25 February 2020
Cash changes hands, as media reports say. Robert Chow says his organization would investigate reports of payments made to rally participants. Photo: HKEJ, NowTV
Cash changes hands, as media reports say. Robert Chow says his organization would investigate reports of payments made to rally participants. Photo: HKEJ, NowTV

Let’s admit it, those ‘cash to protest’ reports are true

Robert Chow Yung, the spokesman for the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, should apologize to the public over the issue of payments to participants to join the anti-Occupy Central demonstration as reported by the media.

If the reports are true, such a practice is a blow to the Hong Kong core value of honesty and can only stir public discontent toward the pro-Beijing campaign.

The “cash to protest” stories broke on Asia Television, Now TV, i-Cable, Oriental Daily News, Ming Pao Daily News and Apple Daily. The controversial initiative was exposed, without censorship, in a transparent and objective way.

Now it’s up to the public to judge whether Chow’s alliance has done wrong.

Hong Kong’s press freedom is treasured, which shows the importance of an independent media free from government interference.

While the press has been under Beijing pressure since 1997, coverage of Sunday’s march seems to recall the media of the pre-handover days, with reporting of controversial facts and issues without fear or favour.

The reports were not without substance. The revelations came from journalists and camera crew who joined the protesters, boarded buses and received cash. They witnessed how organizers distributed cash to selected representatives and handed out uniforms for participants to wear during the march. 

The reports have been broadcast to millions of homes. 

But Chow, who has been hostile toward Occupy Central and the media, has said there is no significant evidence to prove the cash payment allegations. He only said the organization would investigate and would deduct the number of participants who received cash from the rally tally.

Another spokesperson, Brave Chan Yung, said there was no ground for people to accept several hundred dollars for a two-hour public demonstration.

Their comments show that they are trying hard to water down the core values of fairness and justice.

The alliance’s credibility is also under question. A spokesman said the last group of rally participants left Victoria Park at around 6 pm because of the massive number of protesters. But the fact is that the organizers had returned to the venue after 5 pm. 

Beijing officials initially wanted to use the signature campaign and the August 17 march to cement the support of anti-Occupy Central forces across society, and thus expand their influence beyond pro-Beijing groups such as the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong.

But it seems that Beijing has acknowledged that the anti-Occupy Central protest has failed to secure support from the majority of Hong Kong people. 

Beijing is taking a softer approach to pan-democrats to try to reach a consensus on 2017 electoral reform. 

It would be great if the march leads to sincere talks between Beijing officials and pan-democrats. That’s what Beijing should do to respect the wishes of Hong Kong’s silent majority.

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EJ Insight writer