TIME Hong Kong

China Rules Out Open Election in Hong Kong, Setting Stage for ‘Occupy’ Protest

Pro-democracy protesters switch on their mobile phones during a campaign to kick off the Occupy Central civil disobedience event in Hong Kong
Pro-democracy protesters switch on their mobile phones during a campaign to kick off the Occupy Central civil-disobedience event near the Central financial district in Hong Kong at Aug. 31, 2014 Bobby Yip—Reuters

Demonstrators vow to paralyze Hong Kong's financial district after Beijing refused to allow unfettered nominations for the territory's top job

On democracy, there will be no compromise. That’s the message Beijing sent the city of Hong Kong on Sunday. After months of rallies calling for free and fair elections, China’s legislature effectively shut the door on full democracy, ruling out open nominations for the planned 2017 election of the city’s Chief Executive, the local government’s top leader.

Since Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, the Chief Executive has been chosen by an electoral commission dominated by establishment figures. In 2017, the Chief Executive will be elected by Hong Kong voters. But the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing has now confirmed that it will retain its gatekeeper role, making sure candidates are first vetted by a committee to gauge whether they demonstrate, among others things, sufficient “love for country.”

The announcement sets the stage for renewed conflict in the city of 7 million. On Sunday evening, local time, several thousand people gathered at government offices to protest. On an open-air stage framed by the People’s Liberation Army’s Hong Kong headquarters and lighted by the city’s skyscrapers, democracy campaigners denounced the CCP and vowed to push ahead with plans to shut down the city’s financial district. The group behind the push for civil disobedience, Occupy Central With Love and Peace, did not say when, or how, the “occupation” would start.

“We’re telling Beijing this is the start of a movement,” said Joseph Cheng, professor at City University and convener of the Alliance for True Democracy, an umbrella group advocating an open nomination process. “We don’t want to be just another Chinese city.” Beijing warned that if democratic legislators did not support its 2017 plan, the territory would revert to the current system of the choosing the Chief Executive, which has been criticized by many in Hong Kong as unrepresentative and undemocratic.

Becoming “just another Chinese city” is at the heart of the activism, and counteractivism, currently shaking Hong Kong. It has been 17 years since the territory was returned to Chinese sovereignty. Under a political conceit called “one country, two systems,” Hong Kong retained certain freedoms, but was to be beholden, on matters of security, to Beijing. Over the years, however, many Hong Kong citizens say their relative autonomy has been eroded with Beijing pressuring the city’s politicians, businesspeople, journalists and even judges to get its way.

Fears about Hong Kong’s status as a Special Administrative Region of China have brought together wide swaths of Hong Kong society to either oppose, or support, the diktats of the CCP. In late June, some 800,000 people voted on a civil-society-backed monthlong plebiscite on electoral reform that Beijing deemed illegal. Shortly afterward, on the July 1 anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, tens of thousands of people (estimates ranged from under 100,000 to more than 500,000) marched to show their support for democratic reform. The pro-Beijing camp held their own hundreds-strong counterprotest and issued a petition signed by 1.3 million supporters of their own.

The latest ruling will only deepen divisions, further widening the gap between those who welcome China’s influence (or believe there is no practical choice but to accept it), and those who see it as a threat. It may also lead to polarization within the pro-democracy camp, as the movement wrestles with how to move forward. For some, the civil disobedience spearheaded by Occupy Central is looking more attractive. “We have to stand up for ourselves,” says Bobby Chan, a 50-year-old private investor who attended Sunday’s protest. “Enough is enough.”

Other self-styled democrats are wary of plans to paralyze Central, the city’s financial district and lifeblood. They worry that blocking a vital part of the economy, and disobeying Beijing, will hurt, not help, Hong Kong’s cause. In a much discussed editorial for the South China Morning Post, titled “The Logic of Beijing’s Vision for 2017 Chief Executive Election,” lawmaker Regina Ip argues that the Chinese plan was based on international law and left room for democratic reform in the future. Progress will come with time and trust in the authorities, she reasons. In a telephone interview with TIME, Ip says Occupy Central’s “damage” to the city would depend on how many people take part and how many participants represent the “hard-core element.”

