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September 1, 2014

Anger In Hong Kong As China Rejects Public Nomination For Picking The City’s Top Leader


Anger In Hong Kong As China Rejects Public Nomination For Picking The City’s Top Leader

Kandy Wong  Contributor

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Waves of protests began in Hong Kong since last night as Hong Kongers were disappointed with Beijing’s undemocratic electoral proposal. In the meantime, Occupy Central is ready to go anytime in town.

Protesters and police scuffled this morning at the venue of a briefing by Li Fei, deputy secretary-general of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. Li was in Hong Kong to explain the decision by China’s legislature to introduce universal suffrage in the former British colony that stipulates candidates to be prescreened by the Central Government.

Benny Tai, the co-organizer of Occupy Central, said yesterday: “ [It is] the darkest day for Hong Kong’s development…and one country two systems ,” after hearing the final decision from Beijing’s legislature on the election of the city’s next Chief Executive.

The Standing Committee of National People’s Congress announced on Sunday Asia time that there will be no open nominations to the Chief Executive in 2017. The number of candidates will be limited to two or three people at the most. And the candidates will only be eligible to go through the one person, one vote elections after winning at least 50% support from the 1,200 members of a Nominating Committee stacked with Beijing loyalists.

Over the past 17 years, Hong Kong’s leaders were elected by a 400 to 1,200-member Election Committee that is basically composed of businessmen, labor, professionals and a few public representatives. The only difference now proposed by Beijing is that some 5 million registered Hong Kong residents can vote for candidates but only after they’ve been pre-approved by a nominating committee. Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, called the Basic Law, states that Hong Kong can carry out universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative Nominating Committee.

The proposal is regarded by many as Beijing “shutting the door” to a true and democratic electoral system . Twenty-three pan-democratic Legislative Council members are already planning to veto the framework suggested by Beijing. As Hong Kong is governed through a separate system from China in many ways after 1997, guaranteed in the Basic Law, decisions of Beijing related to Hong Kong have to be debated in the city’s law-making body before implementation. Among 70 legislative councilors, two-thirds agreement is needed to pass a bill.
5,000 participants gathered in front of the Hong Kong government headquarter on Aug 31, 2014 to show their anger toward Beijing’s undemocratic electoral proposal. Credit: Wan Hoi Wing, a participant of the rally

5,000 participants gathered in front of the Hong Kong government headquarter on Aug 31, 2014 to show their anger toward Beijing’s undemocratic electoral proposal. Credit: Wan Hoi Wing, a participant of the rally

Benny Tai said the announcement marks the end of dialogue with Beijing and a series of protests will be launched soon. Occupy Central issued a statement after Beijing announced its decision, saying that “Such a vision for the electoral system will not resolve the controversies about universal suffrage over the years, nor will it be passed by the Legislative Council. The failure of this constitutional reform has dashed people’s hopes for change and will intensify conflicts in society. ”

Occupy Central held its first rally in front of government headquarter on Sunday at 7 p.m. Hong Kong time with 5,000 participants. The pro-Beijing camp said that if the new election proposal is not passed by Hong Kong’s legislature, the city’s political development will be stalled.

Kandy Wong

Kandy Wong  Contributor

September 1, 2014

Hong Kong MPs disrupt Chinese official’s speech in electoral protest

Hong Kong MPs disrupt Chinese official’s speech in electoral protest

Pro-democracy activists in noisy demonstration as Li Fei explains decision not to allow residents to choose leader

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Pro-democracy MPs hold up signs during a protest as Li Fei explains China's electoral decision

Pro-democracy MPs hold up a banner and signs during a protest as Li Fei (on screen) explains China’s electoral decision. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

Hong Kong pro-democracy MPs and activists have disrupted a Beijing official’s speech explaining a decision to rule out allowing residents to freely choose their next leader.

The protesters chanted slogans and held up placards accusing China‘s central government of “breaking its promise” to let Hong Kong directly elect its leader. Some stood on chairs and pumped their fists, waving signs that said “Shameful” and “Loss of faith”.

The noisy demonstration on Monday at the start of the speech by Li Fei, a deputy secretary general of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, was a rare occasion on which a Beijing official faced open defiance.

Li continued his speech after security officers moved the MPs out of the auditorium, to applause from other audience members, including lawmakers and local councillors from pro-establishment parties and business leaders.

Police used pepper spray on members of a radical activist group when they tried to storm metal barricades and enter the venue.

Pro-democracy activists have vowed to take over Hong Kong’s financial centre in a civil disobedience campaign after Beijing’s decision was announced over the weekend.

