Mass protests continue in Hong Kong

By Peter Symonds WSWS
1 October 2014

Thousands of protesters remained on the streets of central Hong Kong overnight in anticipation of far larger demonstrations today, China’s National Day—a holiday in both Hong Kong and mainland China. The protests have already drawn in tens of thousands during recent days to demand the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and open elections for his post in 2017.

The protest in Hong Kong [Credit: FlickrUser Pasu Au Yeng]

The immediate trigger for the protests was last month’s announcement by China’s National People’s Congress that the 2017 election, while under a new system of universal suffrage, would be restricted to candidates vetted by a nomination committee stacked with pro-Beijing appointees. The decision was widely regarded as a breach of the promise of a fully-elected chief executive by 2017, made when China took over the former British colony in 1997. Currently the chief executive is chosen by a 1,200-member committee dominated by Beijing loyalists.

Opposition legislators from the broad grouping known as the pan-Democrats criticised the plan and threatened to veto it in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. Occupy Central, an organisation founded last year by a collection of academics, church leaders and professions, announced a civil disobedience campaign that was due to start today to force Beijing to withdraw its decision. These parties and groups represent layers of the Hong Kong elites who, while concerned that Beijing’s control will undermine their interests, are even more fearful of a mass movement of the working class that could destabilise bourgeois rule.

The cautious approach of the pan-Democrats and Occupy Central, holding out for a compromise with Beijing, was pre-empted when the Hong Kong Federation of Students and other student organisations called for a boycott of classes and protests last week. Clashes between students and police outside the government headquarters on Friday provoked larger demonstrations over the weekend. The Hong Kong administration attempted to break up the protests using riot police, but failed.

A tense standoff continues after riot police were withdrawn from the protest sites on Monday. Chief Executive Leung has refused to resign, declaring that Beijing will not back down from its election plan and urging Occupy Central leaders to call off the protests. He pointed out that the “Occupy Central founders had said repeatedly that if the movement is getting out of control, they would call for it to stop.”

Occupy Central, however, only stepped into the protests late Saturday. Its leaders, along with various pan-Democrats, are clearly seeking to bring the rather heterogeneous movement under its control, but their influence, particularly over younger layers of protesters, is far from certain. The diffuse and confused political character of the protests is reflected in their limited demands, along with their vague slogans of “democracy” and chants of “love Hong Kong” and “we want a real vote.”

At this stage, the involvement of the working class appears to be limited. A call by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, which is aligned with the pan-Democrats, for a general strike yesterday went largely unheeded. Some teachers and social workers stopped work, according to the South China Morning Post. On Monday, about 200 workers from a Coca-Cola distributer walked out.

Protest outside government headquarters

Nevertheless, the opposition is being fuelled by broader democratic and social concerns that reflect the deepening social divide in Hong Kong. The New York Times yesterday noted that polls over the past year indicated that “the most disaffected and potentially volatile sector of Hong Kong society is not the students, the middle-aged veterans or even the elderly activists who have sustained the democracy movement for decades. Instead, the most strident calls for greater democracy—and often for greater economic populism, as well—have come from people in the 20s and early 30s who have struggled to find well-paying jobs as the local manufacturing sector has withered away, and as banks and other service industries have hired mainland Chinese instead of local college graduates.”

Hong Kong analyst Michael DeGolyer told the New York Times that these layers paid more attention to student leaders than Occupy Central or the pan-Democrats. “There’s a large number of people who are disaffected and alienated who are not students, who are not affiliated with any political party and who are angry,” he said.

Beijing is deeply concerned that the protests in Hong Kong could spiral out of control and spark unrest in the Chinese mainland amid a deepening economic slowdown and rising social tensions. Beijing has heavily censored news in the Chinese media and on the Internet about the protests and could resort to force to suppress the opposition in Hong Kong.

To date, Chinese authorities have adopted a cautious attitude, leaving the public handling of the situation to the Hong Kong administration and hoping that the protests will fizzle out. An editorial in yesterday’s state-run Global Times dismissed the demonstrations as “merely noise” and predicted that “tide will turn against the oppositionists” once Hong Kong people see that “the Central government will not change its mind.”

A more strident tone was sounded by the official People’s Daily on Monday. It denounced pro-democracy leaders who sought support from “anti-China forces” in Britain and the US, raising the spectre of a US-engineered colour revolution in Hong Kong. However, the protest movement bears none of the hallmarks of the putsch engineered and financed by the US and Germany in February to oust elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The carefully-staged, anti-Yanukovych protests in Kiev, which were dominated by extreme right-wing and fascist organisations, had no democratic content whatsoever.

At present, the response of the US and Britain to the events in Hong Kong is decidedly low key by comparison to mind-numbing deluge of anti-Russian propaganda that accompanied the Kiev coup. In comments on Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest declared that the US was “closely watching the situation in Hong Kong” and appealed to local authorities to “exercise restraint.” British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called for a meeting with the Chinese ambassador to express his “dismay and alarm” over the situation.

While the Ukrainian coup was aimed at integrating Ukraine into the European Union and imposing drastic austerity measures, the US appears to be more concerned at present with preserving the status quo in Hong Kong. Assuming the bogus mantle of defending democracy in Hong Kong, Earnest said: “We believe that an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by the rule of law is essential for Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.”

That is not to say that the US and Britain will not be using their close ties with elements in the Hong Kong political and corporate elite to try to exploit the protests for their own advantage. As part of its “pivot to Asia”, the Obama administration has mounted a concerted diplomatic offensive throughout the region to undermine China’s influence.

The danger that the major powers could manipulate the pro-democracy demonstrations arises from the present confusion and lack of political perspective. While the protesters are hostile to the police-state methods of the Chinese regime, they must also oppose any intervention by imperialism. The US and its allies are certainly no defenders of democratic rights—either at home, or in their brazen interventions and wars around the globe. A genuine struggle for democratic rights is completely bound up with the development of an independent movement of the working class in Hong Kong, China.

SYRIZA rising: what’s next for the movements in Greece?

by ROAR Collective on September 30, 2014

Post image for SYRIZA rising: what’s next for the movements in Greece?A left-wing government may provide breathing space to the movements, but it can also accelerate their demobilization and assimilation by state power.

By Antonis Broumas and Theodoros Karyotis

For us the content of the revolutionary project is for people to become capable of taking social matters in their hands, and the only means for them to attain this capability is to gradually take social matters in their hands more and more.

~ Cornelius Castoriadis (1979)

[W]hat is emerging is another society: the objective is power, not state power, but for people to organize themselves as powers in a different social context.

