19 January 2019
The Occupy campaign continues in Admiralty and Mong Kok. Photo: HKEJ
The Occupy campaign continues in Admiralty and Mong Kok. Photo: HKEJ

Why CY Leung hasn’t cleared the Occupy sites

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying appeared to have become an avid video blogger amid the ongoing Occupy campaign in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok.

In one of his video messages, he stressed his resolve to maintain harmony in society and warned that his government will not tolerate the street blockades much longer. But police have yet to take action to clear the roads, although schools have reopened after suspending their classes for a week.

And despite his repeated ultimatums, the pro-democracy protesters are still pursuing their campaign, roads remain blocked and activists continue to man the barricades.

Leung couldn’t seem to find the right timing, and an appropriate excuse, to order his riot police to dismantle the barricades and disperse the protesters. He did use them on Sept. 28, but the result was the exact opposite of what he intended to happen. The crowds swelled, and the civil disobedience campaign proceeded in earnest.

He has chosen to play the role of “bad cop”, while his deputies and aides continue to look for more civil ways to end the impasse. Carrie Lam and other officials are preparing for a series of public discussions with the student leaders regarding their demands. Police, meanwhile, have returned to the protest sites, not to disperse the rallyists but to maintain order and chat with them.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that despite rumors that Beijing is preparing to send its paramilitary police to the territory, it doesn’t want to use force to quell the protests — not yet, anyway.

Student leaders are also not in the mood to talk to Leung, and so he is left with making video blogs to remind everyone that he is still Hong Kong’s leader.

In fact, some pro-Beijing politicians appear to be distancing themselves from Leung, especially after riot police used tear gas and pepper spray on the young protesters at the start of the Occupy campaign, and triad members were found to be involved in the Mong Kok scuffles last Friday.

But Leung is getting impatient. The longer the impasse drags on, the more Beijing will doubt his ability to handle the crisis, and the more his authority will be eroded. His most urgent desire, therefore, is for things to return to normal.

On Monday night, a foreigner, a professional who has been working in the city for a long time, walked up to the position of the student activists and engaged them in an argument. 

He said all demonstrations should be legal, but their occupation of major thoroughfares is illegal and causing a lot of trouble to ordinary people who simply want to work and earn a living. He said his children could not go to school for four days while he couldn’t drive to his office.

The students said they were sorry for the trouble caused by their protests, but stressed that they are fighting for the right of all Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders and not for their own interests.

Leung is raring to go after these students who have caused him so much trouble, and have put him in a bad light.

But Leung’s supporters and allies should convince him that it is far wiser to wait and allow cooler heads to settle the issues. Perhaps they could also convince him that an apology from him for allowing the use of force on peaceful protesters would go a long way to clear the air and ease tensions, paving the way for a more fruitful dialogue between his representatives and the student leaders.

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CY Leung is making video blogs to remind everyone that he is still Hong Kong’s leader. Photo: HKEJ

EJ Insight writer

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