Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on Wednesday released the following statement with respect to pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong:
"I salute the courage of the hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens who have participated in mass demonstrations in the territory in recent days to assert peacefully their right to have a say in the election of their leaders. They are taking action not for themselves, but for their broader family, their community.
"Their struggle is one that all who believe in the principles of democracy and justice should support.
"Periods of societal transition are exciting because of the opportunities they present. With its handover from Britain to China in 1997, Hong Kong embarked on a 50-year transitory journey towards universal suffrage.
"The foundation stone of the handover agreement was promulgation of the Hong Kong Basic Law, which gives legal effect to what is known as the "one country, two systems" arrangement. The Basic Law guarantees Hong Kong residents the rights to freedom of speech and association, and the freedoms to gather and to demonstrate.
"Peaceful demonstrations present opportunities for various points of view to be ventilated, and for parties to demonstrate their commitment to the principles of freedom of expression, dialogue and rule of law.
"The scenes that have been filling our television screens and email inboxes reflect differences of opinion that have emerged over the route that should be taken to complete Hong Kong’s journey to democracy. Its people, led by the youth, are adamant that Beijing has no right, in terms of the handover agreement, to decide who should take over as the new chief executive of the territory in 2017.
"The firing of teargas at demonstrators, as happened on Sunday, was a bitter blow to what many still hope will be a peaceful, inclusive and dignified transformation process.
"I pray that the voices of the people of Hong Kong will never be stifled. And I pray for a compassionate and just government in Beijing that does not fear the will of its people."