This could be a really big deal. Photo: (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Hong Kong residents are up in arms about China. And in the past few days, they've staged the biggest pro-democracy demonstrations Asia has seen since the end of the British handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. Almost 800,000 people have joined the protests.
Things have long been uneasy since China took over Hong Kong from the British. China had promised a "one country, two systems" approach to Hong Kong — but it has never been that simple.
The pro-democracy protest group Occupy Central staged an unofficial referendum last month. The questions: Should the chief executive of Hong Kong be elected directly? If so, how? By parties? By nominating committees? Should the election be open to everyone? Well, 800,000 people voted.
In response, the Chinese government released a white paper in early June saying that universal suffrage, a requirement of the 1997 "Basic Law," will be limited to candidates who are approved by Beijing.
This was the first communique of sorts, and its tone was reproachful. The message from Beijing: You don't quite get this "two systems, one country" concept, and we're a little bit worried that you don't pay us here in Beijing the proper respect. So, basically, we just wanted to say hi.
Pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong were already frothy. The letter spurred protests and a "lawyers' march," important because Hong Kongers are struggling to keep their judiciary system free from Chinese superintending.
How does China respond to this direct challenge to its authority? So far, the official Hong Kong response is that the referendum has no status. So far, for the most part, the police have not molested the demonstrators. But the protests are becoming angrier.
The Central, the city's financial heart, is locked down by the police, since the name of the protest group is ... Occupy Central, which they have yet to do.
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