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Keep up pressure for democracy in Hong Kong, student leaders tell world summit

Alex Chow and Lester Shum urge world to stay focused on HK democracy fight at Geneva forum

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2015, 7:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 February, 2015, 5:19am

Student leaders behind the "umbrella movement" told a human rights summit in Geneva on Tuesday that the world must stay focused on the human rights situation in China and keep up the pressure on Beijing to allow more democracy in Hong Kong.

Federation of Students secretary general Alex Chow Yong-kang and his deputy, Lester Shum, also said they would not retreat or lose hope in the fight for genuine universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election.

The pair made the remarks at the annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, where they gave a presentation on the 79-day pro-democracy protests that gained worldwide attention last year.

The summit is organised by a coalition of 20 non-governmental organisations from around the world ahead of the United Nations Human Rights Council's main annual session, which starts next Monday. It is intended to influence the discussions at the UN session, which are dominated by governments.

"Only through continuous attention and movement can we press … for change in Hong Kong and China," Shum said. "We have no right to withdraw hope. We have no space to retreat. We must stay hopeful."

Chow listed the three most important tasks for Hongkongers as voting down the government proposal on political reform; uniting society; and cooperating with democracy movements in Taiwan, Macau and elsewhere.

"We must take the regional approach as all these places are interrelated. Progress can only be made by cooperation," Chow said. "Let's care for one another. Our futures are tightly connected. A better world will come."

He was referring to the government proposal based on Beijing's ruling in August that the chief executive is to be chosen from just two or three candidates endorsed by most of a 1,200-strong nominating committee.

The pair were welcomed on stage as "young leaders" who played a key role in last year's unprecedented mass protests, with the forum moderator adding that he "sees hope in this generation".

Shum told the summit Hongkongers had embraced Western ideologies - such as freedom, liberal democracy, equality, rule of law and justice - during British colonial rule. But he said China saw these ideologies as a threat to its rule, and in order to gain control of Hong Kong it had broken its promise on democracy.

"Someone said there is no hope to win over China because it is too powerful and influential. But please do not stop the pressure … There is still hope for change," Shum said.

They were the first Hongkongers to speak at the annual one-day summit, which is held every February in Switzerland.