“Hard-core,” or, to use Beijing’s language, “extremist” elements, figure heavily in the CCP’s opposition to Hong Kong protest movements. In recent weeks, state-backed media have stepped up their rhetorical battle, claiming the democracy movement was a threat to the stability of the territory and the country. Citing an unnamed government source, state media also warned against foreign interference, saying central authorities will not allow anyone to use Hong Kong “as a bridgehead” to subvert, or infiltrate the mainland. “The Chinese government is convinced that there are forces in Hong Kong that want to undermine China,” says David Zweig, director of the Center on China’s Transnational Relations at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Many activists are unbowed. “We fought for democracy for over three decades,” said Lam Cheuk-ting, chief executive of the Democratic Party, at Sunday’s demonstration in Hong Kong. “We have tolerated an undemocratic government for more than 15 years.” The people, he said, are “extremely angry.”

As heavy rain soaked Lam and his fellow protesters, some of whom were in tears, an advertisement flashed above them. From the heights of a tower bearing the name of a Chinese state-owned investment company, CITIC, beamed a fluorescent slogan, in English and Chinese; it read: “A New Chapter.” Not for Hong Kong.

— With reporting by Zoher Abdoolcarim, Charlie Campbell and David Stout / Hong Kong

TIME Hong Kong

China: No Open Nominations for Hong Kong Leader

Activists Take To The Streets As China Votes On Hong Kong Election Process
Protesters take part in a rally during the beginning of the Occupy Central movement outside the Central Government Offices in Hong Kong on Aug. 31, 2014. Lam Yik Fei—Getty Images

China's legislature on Sunday ruled against allowing open nominations in elections for Hong Kong's leader, a decision that promises to ignite political tensions in the Asian financial hub

Updated: Aug. 31, 2014, 8:40 a.m. E.T.

(BEIJING) — China’s legislature on Sunday ruled out allowing open nominations in inaugural elections for Hong Kong’s leader, saying they would create a “chaotic society.” Democracy activists in the Asian financial hub responded by saying that a long-threatened mass occupation of the heart of the city “will definitely happen.”

The legislature’s powerful Standing Committee said all candidates should be approved by more than half of a special nominating body in order to go before voters. That’s at odds with demands from Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which staged a massive protest in July to press for genuine democracy in the Chinese territory over fears candidates would continue to be screened to assess their loyalty to Beijing.

Following the committee’s widely expected decision, pro-democracy supporters rallied in a park in front of Hong Kong government headquarters.

Hong Kong has enjoyed substantial political autonomy since returning from British to Chinese rule in 1997, when China’s communist leaders pledged to allow the city’s leader, known as the chief executive, to be eventually elected through “universal suffrage” rather than by the current committee of mostly pro-Beijing tycoons. But China’s growing influence in the city’s affairs has sparked fears that Beijing won’t hold up its end of the bargain.

Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the National People’s Congress’ Standing Committee, told a news conference that openly nominating candidates would create a “chaotic society.”

“These rights come from laws, they don’t come from the sky,” he said. “Many Hong Kong people have wasted a lot of time discussing things that are not appropriate and aren’t discussing things that are appropriate.”

Hong Kong’s most high-profile democracy group, Occupy Central with Love and Peace, immediately announced that a plan to “occupy” the city’s Central business district would go ahead, without specifying a date.

“OCLP has considered occupying Central only as the last resort, an action to be taken only if all chances of dialogue have been exhausted and there is no other choice,” the group said in a statement. “We are very sorry to say that today all chances of dialogue have been exhausted and the occupation of Central will definitely happen.”

Occupy Central has vowed to rally at least 10,000 people for the massive sit-in, which could still be months away because Hong Kong’s government must hold more consultations on Beijing’s guidelines and then formulate a bill to be passed by the city’s legislature. The group urged legislators to vote against it and “start the constitutional reform process all over again.”

