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To Some In China, Hong Kong Protesters Are Flouting The Law


Whatever happens in Hong Kong, China is ultimately in control there. We spoke earlier today with a member of China's political elite, Victor Gao. He was a translator for former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. He's now a businessman and director of the China National Association of International Studies. Gao told us that people in Hong Kong do have the right to protest and demonstrate as long as they do so lawfully.

VICTOR GAO: They need to abide by the law and respect the rule of law in Hong Kong. However, in what they have been doing over the past few days, they have violated the law, disregarded police warning, blocked traffic, prevented people from going to work, prevented people from sending their kids to school, forcing schools to close down, preventing ambulance from delivering patients to hospital. All these are no longer peaceful demonstrations. These are clear examples of violation of law and disregarding rule of law in Hong Kong.

MARTIN: But do you believe the protesters in Hong Kong have a legitimate grievance? They say they aren't being allowed to democratically choose their elected leaders. Is that a claim you think is real, is legitimate?

GAO: What is really at issue is how the candidates for the chief executive should be nominated. And there is no single and universally accepted way of nominating candidates for the chief of the state or chief of any political system. In the United States, for example, it's a more or less two-party system, the Republicans and Democrats. And each party has to go through a very long, protracted primary process. But eventually, more or less, you have two candidates for the seat of the presidency in the United States.

MARTIN: But those candidates, they're selected by the general population to run in primaries. They're not vetted by a central committee.

GAO: Yeah. In Hong Kong, what has been proposed is an indirect system. That is, there will be a nominating committee composed of 1,200 members. And the 1,200 members will come from all walks of life in Hong Kong. And I think eventually, whether you have a nominating process as a starter or eventually, years down the road or a decade down the road, that nominating process can be changed or even done away with. That's another issue. But anyone saying to have a nominating committee means there is no democracy in Hong Kong, I think that's a little bit too far-stretched.

MARTIN: But if the people of Hong Kong, if these protests continue and the people of Hong Kong decide they want to change the system, should they be allowed to?

GAO: First of all, it's not all the people in Hong Kong who are demonstrating. If you count the numbers, it's a small, small fraction of the people. I think the broad masses of the people in Hong Kong, when they are confronted with this chaos and the closure of the market - the plunging financial market, the dropping in the property prices - do you really think they want to have chaos like this? No. I would say Hong Kong is now being hijacked by these demonstrators who claim to be above the law and disregard rule of law, disregard warnings from police. And I think in any other country, London or Frankfurt or Paris or Washington, D.C. - they would be dealt with, as it is. But I would say for anyone or any country to say the demonstrators who are illegally demonstrating in the streets in Hong Kong represent the totality of the people of Hong Kong, at least, is a far-fetched statement.

MARTIN: Because of the legacy of Tiananmen Square, do you believe that the Chinese central government would be very reticent to interfere in these pro-democracy protests?

GAO: China will never hesitate if its territorial integrity and sovereignty is involved. And the Chinese history, ever since 1949, speaks for itself. China does not yield to pressure from anyone. So if the demonstrators are launching legal protests without disrupting civic order in Hong Kong, then there should be no violence committed by the law enforcement department in Hong Kong. However, if anyone believes that Hong Kong will be paralyzed if riots happen, if social order is lost and if the police department will have no guts to use legal means to ensure social order, they are indulging in fantasy.

MARTIN: Victor Gao is the director of the China National Association of International Studies. He is a former translator for the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. Mr. Gao, thank you for talking with us.

GAO: Thank you. It's a great pleasure and great honor for me to speak with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.