Hong Kong Police Dismantle Protest Site

December 11, 2014

NewsStandOnline.Net (11-December-2014): Police in Hong Kong swooped on the city’s main pro-democracy site today, clearing away tents and barricades after more than two months of rallies, and issuing an ultimatum to a hardcore of protesters who have refused to budge.

Hundreds of police moved in from all sides of the Admiralty camp in the heart of the business district as a few hundred – including student leaders and lawmakers – remained in the centre despite being ordered to leave or face arrest. They were the remnants of what once numbered tens of thousands of people at the height of the protest movement, before public support waned. They shouted “Civil disobedience without fear” and “I want true democracy”.

Hong Kong Police Dismantle Protest Site

Crowds shouted demands for free leadership elections – a cause which has underpinned the demonstrations – and vowed the clearance operation would not end a campaign they say has redefined the city’s vexed relationship with Beijing.

Police announced a “lockdown” of the area after a 30-minute window in which protesters could voluntarily leave the site – an encampment of tents, supply stations and art installations sprawling along a kilometre of multi-lane highway.

“Police will lock down the occupied area and set up a police cordon area… If anyone refuses to leave police will take action to disperse or arrest,” said senior officer Kwok Pak-Chung.

Thousands gathered on Wednesday night for one final mass rally at the Admiralty site, but the numbers had dwindled by morning, leaving just a few hundred sitting in the road, including pro-democracy lawmakers. “This is not the end of the movement. The political awakening amongst the young is irreversible and we will fight on,” pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said earlier.

The bailiffs who descended with cutters and pliers to take down barricades and load them into trucks were serving court orders taken out by transport companies frustrated at the long-running disruption. Many protesters had packed up their tents and left by Thursday morning, but left hundreds who said they intended to stand their ground. “I’m not tired (of the campaign). I’ll never be tired, only the government is tired,” said 19-year-old student Alice.

Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Activists Push Ahead With Hunger Strike

April 1, 2014

NewsStandOnline.Net (1-April-2014): Democracy activists in Hong Kong are into their fifth day of a hunger strike in the heart of Central district.  It is part of a campaign to step up their call for universal suffrage in the territory.

Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Activists Push Ahead With Hunger Strike

17 activists have camped outside at HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong’s Central district, and they plan to last for as long as they can without food.

They are however, relying on water and sports drinks to fuel their demands.

63-year-old lawmaker and one-time chief executive candidate Albert Ho is among those on the hunger strike.

He said: “I suffer from diarrhoea, a little bit of headache but overall, I’m still fine. But the doctor advised me to stop, in view of the result of my urine test. So probably after 100 hours of the hunger strike, I would cease.”

But the rest of the activists are still committed to the strike.

Mr Ho said: “Yes, there are some younger hunger-strikers, they will certainly strive to stay longer, say for 120 or 150 hours.

“We want to make our voice clear and loud, to be heard both in Hong Kong and Beijing. We want genuine universal suffrage, to elect the chief executive by 2017.

“We do not want any system that pretends to be genuine but in fact is a fake system, for example, a screening device in the nomination process, where only candidates that are acceptable to Beijing would be allowed to stand for election. That is totally unacceptable.”

Mr Ho said the activists want to have no political screening in the nomination for the city’s chief executive.

He said: “Civic nomination gives us the assurance that there’s no screening but if there’s clear demonstration that the nomination committee is constituted in such a way and shall conducted in such a way there’s no consequence of any political screening, we would consider it.”

Beijing has said Hong Kong will transition to universal suffrage by 2017, but has ruled out giving up a small-circle election committee that decides which candidates are allowed on the ballot.

The 1,200 member-committee is widely seen as filled with pro-Beijing members.

The public consultation on political reform in the territory will end at the end of this month.

The government will then collate the views and issue a report by July or August, and it may contain government proposals on the way forward to elect Hong Kong’s next leader.

100 Million Chinese To Get Greater City Benefits

March 17, 2014

NewsStandOnline.Net (17-March-2014):More than 100 million Chinese are to be given vital documents making them officially residents of the country’s cities under a broad plan for the urbanisation that is crucial to economic growth.

100 million Chinese to get greater city benefits

China’s new leaders under President Xi Jinping who took office a year ago have touted “people-centred urbanisation” to raise the quality of life as well as just growth rates.

The “national plan for a new model of urbanisation” calls for measurable improvements such as extended social benefits, improved air quality — an issue that causes widespread public anger — and expanded public transport.

But analysts warned Monday that while the overarching strategy and the inclusion of specific targets were positive, the real question was whether the plan would be put into action.

The plan aims for 60 per cent of China’s 1.36 billion people to live in cities by 2020 and for 45 per cent to have the vital urban residency registration, or “hukou”, that gives them equal access to social benefits such as education and health care. This would compare with 52.6 per cent and 35.3 per cent as of 2012.

The stated goals include “work hard to achieve 100 million rural workers and other permanent residents obtaining urban hukou”.

The change would narrow the proportion of urban residents who lack urban hukous — a move which analysts say is crucial in improving living standards for migrants from the countryside, hundreds of millions of whom have moved to the cities in recent decades.

Chinese citizens are tied to a specific location — normally their birthplace or that of their parents — by the hukou system.

It gives them rights to subsidised services there such as medical insurance, or land use in the case of rural residents, which migrants cannot access elsewhere.

“Urbanisation is a powerful engine for maintaining the sustainable healthy development of the economy,” the plan said.

Rural Chinese, “by becoming urban residents will enjoy better public services, causing the urban consumer pool to continue to expand”, it said, calling domestic demand “a fundamental driver of China’s economic development”.

Experts said implementation was the key issue.

The targets “are important from the point of view that they are solid numbers so that they try to hit them”, said Tom Miller, the Beijing-based author of “China’s Urban Billion”.

The proportion of city residents who lack urban hukou has been rising and he said: “These aren’t radical numbers but they are trying to reverse the direction it’s been moving in.”

But Miller warned that “the devil is in the details”.

University of Washington professor Kam Wing Chan praised the plan as “rather comprehensive” and “focused much more on the human aspect”, as opposed to previous plans “which were mainly about construction”.

He called the firm target for hukou reform a “significant commitment toward achieving genuine urbanisation”.

But he added: “The real test of the effectiveness of the plan is when the plan gets implemented at the local level. Will the goals be followed or not?”

Among numerous targets aimed at improving livelihoods, the plan called for 99 per cent of migrant children to receive nine years’ education, and 95 per cent of rural labourers and others struggling to find work to receive free basic job training.

At least 23 per cent of city residents would enjoy affordable housing — a pressing problem amid soaring property prices — double the rate in 2012.

At least 90 per cent of the elderly would receive basic old-age insurance, up from 66.9 per cent in 2012.

The plan also outlined measures to add infrastructure and improve environmental standards.

Sixty per cent of motorised transport would be provided by public operators in cities which have more than one million residents, up from 45 per cent in 2012, it said.

Half of new construction would have to be “green”, up from two per cent in 2012.

Meanwhile 60 per cent of cities should meet national air quality standards, up from 40.9 per cent in 2010.

The official news agency Xinhua stressed authorities’ commitment, saying the plan “will provide strategic and fundamental guidance for the healthy development of urbanisation across the country”.

China’s leaders have repeatedly pledged to retool the country’s growth model to one driven by consumer demand rather than investment.

But the plan said urbanisation will “bring huge investment demand for city infrastructure, facilities for public services and housing construction, which will provide continuing power for economic development”.

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