Tens of thousands of protesters rallied outside Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Complex as HKTV supporters clashed with pro-government demonstrators.
The vote on a measure to investigate the Hong Kong Television licensing dispute was delayed Wednesday night as tens of thousands of protesters rallied outside the Legislative Council Complex and HKTV supporters clashed with pro-government demonstrators.
Pan-democrat legislator Raymond Wong emerged from the LegCo chamber after 8 pm to applause from his supporters and announced that the vote would be delayed until 11 am Thursday morning. Charles Mok, the sponsor of the measure to investigate why HKTV was denied a broadcasting license, had warned before hand that the pro-establishment legislators might “deliberately delay” the vote with speeches.
It was an anti-climatic ending to what had been a raucous night of speeches, flag waving, and a brief conflict between the overwhelmingly pro- pan-democrat side and a small contingent of pro-establishment protesters.
More on The China Chronicle: Protests to Continue in Hong Kong Over TV Licensing Dispute
At sometime after 6 pm, PRC flags were waving, and a crowd had gathered under a bridge overpass yelling slogans. A group of pro-government protesters had gathered in the midst of the stridently anti-government crowd, and the anti-government crowd surrounded them. The pro-government group was waving both PRC flags and Hong Kong flags. One member of the anti-government majority was waving a colonial era Hong Kong flag. A pro-government sign said, “Support the government, the procedures are fair.” Another one of their signs said, “2 [TV channels] going to 4 is enough.” It is unclear exactly what was being chanted, but people were yelling at each other, and anti-government protesters were pushing into the pro-government side that was being surrounded by police protection. Eventually, they moved back to the far end of the LegCo building by the parking area. The police set up barricades and kept them on the other side of the building.
The pro-government protesters seemed to be associated with the Association For Family Reunions (家庭团聚互助会), as many of the members’ yellow shirts had this name written on it. The Association For Family Reunions’ publicly stated goal is to help Mainland Chinese immigrate to Hong Kong, including to unite Hong Kong citizens with family members living in the Mainland. Association For Family Reunions members have been seen canvassing for pro-establishment candidates, according to local web forums.
The actions of the Association For Family Reunions seem to mirror that of the Hong Kong Youth Care Association, which often posts banners supporting the Chinese Communist Party and criticizing anti-CCP spiritual groups. They have also been involved in confrontational protests.
Angry confrontations between pro- and anti- government demonstrators have been common lately. At a July 14, 2013 event involving the Hong Kong Youth Care Association, primary school teacher Alpais Lam swore at police officers whom she felt were being unfair to an anti-Communist Party group that the Youth Care Association was opposing. Lam’s actions caused a series of protests for and against her, and pro-government activists called for her to be fired. The Hong Kong Youth Care Association frequently posts banners supporting the Chinese Communist Party and criticizing anti-CCP spiritual groups, who are its biggest critics.
When the yellow-shirt clad activists first came down from the overpass and walked down the road crowded with anti-government protesters, one man followed them yelling, “Overthrow the Communist Party,” and the seated onlookers booed them. A few of them even took their shirts off as they walked through.
Afterwards, the man, identifying himself as Xiong Li, said that he had lived in Hong Kong since 1989 and has been a hardcore pro-democracy protester for the past two years.
“I think the Communist Party is trying to control Hong Kong media,” he said. “They are worried HKTV won’t support the Communist Party.”
HKTV staff, present and former, say they don’t know why the channel was denied a free-TV broadcast license when the other two applicants, owned by mega conglomerates PCCW and I-Cable, were accepted. In fact, the two other channels being owned by large corporations may have been a reason for their approval. In a report put out by the government days before the vote, access to financing was one reason cited for HKTV’s application denial, but pan-democratic law makers said the report wasn’t enough. Supporters of HKTV argue that HKTV’s independence is its virtue; as it therefore able to produce more creative content, they say.
The protest rallied many newcomers to the political scene.
“After watching HKTV on YouTube, I found that it is higher quality than TVB [the main channel]. I want Hong Kong to have a TV series like Breaking Bad,” said John Chan, who had never been to a protest before the first HKTV protest in October.
“I feel more and more unsatisfied with the current government,” said Miner Leung, who attended his first protest on July 1 this year. “Hong Kong has changed a lot. The current government doesn’t have transparency.”
Meanwhile, established anti-government activists were using the opportunity to advance their own agendas. Supporters of the People Power Party, whose presence at protests far surpasses their 2 seat presence in the Legislative Council, raised banners and put down photos of the most loathed pro-establishment politicians for people to step on.