Silent majority successfully defies 'Occupy Central'

Updated: 2014-08-19 07:20

By Leung Kwok-leung(HK Edition)

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Some estimates say more than 190,000 residents participated in the mass march organized by the Alliance for Peace and Democracy (APD) against "Occupy Central" on Sunday. It was an empathetic show of popular support for the peaceful implementation of universal suffrage. It was also a rejection of the illegal campaign by opposition groups who plan to paralyze Hong Kong's financial business district.

The rally was held at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay - the preferred location and starting point for virtually all public events of this scale. Originally the march was set to begin at 2 pm, but the enormous turnout prompted organizers to leave 30 minutes ahead of schedule to ease overcrowding on the route.

The organizers said more than 1,000 civil groups boasting a combined membership of over 150,000 had signed up for the public gathering and procession. In order to count the number of participants more accurately, the organizers prepared 200,000 plastic flowers and asked people to take one. The final count was over 190,000. This was many more than the number of participants in the July 1 march organized by the opposition camp. The latter started at Victoria Park with about 92,000 people, according to police estimates, and reached up to 98,600. The opposition camp, as always, inflated the number to over half a million. They more than tripled the optimistic estimates of its most trusted pollster (between 154,000 and 172,000). If the opposition's formula applies, the anti-"Occupy" rally on Aug 17 would have outnumbered the July 1 march 626,000 to 510,000.

The reason I made the above comparison is the opposition has consistently resorted to inflating numbers to justify its claims of mainstream public support for their causes. If this matchup is not convincing enough, one can find an even more solid proof in the more than 1.5 million signatures collected by the APD in less than a month. This compares with the 780,000 "votes" received in the online "referendum" held by "Occupy" organizers. The "referendum" was organized to support their unconstitutional demand for "public nomination" in the 2017 Chief Executive election by universal suffrage. The majority of the more than 1.5 million signatures were collected from Hong Kong residents, with real ID cards. By contrast the online "popular vote" could not prevent cheating with fake IDs and repeat voting. The "electronic referendum" was open to anyone regardless of eligibility (under-aged and/or non-Hong Kong residents). But it was also designed to back claims of popularity by counting all "clicks" of the voting page as "yes" votes - even though some visitors to the page did not intend to vote.

The opposition camp had failed to learn a lesson from the success of the anti-"Occupy" petition. Obviously it is not concerned that many citizens oppose its unlawful behavior. Instead it attacked the APD and those who support the anti-"Occupy" campaign. Its media allies have spread misinformation about the petition. They have hurled groundless accusations at opponents of "Occupy" as well as the APD. They even accused people who supported the APD of "accepting money" for their signatures!

Some pro-"Occupy" commentators have tried to glamorize the illegal movement. They claim "many people participated in both activities (the online 'referendum' and anti-'Occupy' petition)"; and others signed up only because they saw the phrase "universal suffrage". Not surprisingly they also used this opportunity to attack Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. They accuse him of forcing government employees to lend their names to the anti-"Occupy" petition. These claims lack any real evidence.

The verbal attacks against the APD and public rejection of "Occupy Central" was launched when the petition approached 1 million. So it is obvious the opposition camp became desperate. The founders of the APD have been calling for peaceful, rational discussion. Their anti-"Occupy" stance is widely known not only in Hong Kong but also on the mainland. The sign boards bearing the words "Opposing 'Occupy Central' and Ensuring Universal Suffrage" at every petition stand were impossible to miss. How could anyone fail to see it opposed the illegal movement?

Many who signed the petition in support of the anti-"Occupy" campaign also participated in the march on Sunday. They represent the majority view of Hong Kong residents regarding constitutional reform. They also indicate a broad rejection of "Occupy". If the opposition camp refuses to recognize this and insists on defying the wishes of the public, it will continue to alienate the public. It will also be doomed to failure.

The author is a veteran journalist based in Hong Kong.

(HK Edition 08/19/2014 page9)