Beijing has long promised that the chief executive of the region would be elected by universal suffrage from 2017, prompting Occupy Central and pan-democrat MPs to fight for substantial electoral changes.

But authorities made it clear on Sunday that Beijing would control the nominating process, and the framework endorsed by the standing committee is particularly tough. It will allow only two or three candidates and require them to gain the backing of at least half the members of a nominating committee stacked with Beijing loyalists. It effectively rules out a democrat from standing.

Li told journalists that opening up nominations would create a “chaotic society” and that the chief executive needed to “love the country and love the party”.

He added: “These rights come from laws, they don’t come from the sky … Many Hong Kong people have wasted a lot of time discussing things that are not appropriate and aren’t discussing things that are appropriate.”

The Democratic party’s founding chairman, Martin Lee, poured scorn on the idea that the two or three candidates would offer voters a meaningful choice, asking those at a Sunday night pro-democracy rally: “What’s the difference between a rotten orange, rotten apple and a rotten banana? We want genuine universal suffrage, not democracy with Chinese characteristics.”

Benny Tai, one of the leaders of the Occupy Central with Peace and Love movement, told the crowd of thousands that the city was entering an “era of civil disobedience”.

The movement said in a statement: “We are very sorry to say that today all chances of dialogue have been exhausted and the occupation of Central will definitely happen.” It will be preceded by other actions, including a mass boycott of classes by students.

Hong Kong enjoys considerably more freedoms than the mainland under the “one country two systems” framework established on the handover of the former British colony in 1997.

But Xi Jinping has tightened the party’s grip on the mainland, with lawyers, activists and journalists under increased pressure since he came to power, and activists in Hong Kong fear their liberties will be eroded.

The decision passed by the standing committee of the congress, China’s mostly rubber-stamp legislature, said: “Since the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and the sovereignty, security and development interests of the country are at stake, there is a need to proceed in a prudent and steady manner.”

State media quoted an unnamed Chinese foreign ministry official at the weekend warning that some in Hong Kong were “colluding with foreign forces to cause trouble for the government”, adding that their goal “was to turn the city into a bridgehead for subversion and infiltration against the country”.

Pan-democrats have vowed to block the changes in the Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo) vote that is required to pass them. If the changes fall, the electoral system will continue as present – with a committee of 1,200 people, selected by the region’s generally pro-Beijing elites, picking the next chief executive.

Emily Lau, LegCo member and chair of the Democratic party, said: “I am not disappointed, because I never had much expectation. I’m infuriated and very, very unhappy. Beijing has reneged on its promise.

“I guess they do not trust the Hong Kong people. The struggle will go on.”

David Zweig, of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said: “This leadership is tough, as we have seen for a long time. They are not making any concessions on this.”

He noted that the government needed four or five LegCo members from the pan-democrat camp to switch for the decision to be adopted. The stakes were even higher because if universal suffrage was not introduced for the election of the chief executive, it would not be introduced for the subsequent election of LegCo members.

“If it falls there is no reform at all. That is their leverage – it is take it or leave it … It is progress in the eyes of the majority of people in Hong Kong. [But] would they have wanted more? Absolutely,” he said.

He added that, on the pro-democracy side, “I don’t think people will pack up and go away, even with the videos of troop carriers going down the streets of Hong Kong”.

Earlier this week, People’s Liberation Army armoured personnel carriers were seen in busy areas of the city. While some have speculated that Beijing hardened its line in response to the pro-democracy campaign, Occupy Central co-founder Chan Kin-man said that was just an excuse.

“Look at Macau. People are really soft and submissive and they don’t even give them a choice of two candidates in the chief executive election. This is the result when people don’t fight,” he said. Fernando Chui, the leader of the former Portuguese colony of Macau – which is another special administrative region – was chosen again on Sunday by a Beijing-supportive committee of just 400 people.

August 30, 2014

East Grinstead boy, 11, swims a mile to give children in Laos books to read

KING OF THE SWIMMERS: Sebastian Green, 11, swam a mile to raise money for books for children in Laos.  Photo by Kevin Shaw

A YOUNG swimmer swam his first mile to raise money for children on the other side of the world.

Sebastian Green completed approximately 64 lengths in the pool at the Kings Centre in East Grinstead on Thursday in support of Books for Laos.

The 11-year-old, now set to join Sackville School, said: “Someone came into my school to talk about the charity and I really wanted to help out. I completed my first mile in the pool and I had a lot of fun doing it.