Making clear that Chinese leaders intend to tightly control politics in Hong Kong, Li reiterated that candidates for chief executive should be loyal to China’s ruling Communist Party.

“He has to be responsible to Hong Kong and to the central government,” Li said. “If Hong Kong’s chief executive doesn’t love the country and love the party, then that can’t work in one country.”

Under Sunday’s guidelines, Hong Kong’s 5 million eligible voters will be able to vote in 2017 for two to three candidates selected by the 1,200-member nominating committee. Then, the chief executive-elect “will have to be appointed by the Central People’s Government,” the Standing Committee said.

“Since the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and the sovereignty, security and development interests of the country are at stake, there is a need to proceed in a prudent and steady manner,” it said.

Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that the requirement that a candidate is supported by more than half of the nomination committee “will rule out a pan-democratic candidate.”

“Only if it’s lowered to 20 percent can a pan-democratic candidate get in,” as there could be enough political diversity in the committee to back a more democratically minded person, Lam said.

Beijing’s announcement comes after a summer of protests and counter-protests that have gripped Hong Kong, including a rally two weeks ago by pro-Beijing activists to denounce Occupy Central as threatening the city’s stability.

Political tensions spiked in June when Chinese officials released a policy “white paper” declaring that Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy … comes solely from the authorization by the central leadership.”

Many read the policy paper as asserting Beijing’s dominance of Hong Kong’s affairs and hit the streets and the Internet in protest. Occupy Central drew Beijing’s rebuke by organizing an online referendum that received nearly 800,000 votes on how to pick the city’s chief executive.

On Sunday, organizers of a similar referendum in the neighboring Chinese-controlled city of Macau said 95 percent of 8,688 people had voted in favor of its leader being elected by universal suffrage in 2019. Macau’s incumbent leader, Fernando Chui, was elected to a second five-year term by a Beijing-friendly committee on Sunday.

___

Associated Press writer Louise Watt contributed to this report.

TIME Photos

The 22 Most Surprising Photos of the Month

From dogs suckling tiger cubs to earthquake skaters, each photograph will surprise you as TIME shares the most outrageous images from August 2014

TIME Hong Kong

Prominent Hong Kong Democracy Campaigners Raided by Antigraft Officers

Jimmy Lai, chairman and founder of Next Media, speaks during an exclusive interview with Reuters in Taipei
Jimmy Lai, chairman and founder of Next Media, speaks during an interview in Taipei on Nov. 29, 2010 Nicky Loh—Reuters

The swoop comes just as the city prepares for long-threatened Occupy Central protests

Updated: 8:38 a.m. EST on Thursday.

Hong Kong anticorruption officers raided the home of media mogul and outspoken democracy advocate Jimmy Lai early Thursday morning, just days before Occupy Central protests are slated to commence in the city’s financial heart.

“ICAC [Independent Commission Against Corruption] was here,” Lai told reporters outside his home, according to the South China Morning Post. “They’ve all gone now and there is no further comment.”

According to documents leaked in July, Lai, who runs Next Media and founded the hugely popular Apple Daily newspaper, has donated more than $1.2 million to pan-democratic causes over the past year.

Pan-democrat lawmaker and Labour Party leader Lee Cheuk-yan had earlier admitted that he received a total of $190,000 from Lai, which allegedly stayed in his personal account for a short time before being moved to that of his party.

Under Hong Kong law, donations to political parties are lawful and do not even have to be disclosed, but payments to individuals holding political posts are prohibited.

ICAC officers also swooped on Lee’s home on Thursday and banking documents were seized, reports the Post.

The ICAC said in a statement that it launched the raids after receiving a complaint. “The Commission investigates every case impartially, without fear or favour and in strict accordance with the law,” it said. “The ICAC, as always, has no political consideration in enforcing the law.”

Nevertheless, the raids come at a time of high political tension in Hong Kong. Authorities in Beijing are meeting this week to discuss how to administer the Special Administrative Region’s next leadership election in 2017.

