23 February 2019
Hong Kong protesters say Beijing does not respect the "one country, two systems" principle. Photo: EJ Insight
Hong Kong protesters say Beijing does not respect the "one country, two systems" principle. Photo: EJ Insight

‘Occupy’ campaign shows extent of anti-Beijing mood in Hong Kong

Yes, it’s no longer Occupy Central. It’s now Occupy Admiralty, Occupy Wan Chai, Occupy Causeway Bay and even Occupy Mong Kok. It’s become Occupy Hong Kong.

And it happened in less than 24 hours after the official start of the Occupy Central campaign at 1:37 a.m. of Sept. 28.

The pro-democracy campaign quickly spread across key districts of the territory, showing an outpouring of the people’s true sentiment with regard to Beijing’s rule since 1997.

It is no longer just about how the next chief executive will be elected. It is now about Hong Kong’s relationship with Beijing. And with hundreds of thousands of people out in the streets to join the protest, the Occupy Central campaign has become a big no-confidence vote against Beijing.

One of the key moments of the weekend protests was the police dispersal of students who occupied Civic Square in front of the government headquarters in Admiralty, and the arrest of student leader Joshua Wong.

Watching television news reports of the confrontation from their homes, Hong Kong people were shocked at the brutality the police employed to suppress the peaceful assembly, using pepper sprays on young, unarmed students. 

By Saturday, the tide of public sympathy has swept Civic Square. People came, bringing food, water, medicine and other provisions to the tired and sleepless students and themselves joining the demonstration. 

Then on Sunday, hundreds of thousands went out on the streets, voicing anger at the government which appears to consider Beijing as its true master rather than the people. Police fired tear gas to disperse the rallyists, and the crowds swelled.

As public outrage mounted over the police dispersal of the peaceful rallyists, most of Leung Chun-ying’s cabinet preferred not to speak, although some managed to say something about the effect of the demonstrations on road traffic.

Many are now asking themselves: Is this government still for the Hong Kong people? 

Last month, the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, announced its electoral reform formula for the 2017 chief executive election. With their hopes for genuine universal suffrage dashed, the people are now reflecting on their 17 years under Beijing. 

What has happened to Hong Kong in the years since the 1997 handover of sovereignty?

Central authorities are trumpeting the success of the “one country, two systems” formula. But from the perspective of the people, the factors that have made Hong Kong a truly world-class city have deteriorated.

Beijing has been increasingly intervening in the affairs of the government, diminishing the city’s much-vaunted “high degree of autonomy”. For example, the fixed daily quota of 150 Chinese immigrants into Hong Kong has not only changed the complexion of the city but has weighed heavily on its social welfare system.

The policy of making Hong Kong a part of China’s macroeconomic plan has made the city even more dependent on the mainland and has weakened its links to the global markets. On the political front, the people have been deprived of their right to choose their own leaders and determine their city’s economic direction. 

Hong Kong is losing its uniqueness and becoming just one of China’s many cities.

In 1984, the Communist Party promised Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy to win its support for the return of China’s rule. 

But as developments indicate that Beijing appears to have forgotten or chosen to ignore its pledge, the Occupy Central campaign marks a new start for Hong Kong people in their quest to choose their own leaders and determine their own destiny.

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EJ Insight writer

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