15 October 2018
Protesters wear masks with the words "689 Step Down", referring to Leung Chun-ying. Photo: HKEJ
Protesters wear masks with the words "689 Step Down", referring to Leung Chun-ying. Photo: HKEJ

What’s the point of the Jan 1 march?

It used to be an occasion to demand that CY Leung step down.

But now that Leung has said he will not seek reelection, protesters are running out of reasons for the Jan. 1 march.

On the contrary, Hong Kong people have warmed a little toward Leung, according to a new survey by the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Program.

The survey shows that Leung’s popularity rating has rebounded four points to 39, although still below the warning line of 45. His latest approval rating is 21 percent against a disapproval rating of 74 percent for a net popularity rating of negative 53 percentage points.

Against that backdrop, Hong Kong people may be in no mood to march on the first day of the new year.

Marching to protest the government’s efforts to disqualify four directly elected lawmakers over the oath-taking saga might be a good theme but the fact is that Hong Kong people may have lost fervor for it.

The public is moving on. It has shifted its attention to the upcoming chief executive election and how the race is shaping up.

Also, it is watching how Beijing will fine-tune its policy toward Hong Kong with the shake-up of senior officials of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council.

The Civil Human Rights Front, organizer of the march, is worried that the turnout might be low compared with those in previous years.

With Leung no longer a target to kick around, the protesters are likely to demand that the government withdraw its legal application to strip four lawmakers of their seats over their improper oath-taking.

A lower turnout for the annual march could hit a proposed fundraising for the four lawmakers who are seeking to raise HK$5 million to pay for legal fees.

Some argue that the fundraising does not have broad backing. Not all participants are supporters of the four.

Hong Kong people, especially leaders of the opposition camp, should instead spend more time studying the fast changing political situation between Hong Kong and China or risk losing touch with Beijing’s political plans.

For example, the State Council’s recent reshuffle of senior officials of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office could provide some hints about Beijing’s policy direction.

The State Council said early this week that Zhou Bo had been removed as deputy director of the office.

Replacing him will be Song Zhe, who is currently commissioner in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, as well as Huang Liuquan, director general of the office’s legal department. Wang Guangya will remain director.

Some political observers say the new appointments could indicate a softer approach toward Hong Kong,

Song, who used to be a diplomat based in Britain, could play a key role in dealing with London on the implementation of “one country, two systems”.

Analysts expect the next shake-up to involve the Liaison Office of the Central Government in Hong Kong, led by Zhang Xiaoming.

It could have a bigger impact on Hong Kong as the Liaison Office has been regarded as the power behind the Hong Kong government.

The opposition should seize the opportunity to voice their concern over how Beijing’s increased interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs is undermining its promised high degree of autonomy.

Zhang is said to have urged lawmaker Regina Ip to be the president of the Legislative Council, an example of how Beijing tried to manipulate Hong Kong affairs behind the scenes.

But the opposition did not bring the issue to a higher level to remind Hong Kong people how bad the situation has become.

The opposition must now stop mouthing slogans and take a macro perspective to raise public awareness of the political situation and protect Hong Kong’s uniqueness in a concrete manner.

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EJ Insight writer

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