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  • Sep 18, 2014
  • Updated: 11:00am
Occupy Central
CommentInsight & Opinion

Anti-Occupy movement to blame for polarisation in Hong Kong

Evan Fowler says organisation of its petition and rally shows it seeks neither to engage nor educate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 August, 2014, 2:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 1:53am

I recently caught up with an old friend who has spent the past four years in Shanghai. He and his family have relocated back to Hong Kong for work. "Hong Kong is not the same city we left," he said. "There's been a fundamental change."

When I asked him what he meant, he told me how, over a family dinner, his brother-in-law had received an email from work ordering him to sign a petition. If he did not, the email threatened, he would lose his job. He signed the petition.

"No one at dinner seemed bothered by what was said," my friend said. "This is not the Hong Kong I know."

The petition he was asked to sign is being run by the Alliance for Peace and Democracy. They choose not to engage an independent organisation to design, run or verify the poll. There is no mechanism to prevent double counting. Children and non-Hong Kong residents can and have been encouraged to sign.

Indeed, when a volunteer was videoed signing the petition twice in front of Robert Chow Yung, the leader of the alliance, his response was first to ask whether it had been caught on camera. When told that it had, he told the journalists present to "well, go write about it".

The petition claims to represent the "silent majority" of people who don't support Occupy Central, or "Occupy Central with Love and Peace", to use the full name of the movement. The four questions posed are: Do you support peace? Do you support democracy? Are you against violence? Are you against Occupy Central? These simple questions reinforce political ignorance.

Chow spoke of people being threatened by "what Occupy Central really represents". But the position of the alliance is itself never stated in the petition, and yet it claims the people's support for Beijing's line.

Why has Occupy Central caused such offence?

Firstly, it proposes a democratic process by which all Hong Kong people may suggest and then vote on a position on democratic reform to put to the government. From here, we can negotiate the level of political reform for Hong Kong, as outlined in the Basic Law.

Yes, this may mean demands for democratic reform beyond that which has been spelled out in the Basic Law, but they are also the conditions required for legitimate government.

Secondly, Occupy Central carries a threat, grounded on the results of a long and open consultation process and two referendums, for 10,000 people to peacefully occupy Central district for a limited and given time. They do not wish to shut down the city, nor can they. Thousands of domestic workers occupy Central each Sunday. What is proposed is a symbolic act of civil disobedience intended to embarrass authority by showing, as Rosa Parks once did, that some people are not prepared to sit where they are told.

Hong Kong has become polarised. But by whose actions and in whose advantage?

The Occupy Central referendum and the July 1 march united the democratic camp, not in specifics but around what the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong people agree on in principle: a government that is genuinely representative for this unique city of China; and less interference in our internal affairs. For all its fault, Occupy Central has tried to unite Hong Kong people around these common goals.

By contrast, the alliance and its petition has not sought to educate or engage. It has played the patriot card to villagers in the northern New Territories; the business card to the journeymen of Central; and the pacifist card to middle-class housewives.

It has encouraged and abetted public servants, including senior civil servants and policemen, to publicly exercise a personal right, thereby inviting more suspicion of a biased system.

It has acted with indifference to the flood of reports of businesses demanding employees sign the petition, from not only the likes of Nanyang Commercial Bank and Bank of China, but also veritable Hong Kong companies including Henderson Land Development and Towngas.

In seeking numbers, it has had to remind partner organisations not to pay cash to signatories. Still, the reports come in, with amounts reportedly varying from HK$150 to HK$400.

And when news spread of the quantity of gifts, from vouchers to free transport and meals, Chow said such largesse was similarly provided at the US civil rights marches of the 1960s. Those protesters did not march for a free meal. Nor did the organisers have such deep pockets.

Hong Kong has become politicised, but let's not be blind to who's responsible. And if Hong Kong is polarised, let us look at who is asking us to take sides, and who benefits from instability.

In troubled times, it is strong rather than just leadership that many instinctively turn to. Does only one side represent democracy and peace? Or have these labels been hijacked by those who, in their actions, demonstrate the corruption of power?