~ Raul Zibechi (2010)

Nowadays, social antagonism occurs in martial terms. Capitalist domination resolves its contradictions not by granting certain rights and privileges to the oppressed, as it has done in the past, but by imposing a permanent state of exception, where all measures of social engineering are justifiable and all protest is perceived as an initiation of hostilities. Reaching a new equilibrium remains a challenge, which will be addressed only by the social counter-power entering — or not entering — the center stage of political life.

In this socio-historical context, the possibility of a left-wing government emerges in Europe, with the left-wing coalition of SYRIZA in Greece and newcomer Podemos in Spain in its vanguard, as a response to the prospect of neoliberal authoritarianism consolidated on a nationalist basis.

Periods of crisis are moments of social antagonism, in which the positions of contesting social forces are liquefied. In the present crisis, autonomous social movements emerge from the contradictions of modern capitalism as the main collective subjects with a potential for radical transformation and social change. They constitute the main opponent of capitalist domination in the present social confrontation and any conflicts inside the state and government apparatus are essentially a reflection of the ebb and tide of social mobilizations.

Despite being aware that the new world we long for can only come about through the struggles from below, we have to seriously contemplate the possibility of a left-wing government. The effects of such an electoral victory would be equivocal for grassroots movements, since, on the one hand, such a victory may tilt the power balance and, thus, provide breathing space to the movements in their confrontation with capitalist domination, but, on the other hand, it could accelerate the disquieting trend of co-optation and assimilation of social movements by the logic of state management.

Left-Wing Bureaucracy and the State

In theory, the communist left relates with the state in instrumental terms. The conquest of the bourgeois state is presented as a necessary evil on the road to workers’ power. This approach, however, is immersed — even on a purely theoretical level — in a series of contradictions. Even in its most sophisticated versions it fails to address the issue of the dialectic relation between the vanguard party bureaucracy and the autonomy of the world of labor, or the possibility of achieving a transition towards an egalitarian society, when there is such disparity between the means employed and the goals proposed.

But in social praxis, the historical experience of the relationship between left-wing parties and the state is even more complex and contradictory. In the 20th century, nearly half of the planet was governed by left-wing bureaucracies that exercised power separated from the social classes they were supposed to represent. In most victories of the left — electoral or otherwise — popular forms of organization, be they soviets, workers’ councils or assemblies, were summarily superseded by the centralized power of the new managerial class. But even where they did not capture state power, left-wing bureaucracies operated merely as agents of mediation and delegation of political power, rather than as a genuine expression of the collective subject of the labor movement. In an attempt to defeat the bourgeois state with its own weapons, they modelled their organizational structures on the most reactionary and hierarchical elements of the bourgeois state, thus stifling any attempt of the workers at autonomous self-expression.

Nevertheless, today much has changed since the heyday of the workers’ movements. In the European context, a possible conquest of state power by a left-wing party is no longer seen as a necessary evil, but as a strategic objective for mitigating the impact of the neoliberal onslaught on the social fabric. In modern left-wing mythology, the state is implicitly seen as the last frontier of “real” politics in opposition to the burgeoning social power of capital; hence the criticism of the essentially bourgeois nature of state power can easily be overlooked. This conception of the state, held by a majority of contemporary left-wing parties, is lagging even behind earlier approaches of the social democratic left, which at least retained a minimal connection with the strategic goal of social transformation.

Yet, the strategy of social salvation through the conquest of state power remains appealing to a part of the oppressed strata, who still preserve memories of the North European-style welfare state and think of collective mobilization as a means of pressure in order to extract concessions from the main agent of mediation of social antagonism, i.e. the state. Whereas it is tempting for many people to think nowadays of the post-war welfare state as the only meaningful and effective means of guaranteeing social and economic rights for the bulk of the population, it is evident today from a historical perspective that such an equilibrium was nothing but a temporary arrangement, limited in its scope, designed to appease the increasingly restless working classes of the post-colonial powers and avert the soviet menace.

Likewise, the present-day left-wing bureaucracies are not striving to represent the emerging radical social subjects in systemic politics, nor are they trying to foster the bottom-up emergence of novel conditions for our common existence, which are now pervasive in social mobilizations in every continent of the planet. Instead, they attend to the expectations of the vulnerable middle classes of returning to the welfare state of the past, where capitalist domination was still exercised in terms of social consensus and power equilibrium rather than crude imposition.

It is understandable that SYRIZA’s ambitious program of wealth redistribution in favor of the middle and lower classes arouses the imagination of European social movements; after all, in the present context, there is a certain quixotic heroism in SYRIZA’s neo-Keynesianism as set against the backdrop of an omnivorous neoliberalism, which, having plundered the Global South for decades, is now consuming the European periphery and will soon advance towards the center. This explains the near-mythical proportions of SYRIZA’s fame outside of Greece and the great expectations the electoral ascent of this party has created. Contrast this to the pragmatism of its local supporters, who know very well that, even if they manage to capture state power, the party’s capacity for radical reform will be extremely limited.

We adduce that the aspiration of the compressed middle classes to return to a “humane” form of capitalism will not be fulfilled. The contemporary nation-state is undergoing a severe crisis, both because of the inherent contradictions in its institutions of representation and because of the expansion of the social power of capital and its non-state structures. Today, more than ever, the conquest of state power does not mean the conquest of social power. Besides, the contemporary confrontation is played out between the increasingly consolidated social power of capital and the social counter-power of the oppressed.

The radical social transformation of tomorrow will not be a product of the bourgeois state and its institutions of representation, but of the subversion of state institutions and the emergence of social structures of power immanent to society and inseparable from it. Under these conditions, the conquest of the bourgeois state by a left-wing bureaucracy can prove detrimental to the autonomous movements, if it does not help expand the vital spaces of development of their social power against the power of nation states and international capital.

Nevertheless, our rejection of the reformist avenue advocated by contemporary left-wing parties does not entail an uncritical adoption of revolutionary politics as defined in the 20th century. In a late capitalism of immaterial and fragmented labor, of disciplining through debt and scare tactics, of opaque centers of power far removed from the population they rule, there is no Winter Palace to storm and no prospect of defeating the enemy in military terms. The neighborhood, the street and the public square have largely replaced the factory as the epicenter of social and class antagonism. Reconceptualizing community, breaking out of social isolation, creating horizontal and participatory structures based on equality, solidarity and mutual recognition, and building networks among these structures are social acts that today constitute revolutionary praxis.

