Date
19 November 2017
Alex Chow says student leaders are planning to visit Beijing during the APEC meeting next week to press their demands with the central government. Photos: HKEJ, Reuters
Alex Chow says student leaders are planning to visit Beijing during the APEC meeting next week to press their demands with the central government. Photos: HKEJ, Reuters

Why planned HKFS Beijing visit is a good idea with bad timing

Hong Kong student leaders are planning to travel to Beijing to bring their views directly to the central authorities.

Nothing has been decided but if they do proceed, they will time the visit to coincide with the APEC summit next week, according to Alex Chow, secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS).

HKFS is increasingly frustrated after last week’s talks with the Hong Kong government ended without progress, with the students accusing officials of being vague and evasive. 

Chow floated the idea this week when he challenged Chief Secretary Carrie Lam to put them through to Beijing after she told the students during the talks that some issues are not up to the Hong Kong government. After all, it is Beijing that has the final say, he said. 

The idea makes sense but the timing doesn’t.

Beijing would not want a sideshow to the APEC meeting, let alone a disruption or any security threat.

Although most of the APEC leaders might be sympathetic to the students, there’s no guarantee they will take up their cause with the Chinese authorities. APEC is simply not the forum for it.

It’s doubtful whether the student representatives would even be allowed to set foot in the mainland in the first place.

There’s talk the Hong Kong government is delaying any decision to deal with the protest by force until after the APEC meeting in order not to embarrass Beijing.

And Beijing itself would not hold back against the protesters once the summit is out of the way, according to reports.

On Friday, President Xi Jinping stressed China’s jurisdiction over Hong Kong and described efforts by pro-democracy groups to roll back Beijing’s proposed framework for the 2017 chief executive election as an attempt to “separate Hong Kong from China”.

The warning came after Beijing officials accused foreign entities of involvement in the month-old protests.

With fatigue setting in and an increasingly impatient public calling for an end to the street occupation by the protesters, the focus has shifted to the timing of a retreat by the demonstrators or their forcible dispersal.

For the students and some of their pro-democracy allies, the core issue — public nomination of chief executive candidates and genuine universal suffrage — is non-negotiable. For its part, China has repeatedly stated there can be no deal of any kind.

Despite that, the students would like to talk things over. Who knows what might come out in a face-to-face with a Beijing official.

But it’s worth trying.

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SC/JP/RA

EJ Insight writer

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