Cool-off for 'Occupy' campaign more likely

Updated: 2014-05-29 06:21

By Albert Lin (HK Edition)

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Cool-off for 'Occupy' campaign more likely

Enlightened observers are pointing to a range of indicators that suggest a possible cool-off in the "Occupy Central" civil disobedience campaign.

One of the most important reasons for this is undoubtedly the recent change in leadership of the "Occupy" movement, with Reverend Chu Yiu-ming replacing Benny Tai Yiu-ting, who was the instigator of the campaign back in January last year. Tai's fiery views struck a chord with rebellious-minded students itching to flex their muscles over what their immature minds consider a righteous cause. But will they wholeheartedly support Chu?

He is, by contrast, a white-haired Baptist minister aged 70, who is a leading human rights advocate in Hong Kong with influential connections among local activists of more mature age - attributes not necessarily appealing to high-spirited youths.

Within weeks of his appointment, Chu launched a drive to widen the membership of the "Occupy" movement, trying to attract, in particular, lower-income workers and women - a drive that, by his own admission, has so far fallen rather flat.

Arguably a still more important development was the warning of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in the Legislative Council (LegCo) last week that financial, business and professional companies based in the central business district plan to sue the "Occupy" organizers for any losses or damage they suffer. He added that they fear "severe financial losses" if movement through Central is paralyzed.

Combined with Leung's fully justified criticism of filibustering, this tough line apparently triggered the demeaning "bun fight" in LegCo. This led to the expulsion of some protesting radical lawmakers and the shameful chaos that forced the closure of the session.

Also, while not directly related to the campaign, it was nevertheless significant that 10 pan-democratic lawmakers took part in last month's LegCo visit to Shanghai, where they were accorded a separate two-hour meeting with three of the most senior Beijing officials handling Hong Kong affairs, Li Fei, Wang Guangya and Zhang Xiaoming.

Meanwhile, the launch of the "Occupy" campaign has been quietly postponed from June to July. Somebody should have told the organizers June is the rainiest month of the year. The young "troops" might then have objected to sitting grimly out in the pelting rain risking pneumonia!

And several months ago, just when it seemed nobody was doing anything to stand up to the "Occupy" trouble-makers, a group of intellectuals and professionals launched the Silent Majority for Hong Kong movement with its six socially conscious convenors. What a superbly appropriate title they choose for themselves, magnificently summing up who and what they stand for.

They have since been most articulate in explaining the ongoing problems the "Occupy" campaign is most likely going to generate.

Meanwhile, we can take comfort from the reassurance by Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung that police had undergone "extra trainings" to cope with "Occupy" activists. He added that: "Whether Occupy Central is illegal or not will depend on the actual action of those involved during it."

Naturally the commissioner did not provide any details about the training. But we can be rest assured that the police, with its high standards of professionalism and discipline, will have thoroughly absorbed other cities' lessons in crowd control.

Predictably the opposition camp claimed the commissioner had acted under "political pressure".

What abject twaddle! The paramount duty of the police is to ensure law and order are preserved across Hong Kong, meaning that if and when these student hotheads undertake their illegal blockade of the streets of Central, the police will take action. It is as simple as that. Trying to equate their disruptive behavior, which will inevitably cause serious financial losses and affect international confidence in Hong Kong, with the civil disobedience campaigns of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. is preposterous.

Chu would be well advised to weigh the pros and cons of setting in motion an illegal protest that could get completely out of hand and touch off an extremely regrettable situation.

Let us hope that sanity prevails, and that as a man of the cloth he opts for a peaceful course instead of one that is both disruptive and destructive, not forgetting that many a young career might be blighted with a criminal record.

It was to guard against this possibility that Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim issued his recent plea to students not to participate in such an illegal campaign - a plea also aimed at the students' parents and their teachers.

For his common-sense warning he was unjustly lambasted by pan-democratic lawmakers for "meddling in teachers' roles, applying political pressure and creating 'white terror'" - whatever that means!

The author is the op-ed editor of China Daily Hong Kong Edition.

(HK Edition 05/29/2014 page9)