The Occupy protests in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok are well into their seventh week.
There is speculation police will help execute court injunctions at key occupied areas, which means protesters could be forced to leave the sites within days.
But their dispersion won’t mean the campaign has failed. It would be for the best if protesters could promote their appeals for true democracy to the community over the long term rather than just sit in the protest zones without a clear goal.
Time is not on the protesters’ side after President Xi Jinping made his first public remarks on the Occupy campaign in a news conference with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
Xi denounced the pro-democracy movement as an illegal campaign and reaffirmed Beijing’s support for Leung Chun-ying’s administration in dealing with the protests.
His remarks indicate that the Hong Kong government has secured final approval to execute its plan to clear the protest sites in an attempt to bring the city back to normal.
Xi’s statement also shows Beijing will maintain its tough stance over the arrangements for the 2017 election for Hong Kong’s chief executive.
It means there is no hope that the authorities will grant the public the right to nominate the candidates in exchange for support by the pan-democrat lawmakers of the electoral reform package.
In fact, the pressure on the protesters and student groups has been escalating in recent days. The situation in the protest zones is getting worse as anti-Occupy groups penetrate the zones to manipulate the protesters and destroy their morale.
The latest victim is Jimmy Lai, chairman of Next Media, which publishes Apple Daily. He is a core backer of the Occupy campaign.
Lai was hit by rotten animal organs in Admiralty Wednesday afternoon. Police said three men who attacked him were arrested, together with two volunteers at the protest sites who helped to subdue them.
Some organisations have also successfully applied for interim injunctions barring protesters from blocking several streets in Mong Kok and the Citic Tower at Admiralty.
Students and other protesters who have ignored the court orders have been criticized for failing to respect the rule of law in Hong Kong.
Upholding the rule of law is a core value for the city’s “silent majority”, who strongly believe the court orders should be obeyed and are turning negative towards the protesters, even though they may still support their appeal for the right of the public to nominate the candidates in 2017.
All these developments took place after the televised discussion between student representatives and top Hong Kong government officials in late October.
The campaign has won nothing from the government and reached a deadlock.
There may be two reasons for that.
First, the student leaders and protest organizers failed to take the campaign to the next level.
Second, the government successfully allowed public discontent to build. A majority of the city’s residents resent the disruption of their daily lives by the traffic congestion and the decline in business resulting from the protests.
Student leaders and protesters should admit that Beijing may not change its tough stance in the near future and that they themselves may need to change their strategy.
The proposed visit to Beijing by Hong Kong Federation of Students representatives could draw some attention to the campaign, but the timing is no longer right after Xi’s comments on Wednesday.
What the students should do to keep their campaign alive is boost the public’s awareness of the need to fight for true democracy and explain why they had to take to the streets for more than 40 days.
It is worth noting that members of the public who did not join the protests received only limited information about the campaign. And this information might have been biased given that Hong Kong’s media mostly support Beijing’s official line.
That may be one reason the public is getting angry about the protests — most of what they know of the protests comes from the anti-Occupy side.
Broadened communication with the community should help to ease the tension between the protesters and the general public.
Student leaders could elaborate on their appeal for true democracy, to convince members of the community that their intention is to establish a fair electoral system for Hong Kong.
Education may be the best way to help the public better understand the weaknesses of Hong Kong’s existing electoral system.
Occupy protesters could learn from Taiwan’s Sunflower movement earlier this year, which raised the public’s awareness of the importance of the local economy as compared with cross-strait ties.
The post-Occupy campaign should lead Hong Kong politicians to focus more on the well-being of local businesses as opposed to mutually beneficial relations between large corporations and the mainland.
As the government prepares to clear the protest sites, it might be best for the students and other protesters to make the first move and declare the conclusion of the Occupy campaign, then start taking its message to the community.
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