Activists' next move crucial, say analysts

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2011, 12:00am


Demonstrators in the anti-capitalism 'Occupy Central' campaign bedded down for a third night underneath HSBC's Central headquarters last night, but experts say whether the campaign will take root in the city depends on the protesters' next move.

About 30 people slept, read, chatted and played instruments on couches and on the ground in the public space as the campaign entered the first working day since it started on Saturday. Some campaigners went to work and returned to support their colleagues during the lunch hour and after work, while others took leave from school or work.

Office workers passing through the area gave them curious glances and took pictures. Many said they did not find the group an obstruction; others felt they were just having fun and were not serious in their action.

Leung Wing-lai, a programme host with Citizens' Radio, said the site had become more homely after the demonstrators had spent the weekend there. 'We don't encourage our participants to always skip school and work, so some of them come back in the evening ... it's really like a home to us now.'

The demonstrators were planning to bring in stoves and make simple breakfasts for passers-by.

'When you're at home, you don't buy ready-made food all the time. That's why we're trying to cook here,' said Iris Yau Ka-yue, a 19-year-old secondary school student who was skipping classes to be there.

Yu Yeuk-mei, a university instructor in creative writing, said she would try to bring students to the site and hold lectures there today. 'It's a good opportunity for them to gather first-hand information about what is happening in the world,' she said.

Observers, meanwhile, said Occupy Central was in a budding stage of development. Whether it would gain support and turn into a movement depended on how the group maintained visibility and rallied people to its cause. Dr Lam Wai-man, a political scientist at the University of Hong Kong, said while Occupy Central reflected local discontent - with the unequal spread of wealth and lopsided economic development that benefited only a few - it was also part of a global anti-capitalist movement that was just taking shape.

'While the agenda [of Hong Kong protesters] may differ from those in Wall Street, I see it as multiple discourses within a single framework,' Lam said. 'Occupy Wall Street' is mainly a middle-class protest; Hong Kong's demonstration is oriented towards the needs of the poor. The activists must show they could sharpen their critique of the economic system and connect with other protesters around the world, she said.

Agnes Ku Shuk-mei, associate professor of social science at the University of Science and Technology, said: 'We cannot ignore the international dimension. Finance itself is a global network today. [Occupy Central] will not last forever. What would be interesting to monitor would be the significance of those actions, and whether it would inspire more.'