As has always been the case, truly radical social transformation can only be the product of a confrontation of a widespread and pre-existing mode of social existence with the structures of domination, not of the actions of an enlightened few who will redesign society in the interest of the many. Hence the newest social movements do not seek to reform the existing political and economic structures, but to build alternatives in the thousands of cracks of the current system, i.e., the places where capitalist values ​​cannot prevail. They set the collective administration of common goods, through the self-management of the horizontal communities that emerge around them, against the atomism of the capitalist market and the bureaucracy of the state. Thus, they construct the material conditions of political autonomy, ensuring the social reproduction that the state and the market are no longer willing to provide and creating new imaginary meanings of social cooperation to substitute the dominant values of individual social mobility and material prosperity.

Autonomous Movements and Left-Wing Governments

The strain between autonomous movements and left-wing governments has been made evident in South America in the previous decade, with the re-emergence of the state-oriented left in the subcontinent. The tradition of autonomy has strong roots in Latin America, largely because of the political organizing of indigenous peoples, the most prominent — but not the only — example being the Zapatistas, but also because of the practices of a series of rural and urban movements whose struggles do not follow the beaten path: the landless in Brazil, the recovered factories or the piqueteros in Argentina, the water wars in Bolivia, and so on.

While these movements grew strong under conditions of neoliberal invasion, in the previous decade they had to face a series of progressive governments, themselves products of the social unrest caused by the neoliberal onslaught: from the modest social democracy of Lula in Brazil and Kirchner in Argentina, to experiments in radical political transformation such as that of Chávez in Venezuela.

A first obvious result of the predominance of left-wing governments was the mitigation (but not the complete elimination) of repressive tactics. The withdrawal of government support from the thugs of the landowners and the paramilitary organizations, the decrease in instances of torture and imprisonment, made a big difference for these movements, which have paid a heavy toll in blood for their political action.

Another positive aspect was the cessation of many spectacular and destructive neoliberal projects. However, many “progressive” governments, using the discourse of “economic development”, reinstated those grandiose plans disguised as “investments of national interest.” Admittedly Venezuela, where a certain kind of popular autonomy flourished under the rule of Chávez, constitutes a special case within this paradigm. However, the insistence on fossil fuels as the motor of economic growth is most often pursued at the expense of local and indigenous populations. It is evident that all governments, right-wing or left-wing, remain committed to the capitalist imaginary of unlimited growth at any cost.

However, the largest threat presented by left-wing governments to grassroots movements is the loss of their autonomy. Left-wing governments admire the social movements for the solidarity bonds they form within them, for their connection to society, for their imagination and creativity in problem-solving and, most importantly, for how big a change they can bring about with scant or inexistent financial means. In this spirit, many Latin American governments tried to utilize the movements to pursue social policy objectives, turned many of the most prominent activists into bureaucrats, used assistencialist policies to appease the radical sectors, and waged a covert war on the movements that did not want to align themselves with the government line — even going so far as to accuse them of being agents of the right-wing forces.

Through this carrot-and-stick kind of politics, not only is the state not “enhanced” with the dynamism of the social movements, but the latter are subordinated to state priorities, losing their momentum and often dissipating. A similar situation was experienced in Greece when a “radical” social democratic PASOK rose to power in 1981, signalling the end of the political effervescence that characterized the period after the democratic transition of 1974, and assimilating many social movements within the corporatist regime it established. A similar case can be made about Spain and the Socialist government of Felipe González around the same time.

Contemporary Movements as Collective Subjects for Social Change

At the time of writing this article, a long cycle of social mobilization is coming to a close in Greece and around the world, leaving behind an important legacy of structures operating through direct democracy (workers’ cooperatives, local assemblies, social centers, solidarity networks, movements in defense of the commons, endeavors in solidarity economy) but also great fatigue and frustration, since the program of neoliberal reform is being carried out to the letter despite the best efforts — at great personal cost — of innumerable social activists. It is easy for this frustration to plunge collectives into introspection and allow certain parts of the movement — already prone to such practices — to return to the pursuit of “ideological purity” and the “real” revolutionary subject; a quest that in the 20th century has proven to be a one-way ticket to political insignificance and sectarianism.

The political vacuum brought about by this frustration and by the lack of a concrete vision of social transformation from below, is exploited by parliamentary left parties to reinforce the logic of political mediation and to turn themselves fundamentally into proxies of the desire for social change. Reiterating the practices of the 20th century, they use their hegemonic position to appropriate the political surplus value of social mobilization and to create structures of representation within the movements, curtailing or marginalizing the demands that do not fit into their political agenda and thereby diverting the action of social subjects towards the parliamentary road.

Admittedly, there is a long way ahead for the nascent horizontal movements before they manage to transcend their local and particular circumstances, connect with the wider political becoming, and create new political spaces where the terms of our common existence can be shaped — that is, progress from coexistence to cooperation. However, horizontal and prefigurative movements, despite being a minority, constitute today the main antagonistic force to the current system of domination that is quickly reaching its social and ecological limits.

Autonomous movements are inclined not to capture power, but to disperse it: imagining new decentralized institutions for the governance of social and economic life to replace bourgeois democracy, which is immersed in a deep structural crisis of social reproduction, political representation and ecological sustainability. That does not entail laying out a well-defined program of exercise of power, but forging bonds and institutions that will allow the synthesis of the specific and local with the general and universal. The struggles for the commons, for knowledge, land, water and health, leave behind a legacy of accessible and participatory institutions, which can form the backbone of a new kind of power: a power of the people, not of the representatives.

The endeavors in libertarian communitarianism point towards the creation of politically active communities and the use of local institutions as a bulwark against globalized capitalism and as an appropriate field of application of precepts of de-growth and localization. The promise of the self-management of labor, of worker cooperatives and peer production, indicates a path within, against and beyond the state and the market. In any case, the new constituent power will be diverse, reflecting the infinity of militant subjectivities that the domination of capital in all aspects of social life engenders.

Certainly there is nothing inevitable in the emergence of this new world, no teleological certainty that this will come about, in the same way that the deterministic predictions of the advent of a free society made in the 19th century remain unfulfilled. The struggle of the people to prevail over the dominance of capital will take place in the contingent field of social antagonism, and will depend on their determination to turn frustration into social creativity, to break free from restrictive identities and ideological certainties, to ignore the promises of mediation and to reinvent themselves as an instituting social subject.

Antonis Broumas is a lawyer, researcher and activist focusing on the interaction between law, technology and society. He participates in social movements that promote social autonomy and the global commons.

Theodoros Karyotis is a sociologist, translator and activist participating in social movements that promote self-management, solidarity economy and defense of the commons. He writes on autonomias.net.

