Date
18 August 2017
A woman reads on a road barricaded by pro-democracy protesters in Mong Kok district. Where does the pro-democracy movement go from here -- this is the question that everyone is asking now. Photo: AFP
A woman reads on a road barricaded by pro-democracy protesters in Mong Kok district. Where does the pro-democracy movement go from here -- this is the question that everyone is asking now. Photo: AFP

How students can end the Umbrella Movement with dignity

Hong Kong government will hold talks with student representatives Tuesday evening. While some observers hope the dialogue will help pacify the sentiments of the young activists, in real terms there is nothing concrete that can be achieved at the meeting. Now, the question arises: Where will this leave the pro-democracy movement?

Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a co-founder of the Occupy Central movement, has suggested that he might call for a withdrawal Monday night.

Tai was attending a gathering at the occupation site in Admiralty. There, he told the public that he expects nothing concrete to be achieved during the first round of talks with the government. Even so, “occupation has to end one day”, he said.

He is looking to take the Umbrella Movement away from the streets by setting up more platforms to interact with the government, effectively turning the protest into a long-term democracy campaign.

The students’ standpoint now becomes the most important thing of the movement. If the student representatives deem the scheduled talks to be real progress, they would probably decide to retreat from Admiralty and Mong Kok soon.

Although some hardliners would definitely refuse to withdraw from the occupation sites, the protester numbers in the areas will decline for sure, and will pave the way for police clearance. 

While not being optimistic, the general secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), Chow Wing-hong, said the government should lay out the timetable of universal suffrage and related details. If students are seeking progress of this sort, chance of a peaceful ending of the sit-in would diminish.

Activist lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, commonly known as Long Hair, has meanwhile offered some advice.

He urged protesters to stop using guerrilla tactics as they try to retake cleared sites. The action, which often involves clashes with the police, is starting to annoy the public, and this will drag down the popularity of the whole movement, Leung pointed out.

The seasoned demonstrator also sees the lack of a clear leader as a flaw in the protest movement. Both the two student groups and the three initiators of the occupy campaign have declined to be the overall commander of the movement.

To end the protest with dignity, Leung suggested that HKFS should regain the leadership in Mong Kok and bring the demonstrators there under control. “Mong Kok is very dangerous right now” as scuffles keep breaking out amid the stand-off between police and protestors, Leung noted, adding that the consequences would be grave if anything goes wrong.

Pushing for democracy and universal suffrage would also be an unrealistic goal during the first round of talks, Leung said. Instead, in the upcoming talks, the student representatives would stand a better chance if they question the Hong Kong government’s failure to convey the public’s opinion in its previous reports to Beijing, he said.

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RC

EJ Insight writer

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