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  • Documents on Democracy

Hong Kong

On November 15, the Hong Kong Federation of Students published a letter to Chinese premier Li Keqiang inviting him to visit Hong Kong. The students were among the leaders of the protests (known worldwide as the “Umbrella Revolution”) that erupted in Hong Kong in September in response to a decision by China’s National People’s Congress to restrict nominations for Hong Kong’s chief executive. Excerpts from the letter appear below:

Greetings. We are a group of college students in Hong Kong, writing this letter to you while sitting on a Hong Kong street.

You must have known that several of Hong Kong’s main streets have been filled with students and citizens since the end of September. It’s been over 40 days. You might not know that we are fighting for the political rights we should have, and have not been instructed to do this by a so-called “opposition conspiracy” or “hostile foreign forces.”

We sincerely invite you to come to Hong Kong, take a look at these Hong Kong people on the streets who haven’t gone home for months, and listen to everyone’s true feelings. Then, you will know what all this is for.

If you can’t come, that doesn’t matter. We are glad to go to Beijing to meet you. As the Prime Minister, the highest official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, we hope you can listen to our hundreds of thousands [of] Hong Kong people’s voices directly, instead of listening to all kinds of reports from “related departments.” Then, you can make a correct political judgment.

The appeal of these hundreds of thousands [of] Hong Kong people on the streets is very simple and direct: have the National People’s Congress (NPC) withdraw the decision over the Hong Kong elections made on Aug. 31 and resume the discussion of Hong Kong political reform. . . . [End Page 197]

The decision undermines the confidence of the Hong Kong young people about whether the return of democracy to society would come true under the “one country, two systems” policy, and the decision shakes the foundation of healthy interactions between Hong Kong and mainland China. . . .

For those of us in the younger generation, since we were born, we have deeply felt that Hong Kong is an unjust and desperate city. It has extreme inequality of opportunity, and a few elites dominate the political and economic lifeline.

Why has Hong Kong come to such a situation?

It’s because Hong Kong doesn’t have good governance, and doesn’t have a good blueprint for economic development and social reform. It’s unable to guarantee freedom of expression and independence of the judiciary, unable to establish a fair social and economic system, unable to reduce the disparity of wealth.

Why is it hard to have good governance, development, and reform? Because Hong Kong is stuck in the bottleneck of political reform. Under an undemocratic system, political and business elites collude to manipulate society, the government ignores public opinion, the government doesn’t have the heart or the ability to promote any just reform, and the public grievances get bigger and bigger.

People of insight in Hong Kong, either the pro-establishment camp or the pan-democracy camp, have long been aware that without democratic reform, the political power crisis will be hard to solve, and it’ll be difficult for the government to govern effectively.

In the past over 10 years, in order to achieve democratic self-government, Hong Kong people have appealed to implement people’s basic rights and with great care and perseverance have urged the government to heed good advice. It’s a pity that the Aug. 31 decision thoroughly disappointed us.

We are taking another step forward today, even taking civil disobedience to occupy the streets. It reflects the past 30 years of history, and deep worry about Hong Kong.

Dear Prime Minister, if you are at the scene, you will understand that we are definitely not presumptuous, nor are we instructed by others. We have to do this. We just hope that our most reasonable appeal could get the most basic respect. We really...