The Greek version of this article was published in the September issue of the Babylonia political review.

http://roarmag.org/2014/09/syriza-government-autonomous-movements/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

Hong Kong’s Fight Against Neoliberalism

Occupy Central

http://cdn.asiancorrespondent.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/HongKongDemocracyRally4.jpg

by MING CHUN TANG

As protesters flood the streets of Hong Kong demanding free elections in 2017, the international media puts on its usual spin, characterizing the struggle as one between an authoritarian state and citizens who want to be free. The left, meanwhile, has remained notably silent on the issue. It’s not immediately clear if that goes down to an inability to understand the situation, to an unwillingness to stand for supposedly liberal values, or to a reluctance to criticize China. As stories on Occupy Central flood the front pages of the mainstream news media, both the BBC and CNN have published handy “explainers” that confuse more than they explain, making no real effort to dig into the economic roots of discontent. The “Beeb” went as far as to ask whether “Hong Kong’s future as a financial centre” was “threatened” – giving us some insight into where the global establishment’s priorities lie.

But regardless of what the BBC wants the world to believe, Occupy Central isn’t so much a fight for democracy as a fight for social justice. It’s true that Hong Kongers are angry over Beijing’s interference in domestic affairs, whether these be immigration from China, encroachments on the freedom of the press, or the nationalistic-propagandistic “moral and national education” program. These issues, while serious, pale in comparison to the increasingly difficult realities of everyday life in Hong Kong. As City University of Hong Kong professor Toby Carroll points out, one in five Hong Kongers live below the poverty line, while inequality has risen to levels among the highest in the world. Wages haven’t increased in line with inflation – meaning they’ve fallen in real terms. The minimum wage, only introduced in 2010, is set at HK$28 (US$3.60) an hour – less than half of that even in the United States. There are no collective bargaining rights, no unemployment benefits and no pension. The average workweek is 49 hours – in case you thought 40 was rough. Housing prices are among the highest in the world. Even the neoliberal Economist placed Hong Kong top of its crony capitalism index by some distance.

The list of people who have spoken out against Occupy Central is particularly revealing – oligarch Li Ka-shing, HSBC, the world’s four largest accounting firms, among others in business circles. The main issue with CY Leung’s administration isn’t the fact that it wasn’t democratically elected, but that it serves two main groups: Beijing on one hand, and local elites on the other – in other words, far from democratic in its representation. It’s not hard to see why big business and the oligarchs are terrified of Occupy Central: any movement towards real democracy would see them losing power and losing their grip over the territory. The status quo, on the other hand, serves them well.

Hong Kongers are not an ideological bunch. We’ve never had a vote – not under 17 years of Chinese colonial rule, nor under a century of British colonial rule before that – yet we were good colonial subjects and we stayed quiet because we were making a living just fine. But as the middle and working classes start to feel the crunch, the ruling class is starting to realize that it cannot simply let them eat cake. The battle for democracy isn’t a battle for the vote, but a battle for real democracy: for the right of the people to govern themselves. The vote is merely the starting point to a long process of reform that takes the power out of the hands of Hong Kong and Chinese elites and, for the first time, into those of ordinary people.

Ming Chun Tang is a Hong Kong-born writer and a student at Hamilton College (New York), currently at the London School of Economics. He blogs at Clearing the Rubble.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/09/30/hong-kongs-fight-against-neoliberalism/

 

How the U.S. Concocted a Terror Threat to Justify Syria Strikes



…and the Corporate Media Went Along

According to writer Murtaza Hussain, anonymous officials say there was not any plan in the works to attack the United States.
 

As the U.S. expands military operations in Syria, we look at the Khorasan group, the shadowy militant organization the Obama administration has invoked to help justify the strikes. One month ago, no one had heard of Khorasan, but now U.S. officials say it poses an imminent threat to the United States. As the strikes on Syria began, U.S. officials said Khorasan was “nearing the execution phase” of an attack on the United States or Europe, most likely an attempt to blow up a commercial plane in flight. We are joined by Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept, whose new article with Glenn Greenwald is “The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria.”

Below is an interview with Hussain, followed by a transcript:

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2014/9/29/how_the_us_concocted_a_terror

AMY GOODMAN: The United States is continuing to expand its military operations in Iraq and Syria. Late last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel deployed a division headquarters unit to Iraq for the first time since the U.S. withdrawal in 2011. The 200 soldiers from the Army’s 1st Infantry Division headquarters will joins 1,200 U.S. troops already inside Iraq. Overnight, U.S.-led warplanes hit grain silos and other targets in northern and eastern Syria. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attacks killed a number of civilians working at the silos.

While the United States has been bombing areas in Syria controlled by the Islamic State, it has also struck targets connected to a separate militant group that U.S. officials are calling the Khorasan group. If you never heard of the group before this month, you’re not alone. The Associated Press first reported on this new entity on September 13th. In the article, unnamed U.S. officials warned of a shadowy, terrorist group that posed a more imminent threat than the Islamic State. The AP described the group as, quote, “a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.” It went on to say the group poses a, quote, “direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation.” Soon, major TV networks began echoing these claims about the Khorasan group.

FOX NEWS REPORTER: They say that they were facing a, quote, ‘imminent threat’ from the Khorasan group here in the United States.

JEFF GLOR: We are learning about a new and growing terror threat coming out of Syria. It’s an al-Qaeda cell you probably never heard of. Nearly everything about them is classified.

BARBARA STARR: The reason they struck Khorasan right now is they had intelligence that the group of al-Qaeda veterans was in the stages of planning an attack against the U.S. homeland.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the Khorasan group, we’re going to go to Toronto, Canada, where we’ll be joined by Murtaza Hussain, a reporter with The Intercept. He wrote a piece with Glenn Greenwald called “The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria.” We’ll go to Murtaza Hussain after this break.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to Murtaza Hussain, a reporter at The Intercept who, together with Glenn Greenwald, wrote the piece “The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria.”

Murtaza, welcome to Democracy Now! Murtaza is joining us from Toronto. Can you talk about what you’ve learned about the so-called Khorasan group?

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: So, the Khorasan group is a group which first came up in the media around September 13th, roughly a week or so before the U.S. bombing campaign of Syria began. Heretofore, no one had heard of this group. It was not known in intelligence circles or among people who follow Syria. And suddenly we saw in the media that this was being described as the major terrorist threat emanating from that country and a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, unlike ISIS. So, this ended up being one of the main justifications for the war on Syria or the military airstrikes which are conducted on Syria, and it became the major media narrative justifying that action.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about, well, for example, where the Khorasan group got its name.

