My Take

Are some Hong Kong pan-democrats stepping away from the brink?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2014, 5:06am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2014, 5:46am

If your bosses wrong you, should you go on strike? The immortal Homer Simpson has some sage advice for employees: "If you don't like your job, you don't go on strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed - that's the American way."

Beijing may be happy to see how quickly Hong Kong people may be adopting this particular foreign influence. No less a pan-democrat than Benny Tai Yiu-ting, the co-founder of Occupy Central, has made that assessment and appears to be having second thoughts about really occupying Central after Beijing handed down a hardline election reform package that surprised even many of its local supporters. He admitted to Bloomberg yesterday that support for his movement was waning.

"The number of people joining us will not be as big as we expect, because of the very pragmatic thinking of Hong Kong people," Tai told the business news service, admitting the movement wouldn't change "political reality" imposed by Beijing.

Tai is an honourable man, perhaps even a noble gentleman. But in poker terms, he never had a strong hand to begin with. He bluffed and Beijing called.

From the start, he has said if he and his allies had to move to the protest stage, they would have failed. It appears he is throwing in the towel. He is not ready to damage Hong Kong after all.

"[When businesses] know the details of when we will organise this event, they will know we have no intention to damage the economy of Hong Kong," Tai was quoted as saying. "Even though I cannot mention the date, but if you look at the calendar, you would know which date would cause the minimal damage to Hong Kong's economy."

This U-turn, if it is such, must be hurtful to Tai, but he is a braver man for making it. There is a danger of more radical groups taking Tai's place, but the key thing is that they would have none of the moral force and legitimacy of the original movement and, crucially, public support.

Public opinion may soon start accepting Beijing's harsh terms as better than endless confrontation and going back to the 2012 election method. If so, at least a few of the 27 pan-democrats who have vowed to vote against the reform package in the legislature may crack.