Sunday’s pro-government march will be remembered for a lot of things but not for what it hoped to achieve — win over Hong Kong people.
Let’s get the latter part out of the way and say it out loud: the march was an utter failure.
More than that, it was an embarrassment, the way a bad joke humiliates a comedian. But more remarkably, it will go down as a bizarre show of force.
1) Many participants said they didn’t know why they were there. Some came from Shenzhen to shop and somehow found themselves in the march.
2) Almost all were mobilized or organized by pro-Beijing organizations, community groups, schools and companies.
3) Many, especially those from the New Territories, were seen receiving HK$200 to HK$400 as compensation for their attendance. Some were brought to lunch by their minders before the march began.
It was the biggest public campaign by pro-establishment forces which was intended to show that the vast majority of Hong Kong people are on their side.
But by the end of the march from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay district to Central, there had been slightly more than 80,000 marchers. Police estimated attendance at 110,000.
We could say Hong Kong’s silent majority preferred to stay silent and chose to sit out the march that was supposed to represent their views.
With hindsight, the organizers could simply have billed it as a pro-government march, not a show of force to counter Occupy Central and its pro-democracy supporters.
Because now that the numbers are in, there’s no stopping the comparison between this march and the July 1 rally and sit-in protest which drew 800,000.
Granted the marchers were genuine supporters of the anti-Occupy Central campaign, they did not show it.
Interviewed by reporters, many of them had no idea what they were marching about. Elderly people were seen leaving Victoria Park before the march after attendance had been checked.
If anything, it was well orchestrated and it even looked like it might have run according to the script.
And that’s where the comparison with the spontaneous outpouring of people power on July 1 really puts things in stark contrast.
Until Sunday’s march, Hong Kong people expressed their views on a whole lot of issues in a whole lot of ways but they did not have to be paid off, bussed over or fed to go one way or the other.
Instead of highlighting genuine concerns from the other side of the political spectrum, organizers of Sunday’s march may have poisoned the atmosphere and alienated the very people from whom they seek the most support.
They may even have succeeded in undoing the gains of a signature campaign in which they claimed to have received 1.5 million signatures against Occupy Central.
Pro-establishment forces in Hong Kong and their backers in Beijing would do well to understand the thinking of the vast majority of Hong Kong people before they try to win them over again with anything short of a bribe.
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