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: So, the Khorasan group, the name itself does not denote any group within Syria that anyone has familiarity with or has heard of before. It’s a name that was developed within the U.S. government to describe a certain set of groups—individuals within the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is one of the opposition factions fighting the Syrian government. Jabhat al-Nusra is also believed to be a franchise of al-Qaeda within Syria, but unlike al-Qaeda proper, it’s focused exclusively on fighting the government of Bashar Assad. So, in order to justify these strikes against this group, the U.S. had to create a new name to designate these few individuals within that group that they’re looking to target, so they developed this name, the Khorasan group, which identified several fighters who, they say, planned to wage attacks against the United States, as opposed to the government of Bashar Assad, and they conducted the strikes under that justification.

Now, within Syria, people view this group as being indistinguishable from the regular group of Jabhat al-Nusra, and it’s being viewed as an attack on that group, which is why yesterday you saw a statement from that group’s leader vowing revenge for the deaths of his commanders.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to CNN’s Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr talking about the Khorasan group.

BARBARA STARR: What we are hearing from a senior U.S. official is the reason they struck Khorasan right now is they had intelligence that the group of al-Qaeda veterans was in the stages of planning an attack against the U.S. homeland and/or an attack against a target in Europe. And the information indicated that Khorasan was well on its way, perhaps in the final stages, of planning that attack.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Barbara Starr of CNN. Your response?

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: So, in the days leading up to the attack, several anonymous sources suggested that an attack was imminent. They suggested that there were a threat against airliners using toothpaste bombs or flammable clothing. And they said that, like Barbara Starr mentioned, they were in the final stages of planning this attack. After the strikes were carried out, several U.S. officials started walking back that estimation quite far and saying that the definition of “imminent” is unclear, and when we’re saying is a strike about to happen, we’re not sure what that means exactly. So, in retrospect, this definition of a strike being imminent and this characterization of a threat coming from this group, which is very definable and very clear, became very unclear after the strikes, and they suggested through The New York Times the strikes were merely aspirational and there was no actual plot today existing against the United States. So, the actual justification for the strikes was completely negated after the strikes ended, which was something quite troubling.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean, negated right after the strikes began, right after the justification worked.

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: Right. So, after the strikes happened and there were statements saying that people were killed and the group had been scattered, James Comey and many others within the U.S. establishment started saying that, “Well, you know, we said the strikes were imminent from this group, but what does ‘imminent’ really mean? Could be six months, could be a year.’” And other anonymous officials started saying there was not any threat at all, there was not any plan in the works to attack the United States. And then, further it came to light that the Khorasan group itself, which we had been hearing about in the media was a new enemy and was a definable threat against the United States, did not really exist per se; it was simply a group of people whom the U.S. designated within a Syrian opposition faction as being ready to be struck. So, the entire narrative that had been developed, and within the media developed, was completely put to a lie after the strikes. And it was interesting that Ken Dilanian reported the story first in the Associated Press, saying that this was a new threat and a new group, and he was one of the first people to break the story afterwards saying that U.S. officials are now adding more “nuance,” is the word he used, to their previous warnings about the group. So, it was kind of a really egregious case of media spin, whereby the media had taken up this narrative of a threat from a new terrorist, and then, after the strikes had been conducted which justified this group, they immediately took the opposite tack, saying that in fact there was no threat that was imminent and the group itself did not exist per se. So, it was really quite a failure of the media, which we’ve seen several times in the past, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned Ken Dilanian of AP. Now, Intercept just put out another story, “The CIA’s Mop-Up Man: L.A. Times Reporter Cleared Stories with Agency Before Publication.” Ken Silverstein writes, “A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.” He goes on to say, “Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the [Los Angeles] Times. Your response to that piece?

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: Right. So, essentially, the administration will seek out reporters who are pliant and willing to work with them to leak stories like this. So, in the sense of those CIA stories, this reporter had his stories vetted. He promised favorable coverage in exchange for access. And again here, the Khorasan group stories first came out with this reporter. And, you know, the media’s role is to ask questions and to vet these claims quite thoroughly, but instead the claims were put out through reporters who were known to give favorable coverage and who were known to, you know, take the administration’s line in exchange for access. And it seems like this happened again, in the sense that here was a reporter who put out the story, they did not vet who the Khorasan group is, what the veracity of these claims are, but they put it out in the media, and it became a media story on its own. So I think that you’re seeing the same narrative replay as happened as we detailed in the previous story, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to another piece that you wrote, Murtaza, “Why the Islamic State is Not Really Islamic,” which refers to a letter that has been signed by many Muslims. Can you explain who has written this letter and who it was sent to?

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: So, there was an open letter published to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, from over 120 of the most prominent religious scholars among Muslim scholars in the world. And there was the mufti of Egypt, Bosnia, Nigeria and many other countries around the world, including the United States. And they published an open letter condemning point by point the practices of the so-called Islamic State. And it was purely from a theological standpoint, and they had given a very rigorous critique of the group and found it, by their standards, to be un-Islamic. Now, this goes back to the question of what is or is not Islamic. Islam is not a monolith; it’s subject to interpretations of the people who take part in it. And, you know, this group found them to be decidedly un-Islamic. I think most Muslims around the world would find them to be un-Islamic, despite their pretensions to the contrary.

So, the point I was making in the article is that when you identify them as being Islamic and you say that they are the definition of Islam, you’re playing to their narrative. That’s the legitimacy they want and which today they don’t have, and they’re rejected broadly by Muslims around the world. So it’s important to say that while, you know, they may partake in Islamic dialogue and they may use the symbols of Islam, we cannot let any one group of extremists anywhere define a faith or a civilization which is, you know, identified with by over a billion people around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll link to your pieces at democracynow.org. I want to thank you for being with us. We’ve been talking to Murtaza Hussain, who is a reporter with The Intercept. His latest two pieces, “The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria” and “Why the Islamic State is Not Really Islamic.” This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,000 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “The Silenced Majority,” a New York Times best-seller.

http://www.alternet.org/world/how-us-concocted-terror-threat-justify-syria-strikes-and-corporate-media-went-along?akid=12308.265072.nH2MIk&rd=1&src=newsletter1021271&t=19&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

The midterm elections and the American political crisis

http://www.pollster.com/blogs/2010-04-08-McDonald-Turnout-Rates.png

30 September 2014

Early voting began last Thursday in Iowa, and mail-in voting has begun in several states for the US general election set for November 4. The contests on the ballot include a third of the US Senate, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, and the governorships of 36 out of 50 states, as well as thousands of seats in state legislatures.

Yet from the standpoint of everyday life in America, one would hardly know an election was taking place. There is little discussion of electoral politics in factories, offices and other workplaces, and little interest in the candidates of either of the two corporate-controlled parties.

The elections are taking place in the aftermath of the decision by the Obama administration, with the bipartisan backing of congressional Republicans and Democrats, to plunge into a new imperialist war in the Middle East, with the bombing of Syria and the dispatch of thousands of American troops to Iraq. Yet there is not a way for the working class to make its opinion heard on this or any significant element of policy.

