Occupy Central

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