Last Wednesday, the government announced its political reform proposal and as I predicted, public response has been lukewarm.
The administration and pan-democrats are working their hearts out to promote their respective stances.
It’s important to note that the lackluster public response is not a sign of apathy.
Most Hong Kong people do care about their political future but they’re fed up with the politics of pan-democrats.
In fact, the public fervor for democracy is alive and well.
On Sunday night, 200 people staged a protest in Mong Kok which ended in violence. The cause of the incident is insignificant but it showed some citizens can organize mass action without help from pan-democrats.
These people were so disenchanted with pan-democrats in their fight for true democracy they decided to go it alone.
If nothing else, it’s a sign of growing political awareness among the people.
Beijing officials perhaps think that pro-democracy forces no longer have the means or the heart to mount the kind of large-scale protest we saw last year, so they have downgraded Hong Kong’s political reform issue.
Pan-democrats have 27 votes in the Legislative Council and they alone can decide the outcome of political reform, regardless of public opinion or the sloppy government campaign led by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam.
So why the pan-democrats’ inaction?
Perhaps it’s because they can no longer pull off something big.
Only 2,000 people took part in the Feb. 1 march this year. It is hard to tell how many people will turn out for the July 1 march if the political reform package is voted down in June.
The actual number of participants in the July 1 rally is not a major concern for the Hong Kong government and the Communist Party.
What worries them most is what people will do afterwards.
Experience shows that the march is often only a prelude to serious disturbances for which organizers don’t accept responsibility.
The question is, will Hongkongers still take to the streets if the political reform package fails to pass?
It seems to me that more people would rather vent their frustrations by joining the so-called “shopping parades” in Mong Kok, or by reflecting on why the Umbrella Movement failed.
As for the pan-democrats, they should ask themselves if they have moved on from the Umbrella Movement as much as ordinary citizens have.
They should not be under any illusion that the Communist Party will relent and make concessions as happened five years ago.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 28.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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