Pacific News Minute: Protests Greet Politiburo Official in Hong Kong

May 19, 2016

Credit eGuide Travel / Flickr

A massive security operation could not stifle all protests in Hong Kong this week, as an important Chinese official arrived. Zhang Dejiang is the chairman of China's legislature, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and the most senior official to visit Hong Kong since the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014. We have more, from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

 Thousands of police officers manned barricades around the Convention Center, forcing small groups of demonstrators to official protest zones well out of the way.

Back in February, some rioters pried bricks out of the sidewalks to throw at police, so this time, the bricks were glued down ahead of time. One banner across a mountainside declared "I want universal suffrage." Another, at a construction site, said "End One Party Dictatorship." 

But the subtlest message, flashed in lights for just about a minute or so on Hong Kong's tallest building, the International Commerce Center. Nine numbers, counting down from 979,124,493. The number of seconds remaining, in the fifty years following the British handover in 1997, the period when China guaranteed limited freedoms in Hong Kong under an arrangement called, "One Country Two systems." Artist Samson Wong told the New York Times, "We hope to deliver this work to illustrate the highest anxiety of the Hong Kong people."

Emily Lau, the head of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, was among a delegation that met Zhang Dejiang at a reception. In an interview with the Times, Lau said she told him "People are very, very frustrated, and that's why some, including young people, are looking for a way out, including independence." She said his reply was noncommittal, but added, "I think he got the message, loud and clear."