Globe Trot: Students lead Hong Kong protests against Beijing

by Jamie Dean
Posted 9/29/14, 01:25 pm

HONG KONG: Pro-democracy demonstrations are swelling in Hong Kong, as thousands fill the streets in the city’s most serious confrontation with Beijing in a decade. Hong Kong was a British colony for more than a century, but returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Chinese leaders pledged Hong Kong could maintain autonomy for 50 years under a “one country, two systems” arrangement. 

The current, largely student-led protests began after an Aug. 31 decision by Beijing to allow Hong Kong citizens—for the first time ever—to choose the city’s next chief executive. But the announcement came with a huge caveat upsetting to many: They may only choose from a list of candidates approved by a committee comprised of mostly pro-Beijing members.

As the protests continue, some of the city’s older residents who endured decades of turmoil in China seem less willing to press for greater freedoms. An older woman told AP she joined others who came to Hong Kong 60 years ago with nothing, and worked and suffered to build a rich city: “For me, being able to eat and sleep is already a luxury. I don’t need democracy. What does it mean?”

Many others defended the movement, particularly after police used tear gas against the crowds. “The students are protecting the right to vote, for Hong Kong’s future,” said a 55-year-old civil service employee who joined the demonstrations. “We are not scared, we are not frightened, we just fight for it.”

UNDERESTIMATING ISIS: During a 60 Minutes interview, President Barack Obama acknowledged that his administration had underestimated the Islamic State. When asked about Director of Intelligence James Clapper’s admission that America had underestimated both ISIS and the Iraqi military’s ability to battle the militants, Obama said: “That’s true. That’s absolutely true.”

After weeks of scrambling to assert his leadership in the face of Islamic State threats, the president also sounded an unusually aggressive note: “America leads. We are the indispensable nation.”

BELGIUM: Belgian officials began the country’s largest trial against Islamic extremism on Monday. Prosecutors accused 46 members of the Islamist group Sharia4Belgium of being part of a terror organization and recruiting young men in Belgium to fight a holy war in Syria.

An estimated 300 fighters in Syria have come from Belgium—the highest per capita involvement among western European countries. Only eight of those charged appeared in the Antwerp court on Monday. Officials say the rest are still in Syria.

INDIA: India’s prime minister will visit the White House tonight during his first visit to the United States since his election in May. More than 19,000 people—mostly from the U.S. Indian community—packed Madison Square Garden for a rock-star style event featuring a speech by Narendra Modi.

Modi’s visit comes nearly 10 years after U.S. officials denied Modi’s request for a visitor’s visa in the wake of religious riots in the state of Gujarat—where Modi was the highest elected official. More than 1,000 Muslims were killed. Modi denied complicity in the riots, but some human rights groups have continued to raise questions about his involvement.

Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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