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  • Aug 21, 2014
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Occupy Central
CommentInsight & Opinion

Occupy Central has support … but it's hardly a majority

Robert Chow says while Occupy Central and their allies can claim to have some public support, most Hongkongers in fact favour negotiation over their all-or-nothing approach

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 July, 2014, 4:56pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 July, 2014, 4:22am
 

Occupy Central and its supporters must feel they are on top of the world. They just had a pretty successful two weeks, culminating in a good turnout for the July 1 protest march. They claimed half a million people were there, though the far more believable and scientific University of Hong Kong estimate said 170,000.

Nonetheless, even 170,000 is a significant figure, the highest since the marches of 2003 and 2004.

And then there was the supposed "civil referendum" in which Occupy Central claimed some 790,000 people voted. Although the figure was ridiculed by many, it cannot be denied that a lot of people did vote, and that the turnout was probably in six figures.

The only blemish was the arrest of hundreds of protesters who "occupied" Chater Road after the march.

The obvious question is: what next? Not just for Occupy Central, but also for the Hong Kong government and Beijing. And what about the rest of Hong Kong's seven million population?

It seems that Occupy Central feels rightly that it has earned the credentials to negotiate with the government and Beijing on political reform, and will insist on civil nomination of candidates. After all, they do appear to have the people's backing. But do they?

Beijing and the Hong Kong government have made it absolutely clear that civil nomination is unconstitutional, for it does not conform to the Basic Law. What country in the world will blatantly allow its government to introduce unconstitutional rules into law?

Once we take this into consideration, Hong Kong would appear to have reached an impasse on political reform.

Perhaps the second question in Occupy Central's so-called referendum is a dead giveaway. More than 80 per cent of the voters said if they could not have "genuine democracy", they would rather see the political reform proposal vetoed.

So is that the bottom line of Occupy Central and its supporters: all or nothing?

If that is the case, Hong Kong can practically kiss democracy and universal suffrage goodbye. One side claiming to have sufficient public backing is insisting on an unconstitutional method, which will be rejected.

The only question left is whether they will throw in a major occupation movement and mess up our city for good measure, thereby forcing a breakdown in any possible negotiations. Once that happens, Occupy Central will have forced all 27 pan-democratic legislators to close ranks and veto whatever package is on the table, barring one that features civil nomination.

That is why the number of voters is so important. The pan-democrats got fewer than a million votes in 2012, which gave them 27 seats. If 80 per cent of 790,000 voters say they don't mind not having democracy in 2017, it means the pan-democrats' votes would still be intact if they were to veto the reform plan.

Of course, if the true figure of voters is a mere 300,000 or 400,000, then it is hardly reassuring for any legislators looking to stay in office in two years' time.

For the government and Beijing, it is perhaps fair for them to ask the obvious question: why are the pan-democrats, having fought so hard for democracy for two decades or more, allowing themselves to be pushed into a position of insisting on something unconstitutional, just a step away from bringing democracy to Hong Kong?

And why can't Hong Kong legislators sit down and negotiate for the best package and democratic deal for Hong Kong? Who indeed is the puppeteer behind Occupy Central that is dictating things?

I guess the same question is also on the minds of many Hong Kong people who have seen 150 years of British colonial rule producing nothing, and are thinking that democracy after 17 years of Chinese rule must be a miracle. Too bad they will be disappointed, if things keep moving the way they have been.

Parties on the opposing sides - Beijing and the government on one, and Occupy Central and the pan-democrats on the other - must not write off the silent majority of Hong Kong just like that. The majority will not always remain silent.

It is high time to take the question of peace and democracy to the people of Hong Kong and let them speak out. Poll after poll has told us that only 25 per cent of the people support Occupy Central, and upwards of 60 per cent of the population are against it. And more than half of the people in a poll organised by a Chinese newspaper said they would even accept an election where there are no pan-democratic candidates.

Such reports must be terrible to hear for politicians who believe they are invincible or God's gift to the people.

If the silent majority speaks and speaks out loudly enough, will the legislators forsake their Occupy Central yoke and chain and negotiate for Hong Kong?

Yes, Occupy Central can claim it has support, as evidenced by the figures of their referendum vote, as well as by the march on July 1. But the question remains, is that support from most Hongkongers, or just some of the people?

