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Beijing attempts to quell unrest in Hong Kong

Demonstrators demand Chinese leadership accept political reform


The standoff in Hong Kong between pro-democracy protesters and the Chinese government is raising questions about whether both sides can ever come to a long-term agreement.

There is concern among foreign policy analysts that Beijing won’t be able to persuade the protesters to abandon their public demonstrations.

“The Chinese government is going to put tremendous pressure on the local authorities, whom they use as their representatives to try get these students and other kinds of protesters to back down,” said Doug Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “A big problem is the protesters are composed of several groups; not all of them have the same objective or the same zeal for the protest.”

The challenge for the central government is using a strategy that won’t make them look unfavorable at home and abroad.

“Beijing is really faced with a set of very unattractive propositions,” said Elizabeth Economy, director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

She points to two scenarios: The government could potentially use force, but that choice might echo memories of the 1989 crackdown of Tiananmen Square democracy protests. Or they can try to wait it out in hopes the protesters will lose their resilience.

Economy added, “there is some room for compromise, but Beijing hasn’t really shown interest in compromising … it’s a very tricky situation and not clear how it’s going to play out.”

The Hong Kong protests are raising the potential scenario of protests spreading in other regions of China.

“That’s the fear of Beijing . . . that this will somehow have a demonstration effect on happy people in different parts of China,” said Paal.

He points to China’s President Xi Jinping. “As soon as he shows some weakness in his armor -- whether it’s Hong Kong … or somewhere in China -- people will take that he is generally weak and they will put even further resistance to his reforms.”

“I’m not sure Xi Jinping’s vision of China’s future is the same as the vision of the Chinese protesters,” said Economy. “His view of the political system of China even 50 years out is still led by a very strong Chinese Communist Party … but I think that’s not the vision the people of Hong Kong have.”

Chris Snyder is a producer for Fox News based in New York. Follow him on twitter: @ChrisSnyderFox