Hong Kong citizens stage protests after pledge for "universal suffrage" is broken.

Hong Kong citizens stage protests after threats that pledge for “universal suffrage” may be broken, while the UK continues to confront Beijing.

Photo via Twitter from CNN’s Ivan Watson.

The protesters are responding to China’s decision to allow only Beijing-vetted candidates to stand in the city’s election in 2017 for chief executive, Hong Kong’s top civil position. They say Beijing has gone back on its pledge to allow universal suffrage in Hong Kong, which was promised “a high degree of autonomy” when it was handed back to China by Britain in 1997. [CNN]

IT HAS been deemed the “umbrella revolution,” because of the need for cover from tear gas, but also the hot sun in Hong Kong. The governments of China and Hong Kong have declared the protests illegal, but people are staying. The count of 87 tear gas canisters fired on Sunday night.

The infamous Communist Chinese government has a reputation of brutal oppression that dates to Tiananmen. However, Hong Kong is not Beijing, with citizens of this international city not supplicants of the Chinese Communist Party.

After reading the reported statement by the U.S. Consulate, I’m unimpressed with our nonchalance at the fact that these protesters are standing up for their right to vote in fair elections.

The U.K. has been strong since China began interfering with the original Sino-British Joint Declaration, with some members of parliament readying an investigation into the Chinese Communist Party’s manipulating and interfering with Hong Kong’s politics.

The U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong said Monday that the United States “strongly supports Hong Kong’s well-established traditions and Basic Law protections of internationally recognized fundamental freedoms.” (The Basic Law, which serves as a de facto constitution, was written in the lead-up to the 1997 handover of sovereignty from Britain to China.)

It added that it doesn’t “take sides in the discussion of Hong Kong’s political development, nor do we support any particular individuals or groups involved in it.”

A UK Foreign Office spokesman said Britain believed Hong Kong’s prosperity and security were “underpinned by its fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to demonstrate.”

“It is important for Hong Kong to preserve these rights and for Hong Kong people to exercise them within the law,” the spokesman said. “These freedoms are best guaranteed by the transition to universal suffrage.”

The United Kingdom has a lot at stake here, as was discussed in early September in the Wall Street Journal.

Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last British governor until the handover 17 years ago, said that the credibility of the U.K.—that is, its ability to act as a responsible player that keeps its promises—is at stake, and accordingly a British probe into the matter is warranted.

“When Chinese officials attack British MP’s and others for commenting on developments in Hong Kong, they ignore the fact that Britain too has treaty obligations for 50 years, which reflect what our country has said and promised in the past,” he wrote in an editorial appeared in the Financial Times Wednesday. “Failure to do as we pledged would clearly be dishonourable.”

President Obama should back the UK’s play here, having the U.S. Consulate reiterate what State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki as already put on the record.

“The United States supports universal suffrage in Hong Kong, in accordance with basic law and the aspirations of the Hong Kong people. We believe that an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and government by rule of law is essential for Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity,” said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki in a press briefing Tuesday. [Wall Street Journal]