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  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 5:10pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 3:40am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 3:40am

Authorities can't win against Occupy

Occupy Central is almost certain to happen sometime in the next few months. But the government and the security chiefs seem befuddled. They had better be prepared or it will be bad for everyone. So let me give them a few pointers.

It is futile, indeed laughable, for so many of our establishment figures and mainland officials to denounce Occupy Central and its main organisers Benny Tai and the Rev Chu Tiu-ming. By waving a red flag in front of a bull, you just help to make their supporters angrier and more determined, advertise their cause and attract more followers.

To fight a battle, you must first recognise its nature and purpose. Occupy Central set out from the start as a civil disobedience movement, which is, by definition, illegal. But like all such movements, it takes the moral high ground because it argues our political system itself is illegitimate. It is, therefore, useless and counterproductive to denounce it as "breaching the rule of law".

But how should the heads of the disciplined forces and the government fight Occupy Central? My advice is, don't fight it. Just let it happen. What about the potential damage to Hong Kong's economy and reputation, as James Tien of the Liberal Party has warned? If my colleague Tom Holland is right, the damage would be no worse than a severe typhoon. But even if it's worse, well then, you can point fingers at the pan-democrats and protesters as being responsible.

This battle is a fight for legitimacy in the court of public and world opinion. The protesters already have the advantage because they claim to be fighting for our freedom and democracy. Any use of force would further delegitimise an already unpopular government. The police must therefore exercise maximum restraint and patience, except to protect themselves, the protesters and the public. The longer it drags out, the more workers and executives in Central will lose sympathy for the protesters. Sooner or later, the young and hotheaded among the protesters will lose patience and fight the police. You can only make a move when public opinion swings against the protesters, but that can take a while.

The government can't win this battle; the best it can hope for is to avoid making things worse for itself.

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This article is now closed to comments

captam
Good thinking Alex. The police should just ignore it and be encouraged to take a couple of weeks leave.
Central's traffic is almost grid-locked daily, so what difference will a few days of permanent gridlock make? Li Ka Shing, CY and their likes will just have to walk to their offices. They could also try the MTR.
321manu
"Occupy" events the world over have been temporary, and I see no fundamental difference with this one to suggest that it won't run its course in the same manner. However, Beijing is addicted to shooting herself in the foot, and she is an excellent marksman. When it comes to orchestrating PR gong shows, Beijing just can't help herself. If the PLA comes charging out of their barracks to clear the streets, I can't say I would be completely surprised.
321manu
I don't really think the PLA will make an appearance. I certainly hope they don't. And if Beijing has her wits about her, as Mr. Lo suggests in the OP, they will just let the thing play itself out. But that assumes a lot of Beijing, and she doesn't have a great reputation for being up to the task.
chuchu59
All valid points Alex. The more you resist the bigger they grow.
ntmount
321manu-I don't think Beijing would send in the PLA, unless they panic or society breaks down, which is unlikely.
If people are injured or killed on a significant scale by the PLA, HK will be finished. Beijing will be an international outcast, again. This is in noone's interest. Let's hope cool heads prevail.
rvto
Government makes all publicity for Occupy Central. The most deadly weapon against this organisations is to praise them in to the skies for there contribution to the discussion about improving democracy. If you not can beat them, join them !!
Central Government needs a good PR office.
johnyuan
1. It will be a miracle that Hong Kong, a highly dense city will go without urban protests. In fact Hong Kong has had plenty of them so as many other cities. All protests in the streets want to make a point strategically to maximize effect which hopes the point is made with result. The Occupy Central is no exception. The name taken for the protest may underline a targeted group at protesting against but it is certainly catchy to capitalize its name from protests elsewhere which caught the attention worldwide for the best effect.
.
The groundwork before the actual protest including all the preparations and unsolicited publicities may have the Occupy Central already has had its point already made without anyone present in the Central. It is an option for the organizers now as it may be seen.
johnyuan

2. Since it is not a miracle but a reality that protests are part of urban living, Hong Kong authorities might get to response appropriately on the days when protesters gather in the Central. That is to say let the point be made with interruption in Central but without breaking heads and even a window pane.
.
To both the credit of the Occupy Central and the Central Government, the latter already responded positively to the former by setting up a joint study group with academics as members. I am glad that one of our experienced academic in Hong Kong affairs is a member too. The Central Government certainly has responded appropriately and constructively this time.
ntmount
Spot on. The ''moral high ground" is the whole point of Occupy Central, which is lost on most critics. Officials better read up on Martin Luther King's civil disobedience protests, amongst many others. History has a curious habit of repeating.
Hollander323
The article is agitative encouraging the unlawful movement of Occupy Central. The writer seems to be very happy to see violent struggles and injuries play out in front of all the people of HK in our CBD. He has not counted all the stakeholders in the case, and he has only made the voice of the Occupy Central people heard, which is relative small in number, but not that of the government, the people who would be directly affected, and the most abundant of all the silent majority. The Occupy Central gang is actually chanting.."me and me against the world" . I would call upon these people, you better stop black-mailing the people of HK or you would be punished by the people of HK in a way you have never thought of.

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