I have been at the scene of the protests since the first day and what I have seen is the contrast between the students’ determination and perseverance and the government’s absurdity and ruthlessness.
When pepper spray and tear gas failed to deter the demonstrators, the authorities allowed the triads to stir trouble.
Beijing and Leung Chun-ying have said there is no way to challenge the Chinese legislature’s decision on Hong Kong’s election framework. In reality, the only tools they can use in the face of mass protests are truncheons, tear gas and thugs.
Like many Hongkongers, I have been to Admiralty, Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui over the past week to take part in the sit-ins.
Most of the participants are young students in their early 20s and some teenagers born after the 1997 handover.
For decades, Hong Kong has been stuck in its pursuit of democracy, but now, with the new generation of activists, time is on our side.
The moment the police fired the first tear gas canister in a frightening “disperse or we fire” operation on Sept. 28, Hong Kong entered a new era of mistrust and conflict with the Leung administration.
Short of pushing Hong Kong to the edge of an abyss, the damage had been done. The deepening antagonism of the masses toward the government reminds us of the aftermath of the bloody Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, the Gwangju uprising in South Korea in 1980 and the Kent State shootings in the United States in 1970.
The significance is that most of the Hong Kong protesters are very young. It’s safe to say that many of them will become mainstays of future democratic movements.
These movements could be a game of attrition and a potentially endless nightmare for Beijing.
If Beijing wants Hong Kong to remain governable in the next two to three decades after these young people have taken the wheel of social movements, it will have to sack Leung, scrap the election framework and relaunch electoral reform consultations.
Obviously, Beijing is not prepared to do that. We might see some changes in the future.
Since Leung, future Hong Kong chief executives can only be Beijing’s puppets. The Communist Party will go to any length to ensure Hong Kong toes the line. As former justice secretary Elsie Leung has said, Hong Kong is a municipality directly under the central authorities.
Principal officials, including members of the executive council, will also be subject to Beijing’s decrees and forbidden to express views not deemed politically correct.
Just look at Fanny Law, a hardcore Leung supporter who has been an executive council member since Leung took office.
Law wept during a radio interview a day after the tear gas attacks and demanded the police explain to Exco. But in less than 30 hours, she changed her tune and joined the pro-establishment camp in praising the police.
Beijing will bring subtle changes to the Hong Kong economy to gain control of the business and financial sector. After all, Hong Kong’s only importance to the communist cadres is in moving their wealth overseas.
Another outcome could see civil servants, especially those in the disciplined services such as policemen and correctional officers, lose their political neutrality and professionalism and become tools of suppression by the regime.
(This commentary appeared in the Oct. 6 issue of the Hong Kong Economic Journal.)
(Translation by Frank Chen)
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