On the specific question of the bombing of Iraq and Syria, Congress adjourned without attempting to vote on the Obama administration’s new war, while approving, with large bipartisan majorities in both House and Senate, the financing of “moderate” rebels seeking to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Voter turnout in the primaries in which the Democrats and Republicans chose their candidates fell to record lows this year. In many cases, fewer than five percent of eligible voters went to the polls. All indications are that voter turnout in the November 4 balloting will be even lower than the dismal 37 percent recorded in the last non-presidential election in 2010.

The indifference to the electoral process and its outcome testifies to the deepening alienation of the population from both the political system and the corporate-dominated socioeconomic order that the two parties defend. Tens of millions of working people see the Democrats and Republicans as providing government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich, and they are not wrong.

According to a CBS-New York Times poll conducted September 12-15, only five percent of voters thought their own congressional representative deserved reelection, while 87 percent favored replacing the incumbent with someone new. Poll after poll shows majority opposition to both the Democrats and Republicans. But despite these sentiments, the two-party political monopoly ensures that the election to be held in five weeks will change nothing.

Projections and forecasts by campaign consultants and election analysts agree that the Republicans will retain their majority in the House of Representatives, gaining or losing at most a handful of seats; the Republicans will add at least three seats in the US Senate to their present total of 45, and may well achieve the 51-vote majority that would give them control of the upper house. The Democrats are expected to take back some of the state governorships that Republicans won in their 2010 electoral sweep.

The likelihood of Republican gains, despite the deep unpopularity of both the Republican Party and its ultra-right policies, is an indictment of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party, which represent merely another brand of right-wing, pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist policies.

Obama’s approval rating has plunged, not merely in the states won by Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, but in so-called “blue states” like New York, where the most recent Marist poll found only 39 percent approval in a state where Obama captured 63.3 percent of the vote two years ago.

A Pew poll over the summer found that the revelations of massive NSA surveillance of Americans, as well as the threat of greater US involvement in Mideast wars, have alienated millions, particularly young people, who had voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Add to that the constant provocation of the president proclaiming the “success” of his economic policies, which have boosted the stock market and the wealth of the super-rich to record levels, while unemployment remains high and real wages decline.

Whatever the outcome of elections in the United States, the political apparatus as a whole moves steadily to the right. Since coming to power nearly six years ago, Obama has embraced and extended the major policies of the Bush administration, particularly in the area of foreign policy and attacks on democratic rights. The doctrines of the Bush administration to justify torture have been resurrected under Obama to argue for presidential power to carry out the assassination of US citizens without any due process.

In domestic social policy as well, Obama carried forward the most important initiatives of his predecessor, above all the bailout of the big banks and financial institutions in the wake of the 2008 Wall Street crash. Obama intensified the attacks on public education, reached several deals with congressional Republicans for austerity measures to cut public spending on other social programs, launched an assault on health care programs under the guise of reform, and arrested and deported more immigrants in six years than Bush did in eight years.

Money predominates over the entire process. In campaign fundraising for 2014, for example, the Democrats have actually raked in more money in large donations from the super-rich than the Republicans, with the 15 top Democrat-aligned political action committees outraising the 15 top Republican PACs by $453 million to $289 million. In key Senate races like North Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alaska, endangered Democratic incumbents have raised far more and spent far more than their Republican challengers.

All of this is a measure of the crisis of bourgeois rule in the United States. The state is run by a combination of a corporate and financial aristocracy and a military-intelligence apparatus that makes all decisions behind closed doors. Policy is marketed to the public on the basis of lies and propaganda parroted by the mass media.

The institutions of the ruling class, among which one must include the trade unions and the network of organizations around the Democratic Party, seek desperately to prop up a hollowed out apparatus in which democratic forms are an increasingly threadbare cover for the dictatorship of the banks. This is the political form that corresponds to the extraordinary level of social inequality that is the dominant feature of American life and has soared to new records in the six years since the 2008 financial collapse.

American working people should draw the necessary political conclusions. To carry forward a struggle against war and militarism, and to defend jobs, living standards, social conditions and democratic rights, the working class must break with the two parties of big business and build an independent political movement.

Patrick Martin

John Holloway: cracking capitalism vs. the state option

by Amador Fernández-Savater on September 29, 2014

Post image for John Holloway: cracking capitalism vs. the state optionWith left parties on the rise in Spain and Greece, John Holloway reflects on his influential 2002 thesis: can we change the world without taking power?

Interview by Amador Fernández-Savater. Translated by Richard Mac Duinnsleibhe and edited by Arianne Sved of Guerrilla Translation.

In 2002, John Holloway published a landmark book: Change the World without Taking Power. Inspired by the ‘¡Ya basta!’ of the Zapatistas, by the movement that emerged in Argentina in 2001/’02, and by the anti-globalization movement, Holloway sets out a hypothesis: it is not the idea of revolution or transformation of the world that has been refuted as a result of the disaster of authoritarian communism, but rather the idea of revolution as the taking of power, and of the party as the political tool par excellence.

Holloway discerns another concept of social change at work in these movements, and generally in every practice—however visible or invisible it may be—where a logic different from that of profit is followed: the logic of cracking capitalism. That is, to create, within the very society that is being rejected, spaces, moments, or areas of activity in which a different world is prefigured. Rebellions in motion. From this perspective, the idea of organization is no longer equivalent to that of the party, but rather entails the question of how the different cracks that unravel the fabric of capitalism can recognize each other and connect.

But after Argentina’s “que se vayan todos” came the Kirchner government, and after Spain’s “no nos representan” appeared Podemos. We met with John Holloway in the city of Puebla, Mexico, to ask him if, after everything that has happened in the past decade, from the progressive governments of Latin America to Podemos and Syriza in Europe, along with the problems for self-organized practices to exist and multiply, he still thinks that it is possible to “change the world without taking power.”

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Firstly, John, we would like to ask you where the hegemonic idea of revolution in the 20th century comes from, what it is based on. That is, the idea of social change through the taking of power.

I think the central element is labor, understood as wage labor. In other words, alienated or abstract labor. Wage labor has been, and still is, the bedrock of the trade union movement, of the social democratic parties that were its political wing, and also of the communist movements. This concept defined the revolutionary theory of the labor movement: the struggle of wage labor against capital. But its struggle was limited because wage labor is the complement of capital, not its negation.

I don’t understand the relation between this idea of labor and that of revolution through the taking of state power.

