'Occupy' has taken a heavy toll on Hong Kong

Updated: 2014-12-12 07:49

By Leung Kwok-leung(HK Edition)

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All road barricades built by "Occupy Central" in the vicinity of the government headquarters in Admiralty were removed on Thursday. Opposition members of the Legislative Council (LegCo), leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism were also removed.

The area was where the illegal campaign started. Many people unsurprisingly found it fitting to end the much-loathed campaign exactly where it began.

With labels such as "genuine universal suffrage" and "true democracy", "Occupy" managed to fool some into supporting its unconstitutional demands when its initiators began promoting the illegal movement last year as an act of "civil disobedience".

However, soon after it began in late September, it became apparent to the public that the organizers could not keep their promise of "peaceful protest" and "civil disobedience". These were replaced by violence and vandalism. In less than three months it managed to anger many people and stoke public resentment. Nobody should be surprised when people applauded the recent clearance operations.

Thursday's clearance of the Admiralty protest site went peacefully, with no resistance. This was a relief to many people. Thousands of police officers assisted the clearances. Thankfully they didn't need to use force. But this was not because the remaining occupiers wanted to cooperate. Millions of viewers saw on TV that the protesters were agitated. But they only have the organizers to blame for the "sad" ending.

Nobody can win popular support by acting contrary to the public interest. Police officers assisting the clearance operation in Admiralty deserve to be applauded for their professionalism and common sense. This was shown in abundance after the High Court granted an injunction against the protest site at the request of All China Express, a chartered bus company whose business depends upon the streets which have been blocked for over two months. The injunction authorizes the Hong Kong Police Force to provide assistance when bailiffs deem it necessary.

In addition to promising full cooperation with the bailiffs, the police force issued a public announcement on Wednesday. This detailed the scope of its obligations throughout the operation and included advice for the public to stay away from the site for their own safety. It also said traffic would resume when the last barricade had been removed.

Diehard occupiers vowed to resist the clearance operation. Spreading rumors that police would act before daybreak, they urged their supporters to join them on the eve of the last day of the illegal occupation. The police immediately rejected these claims and reaffirmed its schedule for Thursday. The ridiculous performance of certain leading "pan-democrat" figures during Thursday's clearance operation was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

A dozen or so opposition LegCo members were seen among the remaining occupiers, chanting slogans in a show of solidarity. They used the excuse that they were there to persuade the students to leave before something terrible happened.

Maybe they thought many more would follow their example and join the occupiers. But this did not materialize. Leaders of the two student organizations together with a few "influential figures" - such as their financial backer Jimmy Lai and retired Democratic Party founder Martin Lee - were all that remained. The rest were mostly young students following their leaders. They were all removed by police officers without resistance after the barricades had been removed. "Occupy" has unquestionably failed to achieve its goals. Sadly it has inflicted some serious damage on Hong Kong.

Firstly, it left visitors to the city with an unfavorable impression. They expected to see a civilized, harmonious and law-abiding community. Instead, they saw a deeply divided society torn apart over politics. The economy was also hurt, as the masterminds of the illegal movement intended.

Although the campaign did not succeed in really occupying Central, the blockades in Admiralty, Mon Kok and Causeway Bay harmed nearby small businesses. It also gave leading international rating agencies good reason to consider downgrading Hong Kong in the near future.

A cornerstone of Hong Kong's stability and prosperity, the rule of law, was greatly undermined by the illegal campaign. This was done in the name of "civil disobedience".

Hone Kong will take some time to recover from the damage caused by "Occupy Central". Hong Kong people should carefully consider whether they want something like this to happen again.

The author is a veteran journalist based in Hong Kong.

(HK Edition 12/12/2014 page1)