Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s political crisis
The scale and persistence of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have taken many by surprise. Gideon Rachman is joined by David Pilling, Asia bureau chief, and Tom Mitchell, Beijing correspondent, to discuss the crisis and China’s response.

Protesters remain on the streets of Hong Kong’s central commercial district on Tuesday, following three days of demonstrations. They are calling for changes to the way Hong Kong chooses its chief executive, its top politician. Here’s an explainer of what’s going on.

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By Gideon Rachman
The demonstrations on the streets of Hong Kong present China with its biggest political challenge since the pro-democracy movement was crushed in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989. The parallels between the demonstrations in Hong Kong now and those in Beijing, 25 years ago are eerie – and must be profoundly unsettling to the Communist party leadership. Once again, the demonstrations are led by students demanding democratic reform. Once again, the central authorities have lost control – and risk facing a choice between repression and a humiliating climbdown. Once again, the ultimate question is the power and authority of the Communist party in Beijing.

David Pilling

A pro-democracy demonstrator (centre) gestures in front of a police line near the Hong Kong government headquarters

A pro-democracy demonstrator (centre) gestures in front of a police line near the Hong Kong government headquarters  © Getty

There can’t be many uprisings where those being tear gassed stop to pick up their own rubbish. It is a mark of Hong Kong’s sense of civic responsibility – of course precisely the quality that makes so eminently reasonable its aspiration to choose its own leader – that even its radical vanguard behaves so courteously. Read more

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  • Hong Kong is undergoing deepening tensions over its political future as a self-governed territory under Chinese sovereignty.

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David Pilling

Demonstrators march in support of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih in Hong Kong (Getty)

Behind the shiny skyscrapers and business friendly reputation of Hong Kong lies a darker side. One of the attractions of the city for expatriate bankers and middle-class Chinese residents alike is the plentiful supply of domestic help at a very “reasonable” cost. A live-in maid, working six days a week, often for very long hours, is paid a minimum monthly wage of around $515.

The arrest this week of a woman accused of torturing her Indonesian maid over a six-month period highlights the extreme vulnerability of overseas domestic workers to exploitation. Many are virtually locked away in the ranks of tower blocks that crowd in on Hong Kong Harbour and beyond, away from scrutiny. Maids tend to leave the house only when they run errands or walk the dog – or on Sundays, the statutory day off, when the concrete walkways and tiny parks of Hong Kong are taken over by encampments of domestic workers with nowhere else to go. Read more

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