One way of understanding the connection would be as follows: if you start off from the definition of labor as wage or alienated labor, you start off from the idea of the workers as victims and objects of the system of domination. And a movement that struggles to improve the living standards of workers (considered as victims and objects) immediately refers to the state. Why? Because the state, due to its very separation from society, is the ideal institution if one seeks to achieve benefits for people. This is the traditional thinking of the labor movement and that of the left governments that currently exist in Latin America.

But this tradition isn’t the only approach to a politics of emancipation…

Of course not. In the last twenty or thirty years we find a great many movements that claim something else: it is possible to emancipate human activity from alienated labor by opening up cracks where one is able to do things differently, to do something that seems useful, necessary, and worthwhile to us; an activity that is not subordinated to the logic of profit.

These cracks can be spatial (places where other social relations are generated), temporal (“Here, in this event, for the time that we are together, we are going to do things differently. We are going to open windows onto another world.”), or related to particular activities or resources (for example, cooperatives or activities that pursue a non-market logic with regard to water, software, education, etc.). The world, and each one of us, is full of these cracks.

The rejection of alienated and alienating labor entails, at the same time, a critique of the institutional and organizational structures, and the mindset that springs from it. This is how we can explain the rejection of trade unions, parties, and the state that we observe in so many contemporary movements, from the Zapatistas to the Greek or Spanish indignados.

But it isn’t a question of the opposition between an old and a new politics, I think. Because what we see in the movements born of the economic crisis is that those two things come to the fore at the same time: cracks such as protests in city squares, and new parties such as Syriza or Podemos.

I think it’s a reflection of the fact that our experience under capitalism is contradictory. We are victims and yet we are not. We seek to improve our living standards as workers, and also to go beyond that, to live differently. In one respect we are, in effect, people who have to sell their labor power in order to survive. But in another, each one of us has dreams, behaviors and projects that don’t fit into the capitalist definition of labor.

The difficulty, then as now, lies in envisioning the relation between those two types of movements. How can that relation avoid reproducing the old sectarianism? How can it be a fruitful relation without denying the fundamental differences between the two perspectives?

Argentina in 2001 and 2002, the indignados in Greece and Spain more recently. At a certain point, bottom-up movements stall, they enter a crisis or an impasse, or they vanish. Would you say that the politics of cracks has intrinsic limits in terms of enduring and expanding?

I wouldn’t call them limits, but rather problems. Ten years ago, when I published Change the World without Taking Power, the achievements and the power of movements from below were more apparent, whereas now we are more conscious of the problems. The movements you mention are enormously important beacons of hope, but capital continues to exist and it’s getting worse and worse; it progressively entails more misery and destruction. We cannot confine ourselves to singing the praises of movements. That’s not enough.

Could one response then be the option that focuses on the state?

It’s understandable why people want to go in that direction, very understandable. These have been years of ferocious struggles, but capital’s aggression remains unchanged. I sincerely hope that Podemos and Syriza do win the elections, because that would change the current kaleidoscope of social struggles. But I maintain all of my objections with regard to the state option.

Any government of this kind entails channeling aspirations and struggles into institutional conduits that, by necessity, force one to seek a conciliation between the anger that these movements express and the reproduction of capital. Because the existence of any government involves promoting the reproduction of capital (by attracting foreign investment, or through some other means), there is no way around it. This inevitably means taking part in the aggression that is capital. It’s what has already happened in Bolivia and Venezuela, and it will also be the problem in Greece or Spain.

Could it be a matter of complementing the movements from below with a movement oriented towards government institutions?

That’s the obvious answer that keeps coming up. But the problem with obvious answers is that they suppress contradictions. Things can’t be reconciled so easily. From above, it may be possible to improve people’s living conditions, but I don’t think one can break with capitalism and generate a different reality. And I sincerely believe that we’re in a situation where there are no long-term solutions for the whole of humanity within capitalism.

I’m not discrediting the state option because I myself don’t have an answer to offer, but I don’t think it’s the solution.

Where are you looking for the answer?

Whilst not considering parties of the left as enemies, since for me this is certainly not the case, I would say that the answer has to be thought of in terms of deepening the cracks.

If we’re not going to accept the annihilation of humanity, which, to me, seems to be on capitalism’s agenda as a real possibility, then the only alternative is to think that our movements are the birth of another world. We have to keep building cracks and finding ways of recognizing them, strengthening them, expanding them, connecting them; seeking the confluence or, preferably, the commoning of the cracks.

If we think in terms of state and elections, we are straying away from that, because Podemos or Syriza can improve things, but they cannot create another world outside the logic of capital. And that’s what this is all about, I think.

Finally, John, how do you see the relation between the two perspectives we’ve been talking about?

We need to keep a constant and respectful debate going without suppressing the differences and the contradictions. I think the basis for a dialogue could be this: no one has the solution.

For the moment, we have to recognize that we’re not strong enough to abolish capitalism. By strong, I am referring here to building ways of living that don’t depend on wage labor. To be able to say “I don’t really care whether I have a job or not, because if I don’t have one, I can dedicate my life to other things that interest me and that give me enough sustenance to live decently.” That’s not the case right now. Perhaps we have to build that before we can say “go to hell, capital.”

In that sense, let’s bear in mind that a precondition for the French Revolution was that, at a certain point, the social network of bourgeois relations no longer needed the aristocracy in order to exist. Likewise, we must work to reach a point where we can say “we don’t care if global capital isn’t investing in Spain, because we’ve built a mutual support network that’s strong enough to enable us to live with dignity.”

Right now the rage against banks is spreading throughout the world. However, I don’t think banks are the problem, but rather the existence of money as a social relation. How should we think about rage against money? I believe this necessarily entails building non-monetized, non-commodified social relations.

And there are a great many people dedicated to this effort, whether out of desire, conviction or necessity, even though they may not appear in the newspapers. They’re building other forms of community, of sociality, of thinking about technology and human capabilities in order to create a new life.

John Holloway is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences of the Autonomous University of Puebla in Mexico. His latest book is Crack Capitalism (Pluto Press, 2010).

http://roarmag.org/2014/09/john-holloway-cracking-capitalism-vs-the-state-option/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

At least 34 injured as police and protesters clash in Hong Kong

By Ivan Watson, Elizabeth Joseph, Anjali Tsui and Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 2:55 PM EDT, Sun September 28, 2014
Hong Kong is being gripped by pro-democracy protests as student-led groups take to the streets. The protesters are responding to China's decision to allow only Beijing-vetted candidates to stand in the city's elections for chief executive. Above, tear gas is fired at protesters on Sunday, September 28, 2014. Click through for more scenes from the protests:
Hong Kong is being gripped by pro-democracy protests as student-led groups take to the streets. The protesters are responding to China’s decision to allow only Beijing-vetted candidates to stand in the city’s elections for chief executive. Above, tear gas is fired at protesters on Sunday, September 28, 2014. Click through for more scenes from the protests:
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Hong Kong leader says police have acted with restraint
  • Protesters asked to withdraw because of safety concerns, organizers say
  • Student organizers call for the resignations of four politicians
  • Government official says 34 people were injured and hospitalized

Hong Kong (CNN) — After a day of tense protests in Hong Kong in which at least 34 people were injured, organizers called on tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in the Chinese territory to head home late Sunday.

