27 June 2019
Some of the clashes between anti-Occupy groups and the Occupy protesters were heartbreaking. Photo: Reuters
Some of the clashes between anti-Occupy groups and the Occupy protesters were heartbreaking. Photo: Reuters

Mending fences by addressing public grievances

In the past two months, the Occupy movement and the anti-Occupy campaign dominated the news, media commentaries, conversations at social events, and no doubt the nightmares of some people.

Even though the “Umbrella Revolution” has come to an end, it doesn’t mean it is completely over and properly resolved. Now is the time for us to reflect deeply on the entire episode.

In retrospect, the swift escalation of the movement could have been due to the government’s initial underestimation of the number who would take part and its overestimation of the ability of police to get on top of the situation quickly.

Just 17 hours after the sudden “mobilization” announcement by the three initiators of the Occupy Movement early in the morning of Sept. 28, the police, against all expectations, decided to take on the protesters with officers in full riot gear and 87 rounds of tear gas.

The public were outraged, and more people took to the streets. Serious clashes broke out between protesters and police.

After police came under fire for the way they handled the protests on the first day, most officers were ordered, surprisingly, to pull out from the occupied areas on the second day.

The prediction in my article “Don’t Let the Yellow and Blue Split Our Society”, published in this newspaper on Oct. 16, has been proven correct by the events that followed.

The standoffs between the “yellow ribbon” and “blue ribbon” factions were heartbreaking and almost tore our society apart.

To make matters worse, the decision to get tough on protestors has ruined the positive image of our police, which took years to build.

Luckily, the government eventually took the right path in resolving the issue by ordering police to assist the bailiffs in clearing the occupied sites and removing all barricades under court orders, during which everything seemed to proceed smoothly, with all sides exercising restraint.

In the last stage of the clearing operation, the police demonstrated professionalism, efficiency and careful planning.

Now the Occupy movement is over, at least temporarily, I think the immediate task lying ahead of us is to rebuild trust between the police and the public and to repair the image of the force.

For Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, the only way to resolve his difficulties in governance is to enhance the credibility of his administration and win the trust of his fellow citizens. To do that, he must open up dialogue with students and members of the public.

In the early stages, there may be occasions of chaos and disarray, but after that, efforts to improve communication with the public will definitely pay off, and our fellow citizens can always tell when the government is trying to bridge the gap in good faith.

Even though Hong Kong is facing various grave issues, such as the widening wealth gap, a shortage of housing supply and the lack of job opportunities for young people, political reform still remains the No. 1 priority and needs to be addressed promptly.

First, although the government insists that the “831” (Aug. 31) resolution of the National Peoples’ Congress Standing Committee can neither be withdrawn nor amended in any way whatsoever, there are still a lot of issues open to discussion and suggestion when it comes to the final, detailed arrangements for the 2017 election for chief executive.

Having said that, I am really disappointed that the second stage of public consultation on political reforms will be given only two months, while the first stage was allowed five months.

As far as the issues open to suggestion during the next stage of consultation are concerned, I propose that the nomination process be split into two — “recommendation of candidates” and “nomination of candidates”.

Any person who intends to run for chief executive must receive the support of at least one-eighth of the members of the nomination committee to gain an “entry ticket”. And only the four hopefuls who receive the most support from nomination committee members can officially become candidates.

In fact, my suggestion is nothing new. In the 1996 election, there were eight potential nominees. Among them, only the top four received official nominations. Tung Chee-wah eventually won and became the first chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Apart from political reforms, the administration must also come up with an effective approach to tackle the so-called “mobile Occupy movement”, in which protesters move around in packs and cause public disturbances.

The successful “softly, softly approach” adopted by the police in cleaning up the occupied areas recently can perhaps provide some insight into how these mobile protesters can be dealt with.

Lastly, the Occupy movement, whether you like it or not, has raised the political and social awareness of our younger generation, whose political views have changed dramatically as a result of the movement, and many of them often feel alienated from the establishment.

To restore their trust in the government, society, the rule of law and the impartiality of our judiciary, the administration must put forward a long-term and well-planned civil education strategy, through which our young people can identify a clear direction for their personal development and be convinced the government is sincere in helping them fulfill themselves.

This article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 19

Translation by Alan Lee

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delegate to the National People's Congress and former Legislative Council member

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