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Fears of a Tiananmen-Style Crackdown Swirl in Hong Kong as Pro-Democracy Protests Continue

Thousands of protesters light up Admiralty, a business and commercial district in the city center in the evening of September 29.

Thousands of protesters light up Admiralty, a business and commercial district in the city center in the evening of September 29.

This round-up about the protests in Hong Kong demanding genuine democratic elections from the city's government and from Beijing was written by Oiwan Lam and originally published in Chinese on 29 September 2014 on citizen media platform inmediahk.net. It was translated by Stan Moon, a member of translator collective HKDemoNow on Facebook, and republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

After witnessing Hong Kong police’s abusive use of tear gas to suppress pro-democracy peaceful demonstrators, more Hong Kong people have stood up and joined the sit-in in major commercial districts, including Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mongkok. The city's transportation has been paralyzed for two days, but those affected have expressed their support for the protesters with a belief that a temporary inconvenience is far better than being ruled by a “bad chief executive” in future.

Chan Kin-man, one of the organizers of the massive sit-in, dubbed Occupy Central, believes that the only way to resolve the current crisis is the resignation of Hong Kong's top leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. It is necessary for the political reform process to start anew, Chan stressed in a press conference. Pan-democratic lawmakers also pressed the Chairman of the Legislative Council Jasper Tsang to hold a special meeting to impeach the chief executive.

In the aftermath of the violent crackdown, Fanny Law, a member of the Executive Council, admitted on a radio program that the police’s action has outraged the public and that they should explain their decision to the Executive Council.

Fear of a mini-Tiananmen Square crackdown

Another Executive Council member, Regina Ip, expressed her full support for the police’s operation during another radio talk show. She was confident that the police's decision was “based on assessment” with an intention to “bring about a deterrent effect.” In an earlier interview with the English-language newspaper South China Morning Post, she revealed that the government of Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, was worried that a class boycott that has accompanied the protests would instigate a “mini-Tiananmen incident”, resulting in a bloody military crackdown just like what happened in Beijing during the 1989 pro-democracy protests there.

In the past few months, the idea of a repeat of the Tiananmen Square massacre has spread amongst both pro-establishment and opposition camps, especially after Chen Zuo-er, a Beijing official who is a high level consultant on Hong Kong and Macau affairs, claimed to employ “thunderbolt tactics” to clamp down Occupy Central protests. Reports and photos have also circulated showing that armored vehicles from the People’s Liberation Army (as China's military is called) have appeared in downtown streets late at night in the past months. On September 29, the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece The Global Times ran an opinion piece proposing that the Hong Kong government seek the help of the mainland’s armed police to help end the “insurgency”.

Regina Ip's explanation revealed that the police crackdown had been authorized by the Hong Kong government to prevent military intervention from Beijing. While some pro-government politicians blamed the organizers of Occupy Central protests for setting the stage for the “mini Tiananmen Square crackdown”, they know that violent intervention comes from forces outside Hong Kong, but everyone is too afraid to name who is really behind the planning of this “Mini Tiananmen Square crackdown”.

Politics enter the classroom

After the Hong Kong Federation of Students and the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) launched class boycotts and teaching strikes, almost all the tertiary institutions had class boycott assemblies on September 29. More than a dozen secondary schools responded by holding student assemblies on campus, which students documented with photos uploaded to social media. (inmediahk.net has collected a set of secondary school class boycott and school assembly photos on Facebook.)

The Hong Kong Chinese Women's Club College has always been known as conservative with strict school rules. Although the students did not have class boycott today, they wore black T-Shirts while holding rallies to raise the awareness of the students in the playground during class break, recess and lunch break. Photo submitted by student to inmediahk.net's Facebook.

The Hong Kong Chinese Women's Club College has always been known as conservative with strict school rules. Although the students did not have class boycott today, they wore black T-Shirts while holding rallies to raise the awareness of the students in the playground during class break, recess and lunch break. Photo submitted by student to inmediahk.net's Facebook.

The Department of Education issued a statement expressing regret over HKPTU’s call for a strike; the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers (HKFEW) urged teachers to stick to their duties and avoid politicizing the campus.

Some high schools with pro-Beijing management took action to stop students from holding assemblies in open areas. For example, the Wong Cho Bau Secondary School, a school directly under the HKPTU, prohibited the students from entering the snack bar and the school playground. The news about the school repression spread quickly through social media and some graduates decided to go back to school and show their support for the junior students outside the school gate. The repression inside the school campus has successfully brought politics into the classroom.

Occupy Central protests spread to other districts

Connaught Road, Yee Wo Street, and Nathan Road in Mongkok had been occupied for more than 48 hours by September 30. New participants continually arrived at the sites to take part in the sit-in action. Inmediahk.net's reporter interviewed a night-shift security guard who joined the Mongkok Occupation on 29 September after he finished his night duty. He indignantly stated: “I also carry a gun, but I will never point it to people!” Some students have chosen to return to the protest zones after class, with a belief that “You can't kill us all!” — a slogan which has been used frequently in recent protests.

Follow our in-depth coverage: Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution

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