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Will Hong Kong’s protests lead to violent crackdown? – Part 2

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For more on what provoked these protesters and how mainland China is likely to respond, we turn to Ian Bremmer. He's the president and founder of Eurasia Group. It's a political risk, research and consulting company.

    Ian Bremmer, welcome to the program.

    Are these protests unprecedented? Has China ever seen anything like this? And I guess Tiananmen comes to mind.

  • IAN BREMMER, Eurasia Group:

    Yes. I mean, Tiananmen's the last time we have seen this sort of thing within China itself.

    Certainly, Hong Kong, there has been nothing like this since the handover from Great Britain in 1997. And, most importantly, it is by far the first serious challenge domestically to President Xi Jinping. It really is directly a question of the legitimacy and the support of what's so far been a very popular, very charismatic and very transformative rule.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, how much of a challenge is it to him and to the regime, the government in Beijing? These students have been there for five days. They don't show any signs of backing down.

  • IAN BREMMER:

    No.

    And, in fact, tomorrow, as you have heard, you have the National Day. There have been a number of calls for demonstrations in support of the Occupy Central movement, not just in the United States and in the developed countries, but we also see that they're likely to happen in Macau. They're going to happen in Taipei and Taiwan.

    And it wouldn't surprise me at all, despite the fact the Chinese government has really tried the crack down on anyone searching relevant social media terms around the Hong Kong protests within mainland China, to see some forms of sympathy there.

    And that's one of the reasons why I think Xi Jinping, who has been very willing to engage in policies of economic transformation on the mainland, but has absolutely had no interest in political reform — this is not a Glasnost guy — he's very unlikely to show any flexibility whatsoever, as is the Hong Kong government in responding to these protests.

    Occupy Central has now become Occupy Hong Kong. As of tomorrow it's likely to become Occupy larger than that. And if the — if local police, through threat and selective arrests, are unable to disperse these demonstrations, we're likely to see a very significant violent crackdown.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, what do you mean by that? Because that's the — that's the natural question. If these protesters not going away and the government, the central government isn't going to bend, what does that mean?

  • IAN BREMMER:

    Well, the initial step comes from Hong Kong itself. We have seen the Hong Kong leadership completely refusing to even meet with the leaders of the Occupy Central movement, never mind brook any compromise about what suffrage in selection of a chief executive in Hong Kong might look like in 2017.

    I think the next steps clearly involve the police, who have been relatively quiet over the last couple of days. They can certainly take steps to try to remove who they see as the ringleaders of that movement, and, after they have done that, to try to pressure the broader groups, give them — give them a couple of outs, let them disperse once their leaders have been taken under custody.

    But, again, if we continue to see this type of mobilization among the students that poses a much greater threat to the legitimacy of the Chinese enterprise and to their power, their exertion of power in Hong Kong, I think the response goes beyond just Hong Kong police. Then the People's Liberation Army does indeed come in. They have garrisons in Hong Kong.

    I suspect they would be used. Certainly, the international community can complain, but there is no potential that sanctions or punishment is going to be exerted against the Chinese government for what they do internally in Hong Kong. This is not like Russia vs. Ukraine.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, just very quickly, you mentioned the international community — Britain's Prime Minister Cameron protesting today. Of course, they previously held Hong Kong. You're saying there's nothing anybody on the outside can do?

  • IAN BREMMER:

    Oh, I think that Cameron and Obama will do a great impersonation of Ban Ki-Moon. I think they will express a great deal of concern over what happens for Hong Kong.

    But, if you ask me are we talking about the potential of sanctioning them, I would want to just go back to what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, which is that it's generally not a good idea to criticize your banker on human rights. It's going to be very, very difficult for anything more than words in response to what's happening on the ground in Hong Kong.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Ian Bremmer with the Eurasia Group, we thank you.

  • IAN BREMMER:

    My pleasure.

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