Massive Hong Kong protest spoils Beijing's birthday party

Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong)
July 1, 2011

Ten of thousands of Hong Kongers will turn out for the annual anti-government-pro-democracy demonstration on July 1. The day is loaded with historic significance; it is the 14th anniversary of Hong Kong・s return from British colonial rule to control by China.

This year it coincides with the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, which will be marked with pomp and ceremony across China. A new blockbuster film, sponsored ironically by General Motors, albeit its Shanghai-based subsidiary, has been launched to mark the occasion. But the ruling party, now a bastion of the super-rich and a far cry from its revolutionary anti-capitalist roots in 1921, is facing an increasingly rough ride as workers・ and farmers・ protests spread and its economy shows warning signs of a growing debt problem. :All the hoopla cannot conceal the party・s insecure state,; notes the New York Times.

Rich-poor gap

In semi-autonomous Hong Kong, this year's July 1 march is more politically charged than for some time. The China's special administrative region's puppet regime V chosen by the Chinese dictatorship rather than elected V has seen its support level slump in recent months. There is massive anger over the widening rich-poor gap, which is the most extreme in of any developed capitalist economy. The poorest ten percent of households in this spectacularly wealthy city survive on just HK$2,500 a month (US$321).

Reflecting this, the slogans for this year's march not only focus on democratic rights, with the call for universal suffrage in 2012, but also against "property hegemony" V the dictatorship of a small cabal of tycoon developers. Workers, migrants and other oppressed groups will raise demands for shorter hours and greater legal protection against hard-faced bosses.

A research body, the Hong Kong Transition Project, published a poll this week showing rising discontent with government policies, with opposition rising to similar to levels as in 2003. That year, half a million people (of a population of 7.7m) joined the march and triggered a governmental crisis and resignation of the Beijing-appointed Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa.

State machine flexing its muscles

In the run-up to this year's march the police have made a number of provocative rulings, banning music (!), fundraising and petition signing, on the spurious grounds this could slow the march down. They have also told the organisers, the Civil Human Rights Front (CVRF), that it will be held responsible if any participants attend other activities after the official march. These anti-democratic restrictions are part of a wider process of harsher policing of political events and other attacks on democratic rights, a process driven by the Beijing regime.

It is clear the state machine is flexing its muscles V to send a warning signal to the radicalised youth and other discontented layers. On June 30, the People's Liberation Army, which is normally confined to barracks in Hong Kong, staged rare military exercises with armoured vehicles in Mong Kok, close to this correspondent's home. The last time the PLA ventured out was during the anti-government byelection challenge of May last year. There is widespread speculation that Beijing will also revive a push for draconian security legislation under "Article 23" of Hong Kong's constitution. This was the issue that brought down Tung's administration and the legislation has been shelved since then.