down, the end to the military rule, and a free democratic election. After the students face real bullies and tanks, they finally bought down a 32 year old regime and a president once considered one of Asia strongman. In 2014 this year, Indonesia was internationally (UN) acclaimed to held the largest (150 million voters) and free direct presidential election ( 1 man 1 vote). The winner is mr jokowi who is from an ordinary background, non- millitary and not from any elite families.
    In a Democracy, NOTHING is Impossible. However, reforms need to take place before it can really happen. BLood, tears , time and sadly lives are the cost for it.
    When the hk students is face with ak47 from the PLA and stood their grounds, only then they can claim they are willing to “die for democracy”. Only then the hk students can say they are In the same league as the “tiananmen students”. I will also like to remind the hk students that the students at tiananmen 89, jakarta 98, Tunisia 12, Ukraine 14 did not wear googles, as nothing can stop a bullets from a automatic rifle. If you are all having second thought, then. I suggest that you guys go home and maybe come back next year. The world are watching and waiting to see if the cute hk students are really the “legendary” Chinese students at tiaanmen who let PLA tanks roll on them and haunts your communist leaders till now.

    September 30, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Reply
    • heh

      I just want 2 say that you r a sb.

      October 1, 2014 at 10:58 am | Reply
      • Chris

        S is for stupid, silly and sick. Maybe even socialist.

        October 1, 2014 at 11:53 am |
  2. ctteo

    I am watching with keen interests the unfolding of this demonstration!!
    Yes, if only the Communist Party of China will acknowledge that it had been deceitful and has reneged on the spirit of the declarations in the Basic law, it will be a win-win situation.
    Sadly admitting a mistake is something not in the Communist Party's vocabulary[it is in the same mold as the political leadership in Malaysia]!!
    And, so i can but wish the protestors all the best and hope when the crackdown comes it will not be bloody like Tiananmen Square 1988!!

    September 30, 2014 at 8:09 pm | Reply
    • whatcantheworldsay

      1. The protesters appeal that the election in Hongkong must be that every HK citizen can nominate its candidate.
      USA has this? France has this? UK has this? Canada has this? Australia has this?
      This is so called univeral suffrage?

      2. In its 150 years govern in HK UK never gave HK free election. Now Chinese election reform is far better than UK's. Why they did not protest in UK era?

      3. Even the candidates are not selected by China. The candidates must get the support of half of the election committee, and what is wrong with this?

      1) even protesters admit at most 900 members of 1200 in election committee are pro-China.

      So the candidates of them have the chance to get to be nominated.

      2) if their candidates are not nominated, should they improve their work to change it? instead of affecting other people in HK?

      4. Most important:

      HKer discriminate Mainland chinese. So till now no Mainland chinese support them.

      HKer should feel shame on this! HKer are not citizens of elite level.

      One healthy society is not like this.

      5. China:

      Let them protest if they do not use violence.

      If they use voilence, all Chinese in mainland support to beat them to the ground, those half chinese half UK strange people.



      October 1, 2014 at 6:05 am | Reply
      • Chris

        Another poor communist. We pity you.

        October 1, 2014 at 11:43 am |
      • Zayl

        1) Yes we do actually. In Canada, nothing stops me from running for the post of Prime Minister. In most of the countries you named, nothing stops anyone from creating a political party and running for government. However, they will likely fail until reforms set caps on donations amongst other things. Politics is more money than popular support at the moment but that's another discussion.

        At least, the option exists.

        2) Because the UK were not and are not communists. HKers fear China's CCP far more than they ever did the British. Half of Hong Kong's population is from people fleeing from your glorious "Culteral Revolution", you know, that thing that murdered 100+ million people.

        The UK on the other hand has always been regarded as competent in managing the affairs of their colony. Hong Kong is Hong Kong today, due to the British take over. Had Hong Kong never been taken over and had always remained a part of China, it would still be backwater today.

        3) No currently they are not. The 1200 committee is APPROVED by China, not SELECTED by China. Meaning that commitee has to "love China" in general of they will be replaced.

        The new system China wants is, everyone gets a vote, but they will only APPROVE candidates who also "love China".

        Same thing, different packaging. People aren't that stupid you know. At least not yet since there's no such thing as "patriotic education" – aka brainwashing 101 – there yet.

        4) HK 'discrimination' has valid ground.

        Mainland Chinese do things that are considered highly impolite if not outright rude, disgusting, etc.

