HK 'could become a Thailand or Ukraine'

HK 'could become a Thailand or Ukraine'
Protesters holding up images of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, which were made to resemble funeral portraits.

THE spectre of Hong Kong being "radicalised" has been raised by both its leader and China's media following Wednesday's high-profile act of civil disobedience by students demanding greater democracy.

This was even as an independent lawmaker flung a glass towards Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying during a legislative session yesterday in a scene unprecedented in the city's legislative chamber. It did not hit him but broke when it fell to the floor.

Picking up a shard of glass, Mr Leung, in unusually strong language, said he and other government officials entering the legislative chamber have been met with "not just insulting language, but increasingly violent behaviour including what we all saw today".

This, he later added, is influencing how some of Hong Kong's young are acting today. "I appeal to the Legislative Council and society to pay attention to this trend," he said.

China's nationalistic Global Times, meanwhile, warned that Hong Kong was in danger of becoming a "Ukraine or Thailand" if it "continues headlong into political upheaval" with no consideration of the law. The People's Daily denounced the student groups that organised the sit-in at Central.

The warnings came after recent developments in a society that is becoming more politically fractured.

The desire for greater leeway in choosing their leader and anger at perceived tightening of screws by Beijing on Hong Kong drove up to 510,000 people - a record turnout - to the streets on Tuesday.

It was followed by a non-violent sit-in, led by students, who occupied Chater Road before they were removed by police. Over 500 were arrested, with 25 released on bail and the rest let go after warnings.

There have also been rowdy scenes outside the legislature in recent weeks over the government's plan to develop new towns in the New Territories.

While most Hong Kongers disapprove of such actions, a growing number, hoping to see change, have been giving so-called radical legislators their vote. They received 16 per cent of all ballots in the 2012 election, up from 10 per cent previously.

Mr Leung yesterday expressed worries that a small segment of Hong Kong youth are becoming increasingly violent in expressing their views, saying that this is a problem that Hong Kong needs to take note of.

Besides the influence of legislators, he said, another factor is unhappiness over issues like the widening income gap, stagnating social mobility and future prospects. "In this, my government has been trying to resolve these problems in the last two years."

In his first comments on the sit-in, he said such actions are "not necessary" and a waste of police resources.

Mr Wong Yuk Man, the radical legislator who threw the glass, was unrepentant, saying Mr Leung "should go to hell".

He said he wanted to insult Mr Leung, given that he had been selected as leader by just 689 people in the 1,200-strong election panel. His actions left the other pan-Democrat lawmakers flat-footed.

They left the chamber before Mr Leung's speech to protest his lack of response to results of an unofficial referendum on political reform.

But the wind was knocked out of their sails when focus turned to the glass-throwing incident instead.

This article was first published on July 4, 2014.
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