16 February 2019
The Occupy Movement provided an opportunity for Hong Kong people to reflect on the city's democratization path. Photo: Bloomberg
The Occupy Movement provided an opportunity for Hong Kong people to reflect on the city's democratization path. Photo: Bloomberg

A paradigm shift in our pro-democracy movement

The Occupy Movement will definitely earn a place in history because it not only raised political awareness among an entire generation in Hong Kong, it also provided an opportunity for us to reflect on the democratization process of our city over the past three decades.

The movement, despite its apparent lack of success, has triggered a series of paradigm shifts in the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, and set a new tone for the way forward for the city’s democratizaton process.

The first shift is that we need a broader goal than just fighting for democracy under the Basic Law.

The so-called “831 resolution” announced by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee back in 2014 indicated that Beijing simply has a different and rather twisted notion of democracy, and the kind of manipulated election arranged under the framework of the 831 resolution is the best deal Beijing would ever grant us.

Hence, it would be completely meaningless if we continue to waste our energy on arguing with Beijing and trying to get a better deal under the existing constitutional framework.

In order to achieve the real kind of liberal democracy and free elections that we want, we need to topple the status quo and change the macro-constitutional environment we are in. Simply put, from now on we must shift our goal from just fighting for free elections in Hong Kong to redefining our relationship with Beijing.

The second shift is that we must from now on see our fight for democracy as a process in which we are fighting for democratic self-determination as a region that shares the same cultural identity, rather than just as people in one of the many cities in China demanding a free election.

To achieve that, we must win the recognition of the international community. We must draw as much international attention as we can, even if that risks angering Beijing.

Another shift is that in the post-Occupy era, peaceful and non-violent means are no longer the only option in our fight for democracy. As indicated in the Occupy Movement, a more pro-active and even aggressive form of civil disobedience action has become increasingly popular among young social activists.

Going forward, such action might go hand-in-hand with peaceful means in our fight for democracy.

Also, a simple top-down leadership is likely to give way to a bottom-up decision-making process in the pro-democracy movement in the future.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 2.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong

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