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The people of Hong Kong courageously campaign for democracy

They remember what they learned when they were still part of Britain's legal system -- the rule of just law and representative democracy. They are brave. They are defying the biggest Communist state in the world.

Sorry we missed covering this July 1st march, the latest in a series of half a million men and women marches in Hong Kong --

From Reuters Hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters marched in Hong Kong on Tuesday, many calling for the city's leader to be sacked, in what could turn out to be the biggest challenge to Chinese Communist Party rule in more than a decade.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said his government would do its "utmost" to move towards universal suffrage and stressed the need for stability after nearly 800,000 people voted for full democracy in an unofficial referendum last month.

Organisers put the number of protesters at more than 510,000, emphasising this was a conservative estimate. Police said some 98,600 had joined the protest at its peak.

Johnson Yeung, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, one of the organisers of the march, said activists would take to the streets to occupy the business district if China does not respond to demands for a direct election in 2017.

. . ."The Hong Kong government is now controlled by the Chinese government," said Daniel Cheng, 24, a recent graduate who now works as a building surveyor. "My mom said not to be arrested, to be careful. I will try, but I think I should do what I can for Hong Kong, my colleagues, my classmates, my friends."

. . .Activists from the League of Social Democrats burned a copy of a "white paper" released by Beijing last month that reasserted its authority over the former British colony. The group also burned a portrait of Leung.

"This could be the last chance to make our voices heard," said Lam Sui-pan, a 22-year-old human rights volunteer, at the end of the march. A veteran of the last five processions, he said he had never seen such a big turnout.

. . .Anson Chan, Hong Kong's former top civil servant and a key supporter of the unofficial referendum, said the vote was clear.

"They (voters) are not taken in by recent suggestions that we should pocket whatever we are offered in the hope that more would come later," she said. "This is just rubbish."

Organisers of the annual July 1 rally, marking the day the territory returned to China in 1997, were expecting the largest turnout since 2003, when half a million people demonstrated against proposed anti-subversion laws that were later scrapped.

. . ."I think in view of the vote of almost 800,000 people in favor of democracy, real democracy, not the type of democracy Beijing is suggesting, that today is probably going to be one of the most pivotal moments in the history of the democratic movement in Hong Kong," said lawyer Sean Leonard, from the think tank HKU International Institute of Financial Law. "It's about time Beijing woke up."

Some unforgotten history from an earlier post --

William McGurn wrote about 1950s Hong Kong -
By any measure, the future for this Asian country looked bleak. Enormously overcrowded, its normal population had skyrocketed, increased not just by a naturally high birthrate but also by revolution in a neighboring country - forcing thousands of desperate refugees upon its borders. Lacking natural resources and utterly dependent upon its unpleasant neighbor for water and food, the country's situation had deteriorated so badly that a local UN official declared the only way for it to survive would be with massive Western aid. An American newspaper proclaimed the country to be 'dying,'. . .

'Virtually every sizable vacant site . . . was occupied, and when there was no flat land remaining, [people] moved up to the hillsides and colonized the ravines and slopes which were too steep for normal development. The huts were constructed of such material as they could lay hands on at little or no cost - flattened sheets of tin, woodened boarding, cardboard, sacking slung on frames. . . . Land was scarce even for the squatters and the huts were packed like dense honeycombs or irregular warrens at different levels, with little ventilation and no regular access. The shacks themselves were crowded beyond endurance. . . . Density was at a rate of two thousand persons to an acre in single-story huts. There was, of course, no sanitation.'

There was, however, a British administration and the rights and protections of common law. There was also the inestimable Sir John Cowperthwaite, Financial Secretary of the Crown Colony, who arrived in 1961. He did not respond as Democratic candidates in America or Labour MPs in Britain would respond to this sort of crisis – with promises of big government programs.

Cowperthwaite was a classical free-trader in a tradition that stretches from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman and Sir Keith Joseph. Like them Cowperthwaite believed that The only cases where the masses have escaped from grinding poverty. . .the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. . .There is no alternative way of improving the lot of the ordinary person that can hold a candle to the productive activities of the free-enterprise system – and productive, creative and energetic people ruled by just law.

Under Cowperthwaite’s administration Hong Kong became a city with six million prosperous and largely peaceful citizens under a non-interventionist government whose foundation was British common law. Hong Kong was knit together with the institutions, charities, trusts, schools, associations and societies that help people to help each other. . .