        I will not raise examples as I don't want to get into a pointless argument but there is enough on the internet.

        5) You poor deluded person.

        October 1, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
    • jackiedada

      Yes it will not be like tianmen because now F16s will support the protestors like in Libya.This was all pre-manipulated that is why you are saying it.It seems you are happy with the hongkong era when it was slave of the west.Now you are a free country but still you are not happy?OK Surrender your land to the west and be happy.

      October 1, 2014 at 9:28 am | Reply
  3. Chris Herz

    Chinese authorities will deal with this Occupy movement just as US authorities dealt with theirs.

    September 30, 2014 at 9:53 pm | Reply
    • Oko

      You are dead wrong. China is busy thinking of a safe way out of this, fearing that it might get same in Mainland. Mainlanders are watching mind you.

      October 1, 2014 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  4. Joe

    Looks like an attempt to start a Syrian style civil war in China by the west. China should round up the ring leaders, give them some water boarding, and then lock them up in a gitmo-like place. If anyone complains, China can say: yeah, we copy everything.

    September 30, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      PLA troll ha ha

      October 1, 2014 at 11:45 am | Reply
  5. YOLO

    Anson Chan raised a very interesting point, Beijing began tightening its grip on Hong Kong some 7 years ago, coincidentally the same time when the global financial crisis erupted from the U.S. What happened in Hong Kong over the years actually happened everywhere, including many democratic countries. Governments restricted certain amount of freedom and financial well being, tightening information, putting out austerity, etc., in order to secure national interests during crisis.

    October 1, 2014 at 12:37 am | Reply
  6. Chris

    I'm very concerned where this stand off ends. Will the protesters eventually just give up or will government to a compromise? My fear is neither. Any threat from the government to use force will likely backfire and how much resolve to the protesters have? Then you have the issue of small businesses in HK not being able to operate due to road closures.

    I think the protesters must show resolve. The basic law argument is a silly one which makes no sense and does nothing to quell the protests. I have many friends in HK who have said to me, what's next. Will China start to censor the internet? Will other civil liberties be trampled on?

    I'm not sure where it goes, but it's interesting to watch for sure.

    October 1, 2014 at 4:06 am | Reply
  7. Madmax

    I am with a completely unbiased view on the event of Hong Kong. I have deep sympathy for HongKong people as well as Chinese people & China administration. My statement is a bit direct : (1) In terms of international border, HongKong is a part of China & under Chinese administration (2) If that is so (HK is a part of China) then how come HK people is asking for complete democracy? It is against the single party rule in China, isn't ? (3) China is not under democratic rule, then how come HK be a democracy? (4) Is it true that HK is asking for independence from China?? In any case, this is my own opinion & it is not intended to hurt anyone in HongKong or elsewhere......!!

    October 1, 2014 at 4:32 am | Reply
    • Chris

      They want to choose their own local leaders, simple.

      October 1, 2014 at 11:48 am | Reply
      • Ignoble

        IT is NOT that simple as you said. One country, two systems....One father?Abraham, two sons : Isaac and Ismael.
        Maybe it is not that appropriate comparison, but it is to me. Look what happened to the two sons of Abraham?
        HK is part of China. It is a SAR.
        HK is lucky to have this much 'freedom' already compare to their brothers in Mainland.
        One wayward son causes the father to be upset and angry, what do you think will happen? Shut off the water supply for a week as a warning.
        Some commentators got a nerve to mention UK. Do they know what UK did with China's treasures back then?
        Idiots. They robbed China blind, and giving 'a westernized value system' as a price for all those unclaimed by China treasures. HK people do not deserve better treatment than their brothers in Mainland.
        My suggestion: Shut off the water supply.

        October 5, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
  8. jack

    Anshole-Chan is an girl friday moron put into position of Chief secretary by the DRUG pushing country Brit -Fat Pang –If she believe in democratic value why did she not ask for a election then–She has NO ability -Full Stop

    October 1, 2014 at 7:44 am | Reply
  9. jack

    These so call students are thugs -They have no idea of Freedom is
    -Had they conduct these kind of disturbance in the US -The US Cops /National guides will have clean them up and lock them away till kingdom come.They really need to look at How far what they have copy from the Occupy Wall St got to

    October 1, 2014 at 7:51 am | Reply
    • Barry

      "locked away till Kingdom come", really? Name one person who was locked away forever by the police due to the Occupy Wall street movement? Some were arrested for vandalism or assault, that is true. But they were not "locked away" forever. In general, the peaceful protestors who did not obstruct the police or not follow their orders were left alone.

