The boycott begins: thousands of students stage classroom walkout over Beijing’s electoral reform plan

The boycott begins: thousands of students stage classroom walkout over Beijing’s electoral reform plan

Thousands of university students from across Hong Kong formed a sea of white as they arrived in Chinese University (CUHK) to join the week-long class boycott for democracy which began at 2pm.

Students gathered at the university mall in Sha Tin, wearing white with yellow ribbons pinned to their shirts – the symbol of the city’s democracy movement. Organisers put the turnout at 13,000.

The one-week school strike beginning today is seen as the curtain raiser for Occupy Central, when thousands are expected to blockade roads in central Hong Kong in protest at Beijing ruling out an open election of the next chief executive in 2017.

Thousands of students had gathered by 2pm on Monday. Photo: Felix Wong

Addressing the gathered students, Lester Shum of the Federation of Students said the strikes will begin a new wave of civil disobedience needed to stop the “colonisation” of Hong Kong by Beijing.

“In the colonial days, the British ruled Hong Kong as if they were a group of refugees and obedient subjects,” Shum said. “On August 31, [Beijing’s] decision would allow the central government and [tycoons] to continue to manipulate the election. Isn’t that applying the colonial [approach] to Hong Kong?”

Last month, Beijing ruled that while Hong Kong can pick its leader by “one person, one vote” in 2017, only two or three candidates with majority support from a 1,200-strong nominating committee could run. Potential candidates that Beijing does not want on the ballot paper would be screened out by the committee on the grounds of national security.

“Resist colonial [rule], say no to screening! Self-determination for Hongkongers!” Shum led the crowd in chanting.

Alex Chow of the Federation of Students (holding paper) reads out the Declaration of the Student Strikes. Photo: Sam Tsang

The federation’s secretary general Alex Chow Yong-Kang reiterated the students’ demands of the authorities: allow the public to nominate candidates in 2017; abolish functional constituencies in the Legislative Council; and apologise for and retract Beijing’s ruling on political reform.

If the authorities refuse to respond, the students want Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and the justice and constitutional ministers to step down, Chow added.

“Class boycotts may last for only a week, but there could be more strikes in the future. If 10,000 students promote [their causes] in the society… [who can say] it’s impossible to change this society?” he said.

“We must consider whether we are going to tear down a poisonous [reform] package, or tear down the future of Hong Kong,” Chow asked, warning that endorsing Beijing’s decision would allow social injustice, serious poverty and urban planning problems to persist.

Gathered students wore white with yellow ribbons – the symbol of the democracy movement – pinned to their shirts. Photo: Sam Tsang

Dr Chan Kin-man, an associate professor at CUHK’s sociology department and one of the co-founders of the Occupy movement, offered support to his students.

He said he had not called on the students to join the strike, but was pleased to learn that almost two-thirds of sociology students were on the mall.

“It’s very encouraging to see the young people’s dedication,” said Chan. “That’s why I’m not very frustrated after the National People’s Congress Standing Committee [the highest national legislative body] spelt out its ruling [on the 2017 election]. In fact, I am encouraged.”

As an undergraduate, Chan once led a class boycott at CUHK. He will offer classes to his students on Saturday to make up for the ones they are missing this week.

A striking student listens to speeches on the first day of the class boycott. Photo: Sam Tsang

Baptist University scholar Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, a Civic Party lawmaker, said: “Today is an ironic day indeed: while the [mall] here is packed with students, this morning, a group of tycoons were queuing up, waiting to bow down in Beijing and receive orders.

“But the NPC shouldn’t be deciding Hong Kong’s future, it should be everyone here, who understands the city’s core value, to decide!” Chan told the crowd.

Labour Party lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, a lecturer in social work, said: ” I speak here with a heavy heart that our students have to boycott classes to alert the city, the central government and the world that Hong Kong won’t find a way out of [the situation] if it continues like this.”

“We are not here to seize power and interest, we want a fair system for the allocation of social resources and [to decide] how the city’s education and housing policies should be implemented,” Cheung added.

Organisers said as many as 13,000 had gathered on the strike’s first day. Photo: Sam Tsang

Tammy Yiu, a freshman studying social work at Shue Yan University in North Point, said she was skipping two lectures to join the campaign.

“I don’t want to remain silent,” she said. “When society is being divided, I do not want to stand on the wrong side.”

She admitted that joining the protest had not been an easy action, especially when the fees for the private Shue Yan institute are so high.

She chose not to tell her parents that she was taking part.

“How can I tell my family I am going to skip the classes for a week and sit in the park?” said Yiu.

Many students brought umbrellas to protect themselves from the harsh afternoon sun. Photo: Sam Tsang

Student leaders and academics are expected to deliver speeches to the gathered assembly later today.

Vincent Chong Yip-fung, a law student, said he was determined to stick with the strike for the full week.

“We must stand up to fight against the injustice,” he said. “Or else we might not be able to speak up anymore.”

At the entrance to the university’s MTR station , a Catholic group offered prayers for democracy in Hong Kong. There were long queues waiting at the university’s shuttle bus stations, with many of them heading to the class boycott rally outside the university’s library.

The students have demanded that Beijing retracts its decision to rule out an open election in 2017. Photo: Sam Tsang

The venue for the school boycott will move from Chinese University to Tamar Park next to government headquarters in Admiralty from tomorrow, where various scholars backing the campaign will deliver lectures on topics ranging from democracy to cultural studies.

Almost 400 university and non-academic staff have thrown their weight behind the student protest, signing a petition offering their “staunchest support and protection”.

More than 80 public lectures are planned, with speakers including Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and more than 100 academics from various disciplines.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 September, 2014, 2:40pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 September, 2014, 5:29pm

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Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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