Hong Kong students plan week long strike for democracy

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong students announced plans Thursday to hold a week long strike in response to Beijing's refusal to grant the semi-autonomous city full universal suffrage.

Activists in the former British colony had their hopes for genuine democracy crushed after China announced on Sunday that the city's next leader would be vetted by a pro-Beijing committee.

A coalition of pro-democracy groups have vowed to usher in a new "era of civil disobedience" against the decision, calling on the people of Hong Kong to blockade major thoroughfares in the city's financial district.

Students plan to walk away from classes on Sept 22 in what they described as a final warning before wider civil disobedience action.

The proposal still needs to be approved by a coalition of student groups and unions on Saturday, leaders said.

"We strike as an ultimatum to warn the government to listen to our opinions," president of the Hong Kong University (HKU) student union Yvonne Leung told AFP.

"A civil disobedience movement is inevitable so we need some time to empower the students and other sectors of society about what's going on," Ms Leung added.

Students said the Hong Kong government had "surrendered and kowtowed" to Beijing on the issue of universal suffrage in a statement circulated on social media signed by the HKU union.

The statement said students would press for full public nomination for the city's next leader, and rejected the idea of a "partial democracy enjoyed by only some people".

"If they continue to act against the public's will, we will step up to a stronger disobedient action," the statement said.

The top committee of China's rubber stamp parliament said Sunday Hong Kong citizens will be allowed to elect their next leader in 2017 - but candidates must be approved by a pro-Beijing committee, with only two to three contenders allowed to stand.

Democracy activists have called the proposal a betrayal of Beijing's promise to award Hong Kong universal suffrage by 2017.

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China on July 1, 1997 under a "one country, two systems" agreement which allows civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including free speech and the right to protest.