Ongoing Demonstrations in Hong Kong: CECC Resources
After Hong Kong's 1997 return to Chinese sovereignty, its Basic Law guaranteed that the "ultimate aim" of democratic development is election of Hong Kong's Chief Executive (CE) by universal suffrage. Although a 2007 National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) decision ruled that the first universal suffrage election could take place in 2017, a 2014 NPCSC decision restricted the ability of candidates to freely run for CE. Advocates for greater democracy have launched massive protests in an attempt to persuade the Chinese and Hong Kong governments to reconsider the decision. The Commission provides these resources to assist in understanding the demonstrations in Hong Kong and Hong Kong's electoral reforms.
CECC Members’ Statements on Hong Kong
Chairman Brown and Cochairman Smith Statement on Hong Kong (October 1, 2014)
November 19: On November 18, Hong Kong court bailiffs began to dismantle protester barricades in Admiralty, near Hong Kong government headquarters. The bailiffs were enforcing an injunction against the protesters issued by the Hong Kong High Court in October. Protesters removed their belongings from the area covered by the injunction and moved to other parts of the protest site. The High Court also issued an injunction against the protest site in Mong Kok, Kowloon. Authorities are expected to attempt to clear the Mong Kok protest area later in the week.
On November 15, three student leaders – Alex Chow, Nathan Law, and Eason Chung from the Hong Kong Federation of Students – attempted to travel to Beijing to meet with Chinese government officials and discuss the situation in Hong Kong. When trying to boarding their plane, however, they were informed that Chinese authorities had canceled their home-return permits (the document which allows Hong Kong and Macau residents to travel to mainland China) and so they were not permitted to board.
U.S. Government Statements on Hong Kong
[T]he United States supports internationally recognized fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of peaceful assembly and the freedom of expression. The United States urges the Hong Kong authorities to exercise restraint and for protestors to express their views peacefully.
The United States supports universal suffrage in Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law and we support the aspirations of the Hong Kong people. We believe that an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by the rule of law is essential for Hong Kong's stability and prosperity.
The United States strongly supports Hong Kong's well-established traditions and Basic Law protections of internationally recognized fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press. We do not take sides in the discussion of Hong Kong's political development, nor do we support any particular individuals or groups involved in it.
Hong Kong's stability and prosperity have long benefited from a vigorous dialogue among its citizens and a firmly established tradition of the peaceful and orderly expression of differing views. In accordance with this tradition, we encourage all sides to refrain from actions that would further escalate tensions, to exercise restraint, and to express views on the SAR's political future in a peaceful manner.
Hong Kong and Chinese Government Statements
As far as their position is concerned, I'm afraid that we can only agree to disagree, because our firm position is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage in 2017 has to be done in accordance with the legal framework laid down by the National People's Congress Standing Committee on the 31st of August. If the students could not accept this position, then I'm afraid we will continue to have different views.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying on Hong Kong demonstrations, October 20, 2014
Activities done by some people in Hong Kong, namely occupying the main thoroughfares, defying the law enforcement of the police and putting social order in severe jeopardy, are entirely illegal. The central government firmly supports the Hong Kong SAR government in performing its duties in accordance with law and safeguarding the rule of law and social order in Hong Kong.
Roundtable: “Prospects for Democracy and Press Freedom in Hong Kong” (April 3, 2014)
- Chairman Senator Sherrod Brown on democracy and press freedom in Hong Kong
- Cochairman Congressman Chris Smith on democracy and press freedom in Hong Kong
- Roundtable webcast and transcript
Other Hearings & Roundtables on Hong Kong
- Prospects for Democracy in Hong Kong: Assessing China’s International Commitments (July 14, 2010)
- Hong Kong After the Elections: The Future of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ (September 23, 2004)
China’s Commitments to Hong Kong
Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (April 4, 1990)
The National People’s Congress authorizes the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to exercise a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, in accordance with the provisions of this Law.
Permanent residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall have the right to vote and the right to stand for election in accordance with law.
Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike.
Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of conscience.
Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of religious belief and freedom to preach and to conduct and participate in religious activities in public.
The provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and international labour conventions as applied to Hong Kong shall remain in force and shall be implemented through the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents shall not be restricted unless as prescribed by law. Such restrictions shall not contravene the provisions of the preceding paragraph of this Article.
. . . The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.
Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Issues Relating to the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and for Forming the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the Year 2012 and on Issues Relating to Universal Suffrage (December 29, 2007)
. . . [T]he election of the fifth Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the year 2017 may be implemented by the method of universal suffrage . . .
. . . [I]n accordance with the provisions of Article 45 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, in selecting the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by the method of universal suffrage, a broadly representative nominating committee shall be formed. The nominating committee may be formed with reference to the current provisions regarding the Election Committee in Annex I to the Hong Kong Basic Law. The nominating committee shall in accordance with democratic procedures nominate a certain number of candidates for the office of the Chief Executive, who is to be elected through universal suffrage by all registered electors of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and to be appointed by the Central People’s Government.
Relevant International Treaties
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (December 16, 1966)
- Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
- Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
- Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:
(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;
(c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.
Universal Declaration on Human Rights (December 10, 1948)
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
- Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
- No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
- Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
- Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
- The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Joint Declaration of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Question of Hong Kong (December 19, 1984)
3. The Government of the People’s Republic of China declares that the basic policies of the People’s Republic of China regarding Hong Kong are as follows:
. . .
(2) The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will be directly under the authority of the Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs which are the responsibilities of the Central People's Government.
(3) The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will be vested with executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication. The laws currently in force in Hong Kong will remain basically unchanged.
(4) . . . The chief executive will be appointed by the Central People's Government on the basis of the results of elections or consultations to be held locally. . . .
(5) The current social and economic systems in Hong Kong will remain unchanged, and so will the life-style. Rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of choice of occupation, of academic research and of religious belief will be ensured by law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Private property, ownership of enterprises, legitimate right of inheritance and foreign investment will be protected by law.
. . .
(12) The above-stated basic policies of the People's Republic of China regarding Hong Kong and the elaboration of them in Annex I to this Joint Declaration will be stipulated, in a Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, by the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China, and they will remain unchanged for 50 years.
CECC Analysis Related to Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Legislative Council Approves Reform Package, After Democrats and Mainland Government Reach Compromise (October 19, 2010)
- Hong Kong Government Releases Proposals for Constitutional Reform (June 4, 2010)
- Tens of Thousands March for Universal Suffrage in Hong Kong (January 1, 2006)
- Hong Kong Constitutional Development Task Force Issues Proposals for Reform (October 27, 2005)
Links to Outside Resources
- United States–Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 (January 3, 1992)
- State Council White Paper on the "One Country, Two Systems" Policy in Hong Kong (June 10, 2014)