MOSCOW, September 22 (RIA Novosti) – Thousands of university students abandoned their classes and took to the streets of Hong Kong on Monday to protest against Chinese government restrictions on voting rights, The New York Times reports.
"University students must shoulder the responsibility of these times," Nathan Law Kwun-chung, the acting president of the student union of Lingnan University, told the crowd at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
"Boycotting classes is just the first wave of resistance," he added. "Today is not the last step for us all. It’s the first step, and countless resistance campaigns will bear fruit."
The students protest is aimed at unpopular electoral reforms proposed by Beijing last month. They have said they will boycott classes for the week. High school students plan to join in the protests for a day on Friday. The largest protest is expected if the main pro-democracy group, Occupy Central with Love and Peace, calls for demonstrators to flood the city’s main business district.
The current protests perfectly demonstrate the city’s appetite for turning smoldering discontent into street-level opposition. The confrontation with Chinese government marks Hong Kong’s movement to the frontlines of the battle for democratic rights and freedoms.
The Chinese government announced election rule changes for Hong Kong last month that sparked major public demonstrations in protest. Despite the "one-person, one-vote" rule allowed in the 2017 chief executive election, the proposal would allow Chinese government to control the selection of candidate at the nomination stage with use of a nominating committee dominated by pro-Beijing loyalists. Thus it would have a means to restrict how many and which candidates can enter the contest.
With a little chance to force Beijing to change its policy towards the Hong Kong election, students said they were ready to an enduring fight for their rights.
While 27 pro-democracy members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council have the right to veto any changes to election rules proposed by the Chinese government, President Xi Jinping is unlikely to give in to democracy in the city. Last week Zhang Dejiang, a senior party official, visiting Hong Kong told lawmakers that the student protests and the Occupy Central would not change Beijing’s stance of the issue.
“I’m not sure if this protest will really affect the decision by China, but I’m sure if I don’t come I will regret it in the future,” said Cathy Lee, a 21-year-old criminology student at the City University of Hong Kong. “I have to join this protest in order to fight for democracy in Hong Kong in the future.”