The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro), a national labor center here in the Philippines, emphatically supports the broad prodemocracy movement in Hong Kong, which includes the Occupy Central, the newly awakened but vibrant student activists, the trade unions led by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), the various civil society organizations, and even the disparate, nonaffiliated people of Hong Kong, who merely wanted to be heard without worrying of being suppressed and to freely select the leaders of this semiautonomous and prosperous city.
Sentro understands the sentiments and frustrations of the swelling number of protesters in central Hong Kong who picketed and camped out outside the Hong Kong government’s headquarters since Friday last week, and which the police tried but failed to forcibly disperse on Sunday. Reports said that at least 59 were injured and 89 arrested following the uncalled-for use of tear gas and pepper spray by the riot police against the peaceful and reasonable demonstrators, who number to tens of thousands and counting.
An essential part of the deal in the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from its former British colonial ruler to China was that the territory’s residents or citizens would be able for the first time to freely choose their leader – called chief executive – after 20 years or in 2017. But the Chinese authorities reneged on their promise when they declared last August that only those vetted by Beijing would be allowed to participate in the polls about three years from now. It would just be another form of a sham “election” not unlike the current system where the Chief Executive is “elected” by a 1,200-person “committee” filled with Beijing sycophants and lackeys – hence both forms are downright undemocratic and elitist as the vast majority of this handful of “voters” and “candidates” are effectively pre-selected by Beijing.
Sentro urges the Chinese government and the Hong Kong authorities to respect the right of the protesters to peaceably assemble and to raise their grievances and democratic demands, and to refrain from resorting to violent and other retaliatory measures. Ruthless repression à la Tiananmen Square in 1989 will have tremendous global repercussions to China and will no longer be tolerated and ignored by the international community.
Moreover, Sentro would like to reiterate that instituting the universal suffrage or the right to vote of the general population and other basic democratic rights are not incompatible with an autonomous or Special Administrative Region (SAR) setup like in Hong Kong and elsewhere, in fact. It will even bolster the “one country, two systems” model for the post-British Hong Kong that China supposedly adheres to. It will not also undermine Beijing’s power to govern and will actually benefit both mainland China and Hong Kong – and the rest of the world. Only the insecure, paranoid and obstinate tyrants are afraid of elections where citizens truly and freely participate, and where they chart their own future without undue interference and fear.