Oh boy, the United Front must not be working properly. A day after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying talked tough about not tolerating the Occupy Central movement, a key establishment figure said the protest movement, even if it went ahead, would be no big deal.
The US had Occupy Wall Street, said Jack So Chak-kwong, chairman of the Trade Development Council, so Hong Kong will have Occupy Central. Well, this is actually going to be Occupy Central 2.0, which aims to pressure the government to introduce universal suffrage, in contrast with Occupy Central 1.0, which was just vaguely anti-capitalist.
"The Occupy Central movement would be just another form of expression of views if it proceeds peacefully," So said in New York. Vigorous debate on social issues is proof of the city's respect for freedom of expression, one of the core values that make it attractive as an investment destination for foreigners.
There is nothing to fear, So told the Post.
So's message contrasts sharply with that of Leung, who warned the movement there was "no possibility" it could be lawful or peaceful and that it would not be tolerated by the government or the courts. Speaking in unison, Leung's supporter and New World Development boss Henry Cheng Kar-shun said the plan would be illegal no matter what loopholes it exploited and would disturb the city's economic order.
The Heung Yee Kuk, which usually represents rural interests and is geographically far away from Central, took out full-page advertisements in pro-Beijing newspapers calling for the safeguarding of Hong Kong's social harmony and stability.
Why the discrepancy in the establishment's messages about Occupy Central? My guess is that Leung, Cheng and the kuk had Beijing as the intended target audience, while So was trying to sound more conciliatory as a trade representative.
As questionable as the Occupy movement and its tactics are, sounding dire and serious warnings against it will only help it attract public attention and make it appear more serious than it actually is. So has hit the right approach to dealing with it, which is to treat it like all other protests that are nothing special.