The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network
About two and a half months after they began, the street sit-ins conducted by students and activists to call for greater democracy in the election of Hong Kong’s chief executive have ended. Sooner or later, however, these demands for democracy will inevitably catch fire again. Last week, police forcibly dismantled a protest site that had been the demonstrators’ final camp, on a major road in a busy shopping district of Hong Kong Island. We welcome the fact that serious bloodshed was averted during the clearance of the protest site. This was largely because the students and other protesters basically upheld a commitment to nonviolence. The student protesters had been campaigning for the withdrawal of the election system for the chief executive, which they say excludes democratic-minded candidates. The administration of President Xi Jinping decided on this system in August. Hong Kong is guaranteed a ��high degree of autonomy�� under the ��one country, two systems�� formula outlined in the Hong Kong Basic Law, which is equivalent to the region’s constitution. The objective of the demonstrations was to make a stand against China’s attempt to unilaterally tighten its control over Hong Kong and make light of this law. Beijing insisted the protests were illegal and was unbending in its rejection of the students’ demands. Authorities in China feared that making any concessions in Hong Kong could cause the democracy movement to spread to other parts of the nation. Popular support for the protests waned among residents annoyed by the economic losses and traffic congestion stemming from the street occupations, which seemed set to drag on without making any progress. More than 900 protesters were arrested, and the demonstrations did not achieve any changes in the election system. Despite this, there is no doubt that this movement carried an important meaning. For many years, young people in Hong Kong have seemingly had no interest in politics. However, the growing sense of alarm that Hong Kong was becoming more assimilated with China led them to resort to this extraordinary direct action. The international community �X even U.S. President Barack Obama �X took a strong interest in the so-called umbrella revolution in Hong Kong, and expressed concern about China’s actions there.