New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman might shower the Chinese state with lavish encomia, but residents of Hong Kong feel a bit differently about the matter. The pro-democracy protesters currently occupying the city center are none-too-happy with Beijing's increasing encroachment on Milton Friedman's favorite outpost of freedom perched on a continent of authoritarianism.
The demonstrations this week against China's proposals for overseeing elections reflect the growing anxiety that the promise "one country, two systems" is about as trustworthy as Lando Calrissian is loyal.
While initially sitting tight, the Hong Kong government later threatened that protesters would face "unimaginable consequences" should they follow through with threats to occupy government buildings. Many worried that the Chinese would not sit idly by as their authority was questioned. As the deadline loomed for the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying demanded by the protestors, ghosts of Tiananmen Square lurked behind every corner.
But as the midnight hour approached, Leung did not meet the protestors' demands, though he did promise at a press conference to appoint an official liaison to discuss reforms. Demonstrators, however, don't seem to be taking that lying down and are refusing to disperse. Tensions remain high, but it appears there won't be a show of force—yet. The Associated Press reports:
In his news conference, held just before midnight, Leung said the authorities would continue to tolerate the protests as long as participants did not charge police lines.
In 2003, protesters flooded the streets of Hong Kong to contest Article 23, a proposed anti-subversion law that would have, among other things, granted police the right to enter homes without a warrant in the name of national security. In 2012, weeks of protests led Beijing to back down from implementing its patriotism-heavy state curriculum in Hong Kong schools. Now the student-led protests are hoping to stem Beijing's influence in its local politics, demanding that the public—not Chinese government officials—be allowed to nominate candidates for chief executive elections.
But despite past victories, freedoms of the press and of protest, cherished rights glaringly absent on the mainland, are increasingly under fire from Beijing. Free elections could be the next victims.