This question can never be answered until the silent majority of Hong Kong is asked and given the opportunity to speak up.

For Hong Kong, I guess Occupy Central has had a pretty good first half. The whistle is going to blow for the second half. So let the game begin.

Robert Chow is convener of the Silent Majority for Hong Kong

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This article is now closed to comments

bill8575_1998@yahoo.com
I am a centrist. I did not vote for 2 reasons. I am oversea. The other is that I think the pan-democrats in HK should do more to reach consensus, not just on the election but many civil topics. With that said, contrary to the conciliatory tone of Mr. Chow's write-up above, the against-occupy-central forces had been and probably still are using scare and threatening tactics which are back-firing. I must admit that I am leaning in favor of the occupy central camp, especially when they show that they can operate in a peaceful manner.
nmp_inc
The only blemish was the police violence, not the peaceful protesters exercising their rights.
Occupy Central has a lot more support than to do the underground communist and united front forces like Silent Majority, Caring Hong Kong Power, et al. in Hong Kong though the latter apparently have the authoritarian weight of the PLA and now HK Police Force behind them.
Its really disingenuous for a united front face to talk about whether another group has the support of the public or not when it and its patron - the Chinese Communist Party - are inherently opposed and scared of holding real referendums to ascertain the people's will.
The real question here is how little support the red forces have, not the democratic ones.
321manu
"What country in the world will blatantly allow its government to introduce unconstitutional rules into law?"
---the fundamental difference, in democratic countries at least, is that said constitution is the product of their own people. In HK's case, it was imposed upon them by BJ and Britain.
Now, of course, HK is not a country. But the author used the comparison himself. So what he should really ask is: what country is bound by a constitution that somebody else wrote?
Indeed, the vote in the referendum is a small fraction of the total HK population. However, Q2 gave the option of "not vetoing" even in the face of a substandard proposal. If this "silent majority" really felt that any election is better than no election, where was the turnout to voice that sentiment? Are we to assume that everyone who didn't vote would want to accept just any garbage that Beijing offers?
Remember also that this was a vote, and not a poll. If you don't vote, you've surrendered the moral authority to question the result.
gunzy
Your opinion on what it means to abstain is significantly different from mine. I didn't vote for 2 reasons:
1. If people are hacking the site, why would I willingly give my name, ID card AND phone number to this website? That's just asking for trouble.
2. I did not agree with any of the choices in the first question, abstaining is not a choice at all. Why would I answer the second question if I won't even answer the first?
.
Moral Authority over the popvote result? Good luck finding anyone who will take this vote seriously then.
321manu
If you didn't want to vote electronically, you could've done so in person. If you really wanted to vote, you would've found a way.
Have you ever taken a multiple choice exam before? Have you ever selected none of the above? How is that "not a choice at all"?
Q1 has no direct bearing on Q2. That you refuse to answer Q1 in no way precludes you from answering Q2, if you were so inclined.
I think there are at least 787K people who took this vote seriously. As for the much ballyhooed "Silent majority", they have that moniker for a reason...they've yet to disclose their preference, since they've been silent. There is no basis for presuming their inclinations one way or another.
53ae0c69-5e94-4706-924a-743c0a320969
321 manu, this is only your interpretation. I did not vote for exactly the same 2nd reason as gunzy. Even the organizers themselves admitted openly that a vote of abstention would be difficult to interpret as it can mean a number of things.
321manu
If a majority of Q1 voters had chosen to abstain, my suspicion is that CCP types would have offered up an interpretation of such a result in about 1.2 seconds: the majority of voters don't want any form of public nomination. It is true that abstention doesn't reveal what one wants, but it certainly reveals what one doesn't want...and that's any of the choices on offer.
53ae0c69-5e94-4706-924a-743c0a320969
321manu, a vote of abstention can also mean you are not sure about which choice, rather than necessarily you don't agree with it. I didn't vote because I didn't want the organizers to manipulate the votes of abstention.
321manu
And that's your choice. In the end, there weren't that many abstention votes for them to manipulate.
gunzy
"And that's your choice. In the end, there weren't that many abstention votes for them to manipulate."
.
We shouldn't be surprised at the number who abstained.
.
What would be an interesting statistic are the number of people who registered to vote but didn't. An other statistic I would like to see is how many people got to the page where you enter your name, id card and phone number but did not submit.

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