Hong Kong’s campaign for democracy has entered a crucial stage.
The students, who are at the forefront of this campaign, should brace themselves for a protracted fight as the community starts yearning for a return to normal business and the ranks of street protesters begin to dwindle.
Not too many people thought the street protests would last this long, but as resolve and interest flag, the responsibility to keep the fires burning is even more crucial now than at the start of the campaign.
The leaders of the movement have to focus on the fundamental principles that have nurtured the struggle amid efforts by opponents to shift attention to the negative impact of the protests. Only by keeping the people’s hearts and minds fixed on those principles can the leaders win support beyond the student activists and the pan-democratic camp.
There is no mystery in the government’s sudden decision to call off the dialogue with student leaders scheduled for Friday.
It was Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying who assigned his deputy, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, to meet with the students. Leung is the director and Lam is the performer on stage. As such, it is Leung who doesn’t want the dialogue to take place.
This is a point that should not be lost in the minds of the people: The students are seeking a way to break the impasse, but Leung has slammed the door in their faces.
It is not hard to understand why.
Several legislators from the pan-democratic camp have filed a complaint with the Independent Commission Against Corruption calling for a thorough investigation into a secret HK$50 million consultancy fee Leung had received from an Australian company.
The chief executive has denied any wrongdoing. But he certainly doesn’t want media to focus on any inquiry into the transaction and the possibility that misconduct attended the deal. Better to shift public attention to the Occupy campaign and blame the activists for all the conflicts in society.
Given this scenario, Scholarism, Hong Kong Federation of Students and other pro-democracy groups should endeavor to refocus the issue to the struggle for genuine universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election and beyond.
Scholarism has already sent its members to all districts across the territory to apologize to the public for the inconveniences and economic fallout the campaign has brought. Their sincerity should help to win further support from the grassroots.
The people should be constantly reminded, especially at this stage of the struggle, that they should look beyond the short-term ill effects of the protests and see the long-term benefit, which is to gain the basic right to choose their own leaders, as distinguished from the “Beijing nominates, Hong Kong votes” concept.
At the same time, the leaders of the movement should stress that the campaign is not intended for Hong Kong to break away from Beijing. It should focus on the electoral reform issue so that central authorities will not think that the movement is challenging its rule.
As the Occupy campaign approaches its third week, most of the participants are feeling exhausted in body and spirit and the goal seems as far away as on the day the protests started. The number of overnight participants has been decreasing, and some protest sites are manned by less than a hundred people at daytime.
A senior official from the home affairs department was even seen walking on the blocked Queensway on Thursday, and some protest organizers are deliberating on whether they should return some of the main roads to the public while continuing to occupy Harcourt Road in Admiralty.
Tactics must be based on the objective conditions, but the principles behind the struggle must never be compromised.
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