But as Sunday became early Monday, it appeared many of the protesters were set to continue to jam streets of the business district.

The sometimes violent demonstrations follow a week of student-led boycotts and protests against what many see as the encroachment of China’s political will on Hong Kong’s governance. They were responding to China’s decision to allow only Beijing-vetted candidates to stand in the city’s elections for chief executive, Hong Kong’s top civil position.

One student group, fearing police might use rubber bullets, asked late Sunday for demonstrators to leave. But while the mood at the primary protest had calmed, there was no large exodus.

Not all protest leaders were calling for people to leave. Pro-democracy activist and lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, known by many as “Long Hair,” cheered on those who were staying.

Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong

Hong Kong youth demanding democracy

Hong Kong democracy protest

Hong Kong students rally for democracy

“Our demands have not changed. This is a peaceful civil disobedience protest,” he called out over a loudspeaker as midnight approached.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong and a leader of Occupy Central, was one of the organizers who called for demonstrators to disperse.

“Please go home, don’t sacrifice your lives,” he said to the protesters. Dialogue is impossible at this point, he told them.

At least 34 people were injured and hospitalized, the Hong Kong Information Services Department said Sunday. A spokesman gave no details on the extent of the injuries. The department earlier said six police officers were injured, but it was unclear if they were included in the 34 figure.

Several of the young people occupying the business district told CNN they were going to stay overnight.

The student-led protests, which were joined Sunday by the like-minded Occupy Central movement, have sought to occupy government property and shut down the business district.

Arrests, batons, tear gas

In an early morning video statement addressed to all Hong Kong residents, Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung called for people to leave. He said police have exercised the greatest possible restraint in dealing with the protesters.

Riot police have occasionally wielded batons against protesters. They have also used pepper spray, and tear gas has been deployed against more than one group of protesters around the Central Government Offices. There were more reports of tear gas early Monday.

Protesters wore goggles or masks and raincoats, and many held umbrellas to protect against the possible use of pepper spray.

Early Monday, dozens of protesters moved barricades to block a main thoroughfare.

Demonstrators also have occupied the upscale Pacific Place shopping mall, located near the main protest site, organizers said Sunday evening. They said the number of protesters continues to grow.

The number of police officers at the protests also grew.

There is an “optimal amount of police officers dispersed” around the scene, a Hong Kong police spokesperson told CNN.

Police said they have arrested 78 people, ranging in age from 16 to 58, including some leaders.

Yvonne Leung, the spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Federation of Students, which organized the protest, said high school student protest leader Joshua Wong was released Sunday.

Meet the 17-year-old preparing for Hong Kong’s battle for democracy

The group later tweeted that Alex Chow and Lester Shum, who were arrested Saturday, also had been released.

In a statement Sunday evening, Yvonne Leung said the protesters called for C.Y. Leung and three other politicians working on political reform to resign. If the demand, and three others, go unmet, the students vowed to step up their protests and will boycott school.

The previous week had seen days of action, as university and high school students came out in droves to rally against what they believe is the Chinese central government’s reneging on key promises for Hong Kong’s political future.

Government response

C.Y. Leung said at a news conference Sunday afternoon that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government is “resolute in opposing the unlawful occupation” of the government buildings.

“The police are determined to handle the situation appropriately in accordance with the law,” he said.

C.Y. Leung, who was addressing the protesters for the first time, urged Hong Kong’s residents to express their dissatisfaction with the political process in a safe and lawful manner.

He said that a round of consultations on electoral reform will take place “shortly” but went on to appeal to pro-democracy activists to engage in rational discussions through lawful means “so as to allow the more than 5 million eligible voters in Hong Kong to elect the chief executive in 2017 for the first time in Hong Kong’s history by one person, one vote.” He reaffirmed that the government in Hong Kong will uphold Beijing’s decision.

The Chinese central government said that it is “confident” that the Hong Kong government can handle the movement lawfully, according to a report in Chinese state media. The Chinese government opposes all illegal activities that “could undermine rule of law and jeopardize ‘social tranquility,'” the report says.

Student protesters joined

The movement developed into a much larger, more inclusive display of defiance as the Occupy Central movement joined the students’ rally early Sunday.

The pro-democracy advocacy group, which is not affiliated with the broader anti-capitalist Occupy movement, has been vowing to lead a campaign of civil disobedience in the face of China’s decision to control what candidates can run for Hong Kong’s top office.

“Occupy Central has formally begun,” said a statement by the group. “The two nights of occupation of Civic Square in Admiralty have completely embodied the awakening of Hong Kong people’s desire to decide their own lives.

“The courage of the students and members of the public in their spontaneous decision to stay has touched many Hong Kong people. Yet, the government has remained unmoved. As the wheel of time has reached this point, we have decided to arise and act.”

Hong Kong protests: What you need to know

Government: Fears are unfounded’

C.Y. Leung, the city’s chief executive, told CNN that fears that the nominating process for the 2017 election were too restrictive were “unfounded.”

“We have not even started to discuss the detailed but crucial aspects of the nominating process for potential chief executive candidates,” he wrote in an exclusive commentary.

“This will be the subject of a public consultation to be launched soon and which will eventually lead to the enabling legislation on changes to the electoral method for the 2017 election.”

Hong Kong chief executive: Raw emotion ‘will get us nowhere’

Core group of protesters isolated

The three entrances to Civic Square, which houses a core group of protesters, were blocked off by steel barricades and guarded by around 100 police officers.

A protest leader, over a public address system, told the crowd that since the police claim the gathering is an unlawful assembly, supplies including water and audio equipment won’t be allowed into the sealed-off protest area. Supplies, the voice on the microphone said, were also confiscated by the police.

Demonstrators claimed that undercover officers had joined the main protest group, and others said they had seen police preparing water cannon.

Many in the city, which under British rule enjoyed considerable political freedom, fear a rollback of the city’s political autonomy, agreed between Britain and China under the Basic Law. The Basic Law, which serves as a de facto constitution, was written in the lead-up to the 1997 handover of sovereignty.

CNN’s Esther Pang, Vivian Kam and Euan McKirdy contributed to this report.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/28/world/asia/china-hong-kong-students/