The pro-Beijing camp’s latest signature campaign to call for the clearance of the three Occupy protest sites in Hong Kong will do nothing but worsen the current tensions between democracy activists and their opponents.
The Alliance for Peace and Democracy, a key anti-Occupy group, intends to kick off a new drive this weekend to collect signatures from people who are suffering from or opposing the street blockades.
The convener of the alliance, Robert Chow, said the signature campaign will help convey a message to the government that it has the public’s mandate to clear the roads that have been occupied by the protesters in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok districts since late September.
While no one can predict how things will pan out in the coming days, there is no doubt that the almost month-long Occupy campaign is now at a crossroads. Opponents want stronger action to clear the streets, pointing to the hardships suffered by people living near the protest zones and the economic losses of some small businesses and transport operators.
But viewed from a broader canvas, it has been mostly business as usual in the city, despite the ongoing civil disobedience movement. The taxi and minibus drivers group which claims that their income fell by more than half cannot be said to represent the whole sector.
Some groups are just using the Occupy campaign to show their loyalty to Beijing, or gain political heft.
The protesters and the government are yet to reach a deal to resolve the standoff. As the administration hasn’t given any concrete assurances on political reform, even Chief Secretary Carrie Lam admits that it could be difficult for students to disperse at this stage.
The new signature campaign of the Alliance for Peace and Democracy will be more or less similar to the one it carried out in the summer this year, after the pro-democracy camp held a civil referendum that saw the participation of more than 800,000 people.
In the summer drive, the Alliance claimed that it received more than a million signatures during a month-long campaign. This number was also quoted by Lam during the Tuesday dialogue with students, serving it up as a fact to show that anti-Occupy sentiment is greater when compared to the support for the protesters.
Tension between the two camps could further escalate during the upcoming signature campaign, jeopardizing the efforts of the government and student leaders to seek a solution to break the deadlock over the Occupy campaign.
It is worth noting that the pro-Beijing group has been provoking the protesters in the Occupy zones in the past three weeks, as well as trying to disrupt the operations of Apple Daily, which has been a vocal supporter of the pro-democracy movement. The police, meanwhile, has been found wanting in maintaining social stability and order, even as they were ready to use strong force against protesters.
With round-the-clock television coverage of the protests, the public is aware that the source of social disorder is not the protesters, but the pro-Beijing supporters who want to end the campaign using strong-arm tactics. The police have failed to prevent the pro-Beijing groups to launch attacks on the democracy activists.
The involvement of suspected triad members in the efforts to quell the Mong Kok protests, as was seen during October 3-4, is another reason why the public is sympathetic toward the Occupy campaign.
The sentiment is reflected in the latest opinion poll from the Chinese University of Hong Kong which showed that more people now support the democracy protest movement than oppose it.
The right way to end the current impasse is more talks between the student groups and the government, rather than uncivilized efforts by pro-Beijing supporters to break the occupation.
Last Sunday, 24 people had to visit the hospital for treatment of injuries after the police charged into a crowd. Check out the video here:
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