SAIC Students Protest Voting Rights Ordinance
SAIC students joined demonstrators in Daley Plaza supporting the democracy movement in Hong Kong on October 4. Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region of China that had been colonized by the UK until 1997, has been ruled according to a “one country, two systems” policy since the territory was passed to Chinese control. The new ordinance modifies the previous electoral system in which a committee chaired by 1,200 Beijing loyalists decided on Hong Kong’s Chief Executive (CE). The ordinance would provide the citizens of Hong Kong the opportunity to vote on a Chief Executive for the first time, but it also gives the Chinese government the power to veto contenders and filter the candidates for the 2017 election. If citizens allow Beijing to handpick candidates, Hong Kong’s steps toward freedom of choice and the power to vote will be for nothing. F Newsmagazine spoke with School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) demonstrators and activists in Hong Kong who attended the protest.
Tessa Elbettar (SAIC student): What are the issues you are addressing today?
Erin Hui (SAIC student): Currently in Hong Kong, the citizens are on the street fighting for true democracy and universal suffrage, but China won’t give that to us. They are choosing the candidates that we can pick from. If we don’t have the right to elect our own candidates, that’s not true democracy; and all the candidates will in turn be pro-Beijing, which is not what we’re after.
Ashley Law (SAIC student): We are here to advocate for international recognition of the issue, supporting the Hong Kong protests in efforts to achieve universal suffrage.
T.E.: What does it look like on the streets of Hong Kong right now?
A.L.: It’s intense. There are over 510,000 people all over the major streets of Hong Kong speaking out against the government because the government is trying to revoke our basic human fundamental right to vote. The central government is tightening their grip on the autonomous Hong Kong government. This really scares the people of Hong Kong because China has a very corrupt and heavily censored system, and taking away our freedom of speech is the first step in the spiral of an uncertain future.
Flight attendants Christopher Wen and Anita Wu, who live and travel in and out of Hong Kong, also participated in the occupation.
Christopher Wen (flight attendant and Hong Kong resident at the Chicago protest): The second or third day I was in Hong Kong, it was very peaceful. We sat down in protest and the government didn’t do anything. So at that time it was actually very passive.
Anita Wu (flight attendant and Hong Kong resident at the Chicago protest): The students there are very organized. They asked us if we were hungry, gave us food for free and provided us with water. They collected the rubbish on the street and would recycle their water bottles. Because it was very hot in Hong Kong, they would bring spray bottles and spray the people to cool them down. It was really peaceful I would say. I remember it was raining very heavily. Usually if it’s raining a lot you go home, however people decided to stay under the bridge or under buildings. They even slept on the streets. They knew that if they left they could never come back, because the police would be there. So they decided to stay.