Mad At The Mainland

Lily Kuo takes a look at what yesterday’s massive pro-democracy demonstration in Hong Kong was all about:

On the July 1 anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China, tens of thousands of students and other residents of the semi-autonomous region joined the city’s largest demonstration in a decade, demanding the right to directly elect a leader. The protests were widely followed by international media, and Hong Kong’s dissatisfaction is well-known outside the city, but observers fear they will do little to prod Beijing to allow truly open and direct elections, and could prompt a harsh crackdown by Chinese authorities. …

Last night’s sit-in is merely a trial run for a larger demonstration later this year. Organizers of a protest group called Occupy Central have vowed to bring Hong Kong’s financial district to a standstill if a proposal from authorities—due to be released before the end of this year—doesn’t include public nomination.

William Pesek details the underlying causes of the widespread discontent:

Since July 2012, Leung Chun-ying has stood aside as China clamped down on Hong Kong’s media, tried to make the city less transparent and moved to impose patriotic education on students. His predecessor, Donald Tsang, spent seven years looking the other way, while Tung Chee Hwa, the city’s first leader, enriched a whole class of tycoons, including Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-Shing. When you look at the quality of Beijing’s picks, it beggars belief that the Communist Party can’t see why Hong Kongers want greater democracy. …

For all its wealth, Hong Kong is a potential powder keg. About 1.3 million of its 7.2 million people, or one in five, live under the poverty line. Its Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, rose to 0.537 in 2011 from 0.525 a decade earlier, and now is 12th highest in the world. And given the surge in property prices during Leung’s tenure, coming mostly from public servants in Beijing, it’s safe to assume the gap has widened more since then.