Hong Kong residents have been promised the right to elect their own Chief Executive, the territory’s highest post, by that year, but the Chinese Communist Party wants a veto over which candidates can stand.

Democracy activists claim this will ensure a Beijing proxy controls the city of 7 million, and have organized the Occupy Central protests to press their demand for freer nominations. A July 1 pro-democracy rally drew as many as 172,000 people, according the University of Hong Kong.

Sources told local media that Beijing is mandating a 1,200-member nomination committee that will then approve two or three candidates for Chief Executive. Hong Kong’s pan-democrats have indicated such a system would be unacceptable, and so Occupy Central may commence as early as Sunday, when a separate though aligned pro-democracy rally has also been planned.

This leaves the possibility open for violent confrontations, as police have indicated they would forcibly remove anyone seeking to block the city’s teeming business district.

TIME China

These Aren’t Wrestlers, They’re Chinese Women Modeling the Latest Beachwear

Headed for the beach? Don't forget your facekini

When you look at Kevin Frayer’s slightly unsettling images, you ask yourself if masked Mexican wrestlers have invaded the coastal Chinese city of Qingdao. But no.

The lucha libre look is just the latest in beachwear, a must-have for women worried about getting too much — or, um, any — sun. And while they may look a little frightening — “other people may worry you plan to rob a bank!” observed one netizen — they are the talk of the town, from China’s stodgy state press to supposedly chic French fashion magazines.

The facekini, or lianjini in Chinese, first made waves in 2012, when a bunch of Chinese women were photographed wearing them in Qingdao. An Aug. 19 report in Xinhua, China’s state newswire, said 58-year-old resident Zhang Shifan created the look to protect herself from jellyfish and the summer sun.

Pale skin is prized in China — so much so that the slang term for an attractive woman is bai fu mei, or fair, rich, beautiful — but even Zhang said she was caught off guard by the level of interest. “I’m so surprised that this mask is so popular,” she told Xinhua.

That makes all of us, auntie.

TIME Boxing

Pacquiao to Help Set Up Boxing Academy in China

Manny Pacquiao
Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao speaks during a news conference in Macau, on Aug. 25, 2014 Vincent Yu—AP

Manny Pacquiao hopes the institute will foster warmer relations between the Philippines and China

(MANILA, Philippines) — Manny Pacquiao is setting up a boxing institute in China and believes the country of 1.4 billion people can produce professional world champions.

Pacquiao said Wednesday that he has partnered with a Chinese company and the Chinese government to set up an institute in his name, with the aim of imparting the experience that has seen him win eight world titles.

He was speaking from Shanghai where he is promoting his Nov. 22 fight against Chris Algieri for a WBO welterweight title in Macau. He will be defending the welterweight crown he won in a rematch earlier last year with Timothy Bradley, avenging his 2012 loss.

Pacquiao, 35, said the Manny Pacquiao Boxing Education Institute will “start in Beijing, and the plan is for the whole of China.”

While China has produced accomplished fighters and Olympic champions at amateur level, there is potential to translate that to professional ranks, saying the local boxers “just need some knowledge about boxing and should be taught the basics.”

“Of course, with 1.4 billion population for the whole China, they can produce good fighters like other champions,” he said.

Pacquiao, who is also a congressman, told ABS-CBN television in Manila he intends his new venture to also foster warmer relationships between the Philippines and China, whose territorial dispute in the South China Sea has intensified in recent months.

“This will even help in strengthening our relationship … especially since in this project, the Chinese government is involved,” he said.

Pacquiao said he would visit the academy “once a month, once in three months, to supervise them.”

On top of his duties in the academy and as congressman and boxer, Pacquiao has taken on the role of playing coach of a new Philippine professional basketball team which will see action for the first time in October.

He said the team trains every day, except on weekends. “I can handle it,” he said.

