Date
22 November 2017
Young Occupy protesters stick mini-banners with the words, "I want genuine universal suffrage", on their forehead, mimicking the banner that some hikers put on Lion Rock last week. Photo: CNSA
Young Occupy protesters stick mini-banners with the words, "I want genuine universal suffrage", on their forehead, mimicking the banner that some hikers put on Lion Rock last week. Photo: CNSA

Occupy campaign still going strong despite calls to retreat

The Occupy campaign is still going strong as it enters its second month.

The students and protesters are determined not to quit until the government commits itself to an electoral system with civic nomination.

But the campaign is in a deadlock after talks last week with the government led by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam concluded without the desired results for the students.

Now politicians and academics seem to be doing the government a favour in trying to persuade the students and protesters to go home and resume their normal life after 30 days of protest with nothing achieved.

But as the students and protesters stand in a united front, the persuaders will find it hard to get them to end the campaign for the sake of “bringing the city back to normal”.

Joseph Chan and Benny Tai of the University of Hong Kong played a major role over the weekend in urging the students to retreat rather than to escalate the campaign to put further pressure on the government.

Chan, who also trained student leaders for their meeting with government officials last week, criticized the Hong Kong Federation of Students for getting dizzy with success after tens of thousands of people joined the campaign. He rebuked the students for not making a compromise with the government and preparing for the return of the roads to the public.

Tai, the Occupy Central co-founder who initiated the civil disobedience movement to fight for true democracy, suffered a blow with the botched poll to decide the next step of the campaign.

He said he is willing to talk to the anti-Occupy group led by Robert Chow on a territory-wide referendum so as to set the stage for a retreat.

The scholars’ advice came amid increasing opposition to the street occupation.

Members of the public, especially those from the low-income group, say their income has been hit by the blockade of major roads. Some pro-Beijing lawyers are launching legal action to have the roads cleared.

No one is playing a key leadership role as the Occupy campaign continues in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok. This makes a consensus on whether to retreat or not difficult.

Mong Kok is an example of protesters’ power. They re-occupied the road after the police cleared it two weeks ago.

Some protesters refused to be represented by the student groups and Occupy Central, declaring their independence from any political affiliation.

Still, the students may work out a plan for a possible retreat in the near future or scale down the area of occupation to placate the public. In Causeway Bay, for instance, the tramway could be cleared to enable tram service to resume.

However, if the Occupy campaign continues, there could be a chance of success, according to Wang Dan, a student leader of the Tiananmen Square movement in 1989.

Wang said the ball is now in the court of the Beijing and Hong Kong governments, given they have yet to respond positively to the students’ demand. If the Hong Kong administration fails to govern Hong Kong, there could be a chance for a compromise.

The students should work together with pro-democracy politicians and scholars outside the protest zones to raise public awareness of the harmful effect of Beijing-imposed democracy, as well as to expand the non-cooperation movement to put pressure on the authorities.

It could be a smart move for the scholars to convince government officials, including those from Beijing, to visit the protest zones to listen to their appeal for true democracy. It is not time for protesters to retreat.

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SC/JP/JL

EJ Insight writer

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