20 February 2019
Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai (middle) says the pro-democracy fight in Hong Kong could last as many as ten years. Photo: AFP
Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai (middle) says the pro-democracy fight in Hong Kong could last as many as ten years. Photo: AFP

Benny Tai eyes 5-10 years of ‘constructive’ civil disobedience

Civil disobedience in Hong Kong could go on for five to ten years as Occupy Central hasn’t given up on its aim to push the government to commit to political reform, said Benny Tai, one of the three founders of the pro-democracy movement.

The action can be constructive, rather than serve as pure resistance, Tai told Ming Pao Daily.

In an interview Wednesday, Tai was quoted as saying that he is not so naive as to expect that just one or two campaigns will force Beijing to change its stance. The new goal of Occupy Central is to ask the government to go back to the original point of political reform and restart it, he said.

If the government continues to resist calls for re-launch of public consultation on how the chief executive election process should be conducted, Occupy Central will go after the person in charge, Tai said.

The activist, meanwhile, appeared to play down some comments he made in another interview earlier in the week.   

In an interview with Bloomberg News on Tuesday, Tai admitted that the pro-democracy movement had failed to force Beijing to change its stance on the city’s political reform, and suggested that public support for Occupy Central could wane.

But now Tai said that he is still confident that as many as ten thousand people will join a planned sit-in by his group in the Central financial district sometime in the near future. A series of post-Occupy Central plans are also in the pipeline in an attempt to keep the fight in an extended time frame.

Asked about perceptions that the Occupy Central campaign is losing steam and the public’s doubts as to how far it can go, Tai said failure is not a wrong description of what the campaign has achieved as of now. But he insisted that failing to achieve the goal also means more efforts are needed to rally the public.

Streets are not the only battlefields in the fight for democracy, Tai said, adding that many things can be done to achieve constructive disobedience. He cited an idea proposed by Eric Cheung, principal lecturer at the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Law, that a public shadow vote or unofficial referendum could be held concurrently with the chief executive election.

In other comments, Tai urged citizens who are willing to join the Occupy Central protests to think thoroughly in advance, rather than participate merely to vent personal anger.

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