The well-loved Bible-quoting boxer is regarded as a folk hero by Filipinos, and his win over Brandon Rios in Macau last November was a boost to a country recovering from Typhoon Haiyan which killed more than 6,300 in the central Philippines.

TIME

China’s Supersonic Submarine? Not Gonna Happen

Take your time, boys; you're not going anywhere fast
Take your time, boys; you're not going anywhere fast Mike Clarke—AFP/Getty Images

To hear Chinese military sources tell it, the country is on its way to developing a submarine that can travel 6,100 mph—which is why you should never listen to Chinese military sources

There are a whole lot of things that won’t be happening anytime soon. Pigs flying, for instance; that won’t happen. All of the raindrops becoming lemon drops and gumdrops; that won’t happen either. And despite what you have been reading practically everywhere today, no, China won’t be deploying a submarine capable of moving at 6,100 mph (9,800 k/h) and covering the distance from Shanghai to San Francisco in 100 minutes—at least not in anything remotely like the near future.

Let’s begin with the source of the story: engineer Li Fengchen, of the Harbin Institute of Technology, the project’s lead researcher. Mr. Li is surely an impeccably honest man and a very good engineer, but the Chinese government has not always covered itself in glory when it comes to candor and there’s no reason to believe they’d start with a program as sensitive as this.

“The idea that any Chinese research association would talk about its best ideas is ludicrous beyond words,” says physicist and naval weapons expert Norman Friedman, of the U.S. Naval Institute. “They simply don’t go public with this kind of project, though they do sometimes show off things that don’t exist.”

The bigger problem involves a couple of matters Friedman knows a thing or two about: physics and engineering. The technology that has caused all the buzz is something called supercavitation, and there’s nothing fanciful about it—it’s been around since the Cold War, though it’s been used only in torpedoes. Supercavitation involves agitating water in such a way that it forms a bubble of vapor completely surrounding the moving body, dramatically reducing friction, and dramatically increasing speed. Traditional propellors can’t be used to generate that speed, since they have to touch the water and all any part of the sub or torpedo touches is vapor. Instead, rocket engines provide the push, relying on the same action-reaction principle rockets use in space.

“It’s not a friction-free ride,” says Friedman, “but you do get some distance out of it and it can move at high speeds.”

But how much distance and how high a speed? There, it turns out, is the rub. The best-known supercavitating torpedo, the Russian Shkval—or squall—achieves a speed of around 200 knots (230 mph), according to Friedman, but it’s a short-range weapon, able to sprint only about 10,000 yards, since it must be stuffed with enough hardware both to churn water to vapor and run the rocket engines and still have enough room left over for an explosive charge. With all that, it can carry only a limited amount of fuel.

A submarine, Friedman estimates, could possibly stretch the range to 40 mi. (64 km). But as for somehow increasing the speed from 230 mph to 6,100 mph? Even the Chinese spokesfolks who are talking so freely don’t pretend to have an answer for that one.

Finally, there’s the problem of trying to point the sub where you want it to go. For both surface vessels and submersibles, that job is achieved by turning a rudder against the water, but poke a rudder into the water of a supercavitating vessel and you pop the bubble that surrounds the ship—not to mention snapping the rudder completely off when it suddenly encounters resistance. “Steering,” Friedman says, “wouldn’t be any fun.”

None of this is to suggest that these problems won’t be solved some day. But that’s true of almost any technical challenge you can name. Despite what China is saying, the submarine’s some day isn’t a soon day.

TIME Athletes

Here Are 8 Bizarre Yet Beautiful Photos of Women’s Rhythmic Gymnastics

Gymnasts are known for their incredible flexibility, but rhythmic gymnasts take it to new levels, wrapping their bodies around ribbons, clubs, balls and hoops—all with a dazzling smile.

The secret to their rubber-band like contortions? Hours and hours of training, including more time spent in splits—hanging from bars or stretched across foam blocks—than the rest of us would consider humane. These athletes, competing at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, represent the eight top-scoring qualifiers in mind-bending acrobatic routines in the individual all-around finals.

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