15 November 2019
The end of the Occupy campaign is just the beginning of a new phase of opposition to restrictions on democracy in Hong Kong. Photo: DASH
The end of the Occupy campaign is just the beginning of a new phase of opposition to restrictions on democracy in Hong Kong. Photo: DASH

Who the true losers are in Occupy campaign

The Occupy campaign has come to an end after 75 days as police cleared the main protest site, in Admiralty, on Thursday.

While the campaign failed to secure its goal of achieving true democracy in the 2017 election for chief executive, it did help raise public awareness, especially among the younger generation, about the fight for the best electoral package possible.

While there is no clear winner in the campaign, the losers are the Beijing and Hong Kong authorities, as well as the pro-democracy politicians, who are losing support from the next generation of voters.

On the last night of the protests, many people who took part in the Occupy movement at various stages returned to Admiralty to witness the end of Hong Kong’s first civic disobedience campaign.

They did not cry nor were they sad, but they shared their feelings with fellow protesters. Students in school uniform painted on Harcourt Road messages such as “Admiralty is our home” and “We’ll be back”.

People queued for an hour for a leather yellow ribbon, the symbol of the Occupy movement.

Alex Chow, leader of the Federation of Students, said “as long as the government sticks to the decision made by the central government in late August, Hong Kong society will adopt an approach of civil disobedience, resisting the government”.

Public unhappiness with the unfair electoral system handed down by Beijing is clearly related to deep-rooted problems in Hong Kong like the widening income gap and the dominance of rich tycoons’ businesses in all sectors.

That’s because the government favors the interests of the rich rather than the poor.

Clearing protest sites won’t delete the youngsters’ thoughts, and there could be another round of social campaigns in the future if the unfair electoral system does not change.

The Occupy campaign highlighted the gap not only between the pro-democracy and pro-Beijing camps but also between young people and older Hongkongers. Time is on the youngsters’ side. 

The pro-democracy politicians whom the public supported in Legislative Council elections failed to lead the Occupy movement.

They even took a step back to avoid escalating the campaign to put additional pressure on the government.

Student leaders like Joshua Wong expressed their discontent with their pro-democracy seniors, saying they had not fully supported the students during the campaign, instead using the media to voice their opposition to student proposals like forcing a Legco by-election to trigger a referendum on the electoral reform package.

It is certain that the existing pro-democracy politicians will see their support from the youngsters tumble in the next election, and new blood could grab seats in Legco.

The Beijing and Hong Kong authorities, with their unyielding stance on the Occupy protests, have also lost any support they might have had from the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, who were at the core of the movement.

Beijing, having ignored the students’ appeal for an open and transparent election and labeled them as enemies, may find it difficult to implement effective rule in Hong Kong.

It should bear in mind that the only way to win the public’s support for the Communist Party’s rule in Hong Kong is to fully implement “one country, two systems” and to respect Hong Kong’s core value of fairness, justice and transparency.

A transparent election involving civic nominating rights would serve as the basis for Beijing to win back the youngsters’ hearts.

The clearance of the Occupy site next to the government headquarters is not the end but just the beginning of another round of opposition campaigns in the community.

Students did not lose the battle, although they have yet to win the fight for true democracy in Hong Kong.

They need to spread the ideas and spirit of the Occupy movement to the grass roots and prepare for the next tipping point in Hong Kong’s future.

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EJ Insight writer