      October 1, 2014 at 11:21 am | Reply
      • Ignoble

        Really, Barry? Try shutting down the filthy wall street the whole block in NY city, and see what happens to the demonstrators. have you been to Mongkok Central area at all? Those businesses owners can not do the tradings, they have lease to pay, their revenues spiraling down because of those stupid students, how many operate the stores just already on the brink of bankruptcies before the protest started? Have we thought about those poor businessmen?
        This is just a small example that has domino effects on their families.
        Shut off the water supply from Mainland for a week. See what happens.

        October 5, 2014 at 7:51 pm |
  10. jack

    As the protest are illegal–The business communities of HK need to sue the instigators of these illegal protest for any damage and loss of businese .Sue people like Emily Lau,Anshole Anson Chan, martin Lee, all those little kids student leaders and the person arrange this occupy central .Sue them until they are bankcrupted .That is what Lee Kuan Kew-did–That will teach these morons about freedom-and law and order

    October 1, 2014 at 7:58 am | Reply
  11. jackiedada

    The protestors are the misguided youths.They will be happy to see the US/NATO bombers flying overhead hongkong.They have no feeling of nationalism.They are not proud to be chinese.They are rather happy to be the slaves of the west.Pity on them

    October 1, 2014 at 9:19 am | Reply
    • Joe

      Probably smoking too much western opium.

      October 1, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Reply
    • Zayl

      "Proud to be Chinese"?


      Pround to be HUMAN?

      Probably yes.

      Let's stop drawing racial lines in this day and age and creating an artificial "us versus them" environment.

      Oh and by the way.

      Your nationalism is shoved down your throat. You know, starting from when you were a kid and you had to bawl out your national anthem every morning. You had no choice in whether you wanted to be like that, it was forced upon you. It's how they keep 1.3 billion people in check you know. Imagine the chaos if those 1.3 billion suddenly thought for themselves and demanded change.

      So what would you know?

      October 1, 2014 at 2:55 pm | Reply
      • Ignoble

        Good GRIEF! What do you know yourself, Zayl? A keyboard warrior only? Read your comments so far.
        We stand on different bank of flooding river obviously.

        October 5, 2014 at 7:54 pm |
  12. jackiedada

    Give them a piece of free mac burger and send them home

    October 1, 2014 at 9:21 am | Reply
    • Ignoble

      Ha...ha...ha.....yes, give them also chocolate milk shakes on the side. They must be thirsty. ha...ha...

      October 5, 2014 at 7:56 pm | Reply
  13. Chris

    It's so funny to see the chinese internet trolls out on cnn. HK is a world leading city, because of its amazing people and the British legacy. They are not communists and never will be.

    Power to the people of Hong Kong, the civilised world is with you. Hold fast and you will win!

    October 1, 2014 at 11:41 am | Reply
    • Oko

      Yeah Chris, the Chinese trolls are out in large numbers, wont be suprised if that number gets boosted by North Koreans. OH, sorry, internet has not been invented in their world. Lol.

      October 1, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Reply
    • Ignoble

      Since the Hongkies would not bend over, you should give a good example to bendover for the Mainlanders first.
      Yes, power to the bendover people, including you Chris.

      October 5, 2014 at 7:58 pm | Reply
  14. nt

    I had always turned to cnn for international news thinking it was an unbiased source but I've been sorely disappointed by your lack of coverage of the protests in Pakistan against election rigging and for their rights! Those protestors have also faced teargas ,they've been baton charged and have faced real and rubber bullets( some people died too) but not a peep out of you people at cnn! Why? What makes these protests worthy of so much of coverage and those protests unworthy of even a line? Does your govt dictate your interest in stories because they're backing the govt( which came to power due to irregularities in the election)?

    October 1, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Reply
  15. Eric

    Beijing does not lack confidence. Beijing simply refuses to accept that their red communist party leadership is over. It is out of pure insecurity that they "manage" the news in mainland China and arrest people who dare to speak out for Hong Kong's freedom. The clock is ticking for the red communist leaders. They have overstayed their welcome.

    October 1, 2014 at 10:24 pm | Reply
  16. andy

    why does hongkong people pay tax to a government they don't approve? they should only pay tax to the government that they voted for. this is a much better way of protesting.

    October 2, 2014 at 9:17 am | Reply
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