Should 'Occupy Central' protesters get off scot-free?

Updated: 2014-11-28 07:11

By Harry Ong(HK Edition)

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Now that the back of the "Occupy Central" movement has been broken, would it be appropriate for the many students who have been involved to return to their universities and secondary schools and resume their studies as if nothing had happened?

Many in the community would like to see some action taken against them as a sort of penalty for the totally unnecessary disruptions they caused to our economic well-being and lifestyle.

"You mustn't do that!" I can hear thousands of affected parents responding. "They mostly got those ideas from what they were being taught, so it would be unfair to take any action against them since they're not to blame. Besides, it might affect their futures. Once they graduate they'll be looking to join the workforce."

To which responsible members of the community reply: "Well, while they were sitting on their backsides on the streets and causing so much trouble, why didn't they think about their futures then - they had nothing else to do."

There is another important point involved - the fate of rebellious young workers who left their jobs to join the protests. Their employers will never take them back, and as a result of the downturn they helped create in trade and for industry and business in general, they are not likely to find alternative jobs in the near future. So would it be fair and reasonable for the students to get off scot-free while their employed comrades lose their jobs?

The first thing that needs to be done is to establish the facts. All the educational institutions that had absentee students during the period must compile a list of every one of them, listing the period of absence of each. This would differentiate between a student who took a day or two off his/her studies to observe what was happening, and sensibly decided not to join in and returned to school - a very different case from one who was absent for almost all of the period concerned.

Discussions with friends involved in business have produced a reasonable proposal concerning what should happen when these "rebels" graduate. Firstly they should be denied the dignity of attendance at the celebratory graduation ceremony. Also their graduation certificate should carry a prominent black stamp across the top left of the parchment stating very clearly something like "NOTE: This student was absent from lessons for ?? days during the 'Occupy Central' campaign between September and November 2014".

Since graduation certificates are displayed with great pride in the offices of many former graduates, this measure would put to the test the strength of character of these trouble-making protesters. If they still firmly believe they were right in their actions, let them display their graduation certificates publicly, confirming their absence from their studies during the "Occupy" protest period. But if, with hindsight, they realize that they acted stupidly, unnecessarily causing so much disruption, let them keep their certificates of their qualifications at the bottom of a desk drawer.

Meanwhile, Tuesday and Wednesday's clearance of the barricades on streets in Mong Kok seemed to confirm the impression that quite a few demonstrators themselves are as sick and tired of the protests as the rest of Hong Kong. But still there was a minority of diehards who tried to oppose the actions of the authorities, resulting in scores of arrests. Perhaps a night in the cells would prove to be a powerful wake-up call for these obstinate intransigents.

It is most interesting to note that after so many weeks of disregarding the authority of the police, the protesters accepted the authority of the court bailiffs, which sprang from an injunction taken out by the Chiu Luen Public Light Bus Company.

Since most of the protesters obeyed that court injunction, why can't occupants of nearby residential buildings also seek an injunction to free up the streets throughout their neighbourhood?

That could have been done weeks ago, and presuming the courts had issued the relevant injunctions it is quite possible disruptions to street traffic would have been halted some weeks ago.

Two taxi groups have also been granted injunctions regarding their right to have free use of Nathan Road.

It is to be hoped that the demonstrators also recognize the validity of these injunctions, enabling the bailiffs to eventually re-open all of Nathan Road.

The author is a seasoned observer of Asian affairs.

(HK Edition 11/28/2014 page1)