Asia Pacific / Politics

Hong Kong democracy protesters delay referendum amid differences

Reuters

Hong Kong pro-democracy protest leaders shelved a vote on the movement’s direction as concerns grow over the cost of the demonstrations, and the city’s stock exchange said it doesn’t know when a trading link to Sanghai, expected to start this month, will receive regulatory approval.

Protesters, who have blocked major thoroughfares, snarled traffic and disrupted businesses in the city for more than a month, delayed a planned referendum because of differences in the movement on the issues to be voted on and method of polling.

The protests, which began Sept. 26, were sparked by China’s decision to exercise control over nominating procedures for the city’s first leadership election in 2017. Tensions have risen in the city between demonstrators and those who opposed to the disruptions.

A stock exchange statement released Sunday said there “have been market expectations that Stock Connect will commence its operation in October 2014,” and that while all technical preparations are complete the exchange has not received relevant approval.

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political science professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, said the delay in the trading program is a way for the Chinese government to express its displeasure with Hong Kong’s failure to resolve the protests.

“This is a way for China to put additional pressure on the Hong Kong government to speed up the return to normalcy,” he said in a telephone interview.

After six months of preparations, a delay in the starting date by Shanghai and Hong Kong stock regulators risks curbing participation in a program that will give foreigners unprecedented access to China’s $4 trillion stock market.

Hearings that began last week to appeal interim injunctions banning pro-democracy protesters from defending their barricades, will continue Monday.

High Court Judge Thomas Au ruled Oct. 24 to continue the injunctions over the weekend. Although the police weren’t instructed by the court to remove barriers, the injunctions forbid protesters from intervening with their removal by third parties, raising the potential for renewed violence.

The injunctions were filed on behalf of an association of taxi drivers and a minibus company at a protest site in Mong Kok, and a property company controlled by Chinese state-backed Citic Ltd. at the main site in Admiralty.

Charles Li, chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd., said the final decision lies with regulators on both sides and not the exchanges themselves.

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