Hong Kong protester speaks to Ahram Online about hopes and fears

Bassem Aly , Monday 29 Sep 2014

Cleo Tse, a 22-year-old pro-democracy protester in Hong Kong, tells Ahram Online what she hopes to achieve and how China will react to ongoing demonstrations in the territory

Hong Kong
Riot police fire tear gas on student protesters occupying streets surrounding the government headquarters in Hong Kong, early Monday, Sept. 29, 2014 (Photo: AP)

"Thanks for being interested in our city; now is still fine, I hope it still will be at night," said Cleo Tse, a 22-year-old pro-democracy protester in Hong Kong.

Tse, a graduate of international journalism from Hong Kong's Baptist University, spoke to Ahram Online on Monday, revealing her fears, expectations, and worries about the protests described in many news reports as the worst in Hong Kong since China regained its rule over the former British colony.

The 1984 Joint Declaration, signed between Britain and China, stipulated that Hong Kong will return to China by 1997. Adopting the "one country, two systems" formula, Hong Kong became part of China. Meanwhile, the country kept its liberal economy and autonomy over foreign and defence matters.  

Last month, China refused the demands of Hong Kong to choose the new ruler of the autonomous city. Instead, Beijing wants to restrain the choice among several candidates for the 2017 elections.

Here are Tse's responses to our questions via WhatsApp.

Q: What are you protesting for and what are your demands?

C.T: We are protesting to have the right to choose our own chief executive. It is not okay to have our choices limited by the People's Republic of China (PRC). It is a big shame for the "one country, two systems" formula as it has been so useless at protecting us since the PRC has given up on respecting us.

There are people who want the Chief Executive to step down. Yet, I personally think it is not practical enough at the moment. We urge the government to change the policy and let us choose whom we want. The Chief Executive has to step down not only because he has been using violent measures to tackle peaceful protesters, but also for being a pet of the PRC and not working for Hong Kong's citizens.

Q: In terms of your relationship with China, does Hong Kong have autonomy or what kind of governance?

C.T: I would say that since Hong Kong returned to China, the autonomy has been lost gradually. The promised 50 years have not even passed yet, we have to sacrifice our lands and rights just to comfort and satisfy the PRC. It is not acceptable at all. Everything promised is just fake and empty words. I love China as a country with a long history and a beautiful language, but I don't like the government, especially because it lies without a feeling of guilt.

Q: The chief executive ruled out interference by the Chinese army. But do you think this is possible as they did before in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989?

C.T: I hope they won't. It is still in doubt though. I am sure Hong Kong's government will still want to raise the flag while the people will not welcome it at all. The fireworks show will be cancelled too. The government needs to do something before the PRC interferes. Otherwise it will be a lose-lose situation for everyone. I dare not say no because police said they use the least amount of force - though they have already used pepper spray and tear gas. I still have some hope that Hong Kong's government knows what they are doing to us.

That would be the worst scenario. Rather than saying "canceling," the PRC is taking our autonomy away step-by-step as the policies have been exploiting our right of accommodation. I really don't want to imagine losing our autonomy. Without it, Hong Kong is nothing, just a nameless country that turns out to be under the control of China. This country will suffer a lot if it lost democracy and entered the darkness of a single-party dictatorship.

Q: Will you expect support from the West, mainly the United States?

C.T: I won't say particularly the US but the West, definitely. The attitude of China is too hard that I don't think any single country could change its political course. But I hope the international society could help as much as possible.  

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