My Take

'Occupy' genie is out of the bottle

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 March, 2013, 2:40am

As sure as anything can be in politics, you can be almost certain there will be Occupy Central 2.0. The question is when and how large the protest crowd will be.

Superseat Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan and the Civic Party have thrown their weight behind the idea first floated by University of Hong Kong law academic Benny Tai Yiu-ting. The original plan was to have only a limited number of protesters in Central next year to press the government for a democratic reform blueprint to achieve universal suffrage. All the protesters will sign a declaration to advocate civil disobedience and avoid violence. Really?

Professor Tai spends too much time in his ivory tower. Tai should worry about attracting too many angry and discontented protesters, not too few. He doesn't seem to realise how powerful his plan could be and the unstoppable momentum it could gain. Unlike Occupy 1.0, with its vague "down with capitalism" foreign-inspired protest under the headquarters of HSBC, version 2.0, with its demand for direct election of lawmakers and the chief executive, has great local resonance, especially among young people.

Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, standing committee member of the National People's Congress, and other Beijing-friendly heavyweights have urged pan-democrats to consider Hong Kong's international image and whether their plans would obstruct economic activities. They needn't bother. Once Tai let the genie out of the bottle, it's doubtful anyone can put it back. In the end, the most extreme elements of the pan-democratic camp will take over. The Anti-CY Alliance, made up of such radical pan-dem groups as People Power and Citizens' Radio, has already threatened a trial run on July 1, not next year.

The demand for universal suffrage is, in a sense, unconditional and non-negotiable. That is, nothing the government can do at this point will satisfy it. A public consultation? Forget about it. An official deadline for the government reform plan? Not good enough. How about - and this is impossible anyway - an actual plan now or at least very soon? Not genuine democracy.

We live in interesting times, and Hong Kong politics is about to get a lot more interesting.