“I started swimming when I was about three or four and I wasn’t very good at it, but it was always fun. I started to practise more and more, and now I’ve become quite good at it.

His father Ian added: “It’s fair to say his mum and I are about as proud as we could be.”
August 29, 2014

Thailand ex-PM Abhisit murder charge dismissed

BBC News Asia

Thailand ex-PM Abhisit murder charge dismissed

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Democrat Party leader and former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (centre) arrives at Bangkok criminal court in Bangkok, 12 December 2013
Mr Abhisit was Thailand’s leader during the deadly protests in 2010

A Thai court has dismissed murder charges against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva linked to a bloody crackdown on protesters in 2010.

Mr Abhisit was Thailand’s leader when anti-government “red-shirt” protesters blockaded Bangkok for 10 weeks.

In the end the military moved to end the stand-off. Over 90 people, mostly civilians, died during the protests.

Mr Abhisit was charged under the previous government, which has since been ousted in a military coup.

The 2010 protesters supported Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister removed by the military in 2006.

It was under his sister, Yingluck, that proceedings were brought against Mr Abhisit.

However, Ms Yingluck’s government – elected in 2011 – was removed in a military coup in May 2014. Earlier this month coup leader Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was named prime minister.

Cycle of unrest

The 2010 protests, which took place between early March and mid-May, saw key parts of Bangkok shut down by a “red-shirt” occupation.

Red Shirt supporters of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra chant slogans at a television satellite centre on 9 April 2010 in Bangkok

The “red-shirts” wanted Mr Abhisit’s government to resign

There were several clashes and outbreaks of violence, culminating in the military operation to clear the protesters on 19 May.

Prosecutors said Mr Abhisit and his deputy prime minister at the time, Suthep Thaugsuban, were responsible for authorising the use of live fire against protesters. Both men rejected the charges.

The Criminal Court ruled that it could not hear the case because the two men had held public office at the time and were acting under an emergency decree.

It said only the Supreme Court could assess the case. Thailand’s anti-corruption body was examining the case against the two men, which it could send on to the Supreme Court, local reports said.

It was Mr Suthep who spearheaded the protests that led to the most recent military coup. Protesters blockaded government buildings in a six-month campaign to bring down Ms Yingluck’s government.

Dozens of people died and in February the military took power in a move it said was aimed at restoring stability.

Thailand has been embroiled in political turmoil since the removal of Mr Thaksin in 2006.

The telecommunications billionaire enjoyed huge support from mainly poor rural voters who were aided by his policies.

But Mr Thaksin was despised by the urban elite, who viewed him as corrupt. The military backs the urban elite.

Parties allied to Mr Thaksin have been elected in all the elections since the 2006 coup, however, because of his strong rural support base, leaving Thailand locked in a cycle of unrest.

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August 29, 2014

Thailand court dismisses murder case against ex-PM

Thailand court dismisses murder case against ex-PM

by Elizabeth LaForgia

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[JURIST] The Criminal Court in Bangkok on Thursday dismissed the murder case against former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban for lack of jurisdiction. Abhisit and Suthep are charged [JURIST report] with premeditated and attempted murder for ordering the Thai military to use live ammunition to clear Bangkok of anti-government protesters [JURIST news archive] four years ago. The 2010 operation killed at least 98 people and injured thousands. Although the Criminal Court of Thailand in a previous decision ruled that some of the protesters were killed by bullets coming from the direction of the Thai troops, the court on Thursday ruled [NYT report] that it did not have the authority to rule on the case. Rather, the judges ruled that it was the jurisdiction of the Thai Supreme Court, which deals with political officeholders. As a result of the decision, which is believed will likely rekindle political animosity in Thailand, the case will be transferred to the National Anticorruption Commission, an institution with no experience with murder trials and has made little progress in investigating the case. One of the lawyers for the families of the deceased protesters, Chokchai Angkaew, has said he would appeal the ruling.

Thailand’s political system has been unstable since the 2006 military coup [AHRC backgrounder, PDF] by the Royal Thai Army against then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Recent protests has only exacerbated the instability. At the end of November 2013, Yingluck Shinawatra announced [JURIST report] that there will be no early election in response to recent mass protests by citizens who want her removed from office. Also in November protesters in Thailand demanded [JURIST report] assistance in overthrowing the government after Shinawatra survived a no-confidence vote by parliament. In response to the protests, Shinawatra invoked a special security law [JURIST report] in districts of Bangkok and nearby areas after protesters stormed and occupied several key ministries. At the beginning of November, Thailand’s high court refused to allow [JURIST report] the ruling party to amend constitution.



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