23 July 2019
Pro-Beijing groups say a planned blockade of the financial district by the Occupy Central movement will hurt Hong Kong's economic prospects.
Pro-Beijing groups say a planned blockade of the financial district by the Occupy Central movement will hurt Hong Kong's economic prospects.

Pro-Beijing camp steps up its game

The standoff between pro- and anti-Beijing camps in Hong Kong is set to worsen as groups opposed to the Occupy Central movement plan a big show of support for the mainland’s line on reforms. 

Politicians and businessmen who favor a non-confrontationist approach with Beijing will hold a march in mid-August to endorse central authorities’ proposals with regard to the city’s 2017 chief executive election.

With the camp making it clear that it will rebuff a planned blockade of the financial district by Occupy Central supporters, as well as other protest tactics by pro-reforms groups, Hong Kong will witness further polarization in its political landscape.

A rally on August 17 will see the pro-Beijing camp voice support for Beijing-endorsed 2017 electoral proposals and call upon businesses and the public to reject a planned sit-in by the Occupy Central group. The Occupy Central movement has been labeled by Beijing as a violent social campaign that puts at risk Hong Kong’s social order, economic prosperity and stability.

The pro-Beijing camp is seeking to present a united stance as China prepares to unveil in late August its decision on the electoral reform proposals for the 2017 Hong Kong election. Pro-democracy groups have been calling for universal suffrage and public nomination of candidates, while Beijing is inclined to retain the nomination system for the city’s top leader.

With Occupy Central having vowed to paralyze the financial district if reforms fail to come through, businessmen and some lawmakers have been a worried lot. Thus, tycoons such as Henderson Land’s Lee Shau-kee and Shui On Group’s Vincent Lo Hong-shui have stood up to voice their support for the anti-Occupy Central campaign.

Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun, meanwhile, has also affirmed a pro-Beijing pro-business stance, arguing that what matters for the public is some say in the election, regardless of whether it represents true democracy or not.

The party’s relationship with Beijing hit a bottom after its favored candidate Henry Tang was edged out in the 2012 chief executive election by rival Leung Chun-ying.

But its return to Beijing’s official line indicates that top central leaders have made up their mind to implement an electoral proposal with filtering mechanism and ruling out public nomination, despite opposition from pan-democrats.

Ahead of the rally this month, pro-Beijing groups are busy trying to drum up publicity for the event and win the support of the public.

In a preparatory move of sorts, a march was held on Sunday to show support for the Hong Kong police for their work in implementing the rule of law. The police had come under criticism recently for their harsh treatment of pro-democracy activists at a sit-in following the annual July 1 rally.

Sunday’s march received prominent front-page treatment in pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po, rivaling even the coverage on the deadly Yunnan earthquake.

A signature campaign calling for an end to violent tactics in the universal suffrage quest has managed to garner more than 1 million signatures in the past two weeks. The organizers are now turning to online user groups to boost the number further.

The signature campaign, which has won the Hong Kong government officials’ support, is seen as a Beijing-endorsed campaign and part of efforts to present a bigger voice than the civil referendum organized by pan-democrats in June which generated about 800,000 votes.

Some observers have praised the signature campaign as one of the very few examples where the pro-Beijing camp is trying to win the support of Hong Kong people.

The camp is aiming to leverage the anti-Occupy Central campaign to claim the moral high ground by focusing on peace and stability. As the groups have drawn better-than-expected response, political watchers say people could be opting to compromise with Beijing rather than enter a drawn-out battle of nerves with the central government.

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EJ Insight writer

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