• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 10:35am
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


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

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.
"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.
Mr Chow, have you ever thought that how many times HK has been tricked by Beijing. individual tourist scheme brings **** and disturbance to HK people. The outbreak of SARS attributed to the mishandling of central authorities. Now it comes to universal suffrage. And the open secret is that Beijing loves breaking promises made "in the best interests of Hong Kong".
The rights to choose the leader has been taught in kindergarten and absolutely rightful. What is unreasonable is universal suffrage is unconstitutional in that rubbish Basic Law. The rationale behind it is only to protect the interests of the Communist Party.
Also, dun hijack the views of the silent majority in Hong Kong. Although im one of them but not as vocal as those participated in the sit-in, what government been doing lately really puts me off.
Think twice before you type Robert Chow.
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.
I hate eating durian, and if you present me a choice of thai durian, indonesian durian, or malaysian durian and say I must choose, of course I'm not going to choose.
The referendum started out with 15 proposals, and was deliberately restricted by a selection committee not unlike the nomination committee that the referendum is against(the irony of this is still beyond me).
My view is that we have not found a system of government and election that is right for HK, and voting in this referendum means I am settling for something that is half-baked. My view is that we consider the CCP and to an extent mainland China to be our enemy, when they are sitting there at the table with us with a big chunk of the decision.
I exercised my right not to vote, which I am entitled to. And no offense, but the majority of HK also exercised their right not to participate.
It's great that you feel passionate about this referendum, but I don't share your passion. I have no moral obligation to vote in it, I have no moral obligation to participate.
This referendum holds as much importance to me as the by-election vote a couple of years ago (not much).
For people to say that this referendum represents the majority of HK, that I can't agree with, sorry, just not accurate.
Don't forget, this referendum assumes you support the pan-democrats as well as Occupy Central. I do not agree with either nor will I support either, and I think that what they are doing hurts Hong Kong rather then helps us progress.
"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."
OK, let's have a vote. You said it, Mr Chow. Nothing to be afraid of if you're right. And Occupy Central and the pan-democrats will deservedly be put in their place.
Oh really? No... really? Am I dreaming?

Really? You want to play the numbers game?

So you say 790,000 voters is not enough for OC to have the people's backing. Uhuh. Hold onto that thought, please do. And that the pro-dems, with their 27 seats and 1m (it was not 'under 1m,' but 1,018,552 to be precise) votes in the last LegCo elections can't be taken to represent the overall population of Hong Kong. Uhuh.

Are you, Robert Chow, stupid, dishonest, just a propaganda tool, or all of the above?

Here is a number for you then. Ready? In the 2012 LegCo elections, the DAB and their allies got 772,487 votes.

That is less than voted in the OC poll. Of course, because of the rigged FC system, the DAB&Co still got a majority in LegCo. After all, the system is designed to ensure a LegCo majority for the pro-Beijing parties, no matter how feeble popular support.

But please note once and for all: the legitimacy of the government's LegCo majority and by proxy its executive branch rests on that number: 772,487 popular votes and not a soul more. Less than 22% of registered voters and barely 10% of the population.

So if you want to argue that such a level of support, in official elections or in the OC poll is not sufficient to draw any conclusions and that there is a wholly different 'silent' majority out there, then you should begin by arguing in favour of the immediate and complete dismissal of the current government and all of its policies. Funny world huh.
Impala, you are comparing apples and oranges when you bring up the 2012 elections.
One is a poll over 10 days where you can vote online, through your mobile as well as at polling stations. The other requires a lengthy voter pre-registration process, and although there are significantly greater number of voting stations, lasts just 1 day.
Based on this report from the election committee ****www.legco.gov.hk/yr12-13/english/panels/ca/papers/ca1217cb2-306-e.pdf, a total of 1,838,722 votes were cast on just 1 day. This is the number you should be comparing to the 800,000 votes cast in the referendum.
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.



SCMP.com Account