Evan Fowler is a Hong Kong-based essayist

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This article is now closed to comments

whymak
You sound just like another moron in those I-said-he-said hate fest. Thumping your nose at us while holding your breath shows clearly your expat superciliousness.
There are reasonable Hong Kongers on either side of this ideological divide. Unfortunately, fanatics brainwashed by the Democracy Cult are bent on destroying one country two systems. We are freer than ever since 1997. So why do expats and airhead HKers want random elections to drag us down to the level of gridlocked and dysfunctional governments in the West and worse, totally failed ones in Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Egypt and Thailand?
More than 3 generations after Spanish Civil War, the animosity among Loyalists and Republicans has yet to go away. Many HKers are now engaged in an open, cold civil war, where parents are scolding children, and brothers bickering with sisters over nonsensical politics.
Stop aiding and abetting our nihilists and subversives. Thanks to the support of US and UK governments and their media, self-hate HKers might yet bring about the "Death of Hong Kong" that Fortune magazine so devoutly wished.
Indeed, demonizing China's experimental governance and prophesying its collapse is a reflexive wishful thinking firmly embedded in Democracy Cultists' psyche. Just as the Abrahamic religions need Satan to keep their faithful in line, Democracy missionaries' deliverance of self-hate HKers from evil depends on the perceived existence of people without freedom under Beijing tyranny.
A Matsui
Firstly if there is no "Occupy Central with Love and Peace" there wouldn't be a response from the majority of HK people to oppose it. How in the first place do you Occupy Central with Love and Peace? When you Occupy Central the disruptive effects on the lives of HK people will be drastic and intolerable. When you threaten the rights of the majority of HK people to go about their lives in peace it is unforgivable. Occupy Central is based on hate and violence and is undemocratic and will profoundly affect peace and security in HK. The organisers of Occupy Central are acting like political criminals and have no place in the peaceful, safe society of HK. These criminals must be stopped.
markharper76@hotmail.co.uk
The effect of a few hundred people sat around in Central will be 'intolerable and drastic', I think you are overreacting a little. It will be inconvenient clearly, but surely it is a cost worth paying for true universal suffrage, not the North Korean style system on offfer.
randomtask
A Matsui is not overreacting a little, he's stating what's right. How can you say you're fighting for rights, if you're trampling all over the rights of others? If this is your plan you're nothing but a gang, using force to get what you want. You have no moral base to stand on. The article is correct on one KEY point "Occupy central carries a threat". This is something all occupy supporters should be taking note of.
mercedes2233
The article writer said 10,000 occupiers, not a few hundred. You are certain then that the sitting around WILL indeed bring about universal suffrage? Otherwise, wouldn't it be an awful waste of time and manpower and/or the lack of it?
markharper76@hotmail.co.uk
No I am not certain, but what is certain is that doing nothing will not bring about change, as the basic law is quite clear that a nominating committee will select the candidates and these candidates have to be approved by China.
kctony
Didn't poor Cheng Yiu-tong confirmed that Beijing has to have "absolute certainty" on the result of the "election"?
sjfore
Funny how it's always the anti-Occupiers who work themselves up into a veins-bulging, spittle-spewing rage over the prospect of nonviolent civil disobedience.
They're your local cardiologist's meal ticket.
whoaman
What especially polarizes the HK people is when government officials, like our politically clueless leader CY and some of his 'officials' in this case join in any one side of a debate between two camps. They should have stayed above the issue.
When I heard he signed, it made me head the other way in my stance.
sienna.lai
Wow, I thought was one of those Titles of irony. But after reading it, clearly it is not.
However, I've been here 13 years straight now .. and its ALWAYS been polarized! Actually I'm very glad the HK people are finally starting (and they are just starting) to mature enough to realize that getting things done for the greater good, often requires a fight.
Seems the 'warning' from Occupy Central may have been enough! Those that are scared .. are genuinely scared .. as they should be.

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