Students Underwhelmed by Hong Kong Chief Executive’s Speech

October 2, 2014 Updated: October 15, 2014

HONG KONG—Leung Chun-ying, the chief executive of Hong Kong, held a long awaited press conference late into the night Thursday, making clear that he had no intention of stepping down, but conceded that a representative from his office—Carrie Lam, the chief secretary, his second in command—would meet with the students soon to discuss their demands for political reform.

The students that were occupying Admiralty, the area around government offices, were not expecting much at all from the overture. 

“Most people here think he’s talking rubbish,” said Christy Au, a 21-year-old arts student. “At first the situation was very tense, and many students came. Then they loosened up. They want to relax things so the students lose energy.”

Some had expected an appearance the very same evening, though it may be a couple of days before a discussion is actually held. By 1 a.m. some bystanders were frustrated at the lack of action.

Even so, it’s unclear what Lam can actually do to satisfy the demands of the students. 

“She’s spoken on these matters before,” said Newton Lee, 30, a stage audio operator. “But there was no content to what she said.” 

Lam was part of the discussion with the public in 2012 about opposition to the so-called patriotic education school curriculum, which many locals saw as an attempt by Beijing to indoctrinate children with pro-Communist Party propaganda. 

It is unclear whether Leung nor Lam, in fact, have the final say in determining the political outcome of the demands by the tens of thousands that are turning out on a nightly basis now.

A pretense of universal suffrage—the principle of one person, one vote—was offered by Beijing in a recent decision by the National People’s Congress, but it was a far cry from what people are actually calling for. 

The decision, released on Aug. 31, said that all eligible Hong Kong citizens could vote in the election for the chief executive, but that the candidates would be limited to a few individuals picked by a selection committee. 

That committee is composed of 1,200 people—compared to an eligible voting population of 3.5 million—whose selection is itself influenced by Beijing, ensuring that any individual unacceptable to the Chinese Communist Party will be filtered out. 

But people in Hong Kong are demanding the right to decide on their own candidates, and then elect one of them.

“The final goal is not to have Leung Chun-ying step down,” said Au. “We want a change to the system, and students need to be clear on the point of this.”

Carmen Lee, 17, a high school student, exhibiting the precociousness typical of teenagers who protest outside government buildings at 3 a.m., remarked that if Leung indeed was forced out, then the central authorities may simply “pick another person.”

“Then it will simply be a new chief executive, not true democracy.”


Epoch Times reporter Matthew Robertson’s Twitter updates from Hong Kong: