If a campaign fails to achieve what it wants, it is natural to ask what went wrong. We are not sure if organisers of Occupy Central have done any soul searching on the civil disobedience movement. What is certain, though, is that there are growing doubts whether it should continue.
After Beijing imposed a tougher-than-expected electoral framework for the 2017 chief executive poll, Benny Tai Yiu-ting conceded the movement's strategy had failed. He also said public support was waning. The remarks have caught the pan-democrat allies by surprise, and sparked confusion over whether Tai was planning an exit. The university academic later clarified that the fight would go on.
Few would disagree that Occupy Central has failed. Co-founded by Tai and two others, the campaign seeks to press Beijing for what it calls genuine universal suffrage by threatening to paralyse the city's business district with 10,000 people. Although opinion polls show the community does not endorse such tactics, it has an appeal to some pan-democrat supporters: about 800,000 people joined its mock referendum on the preferred electoral model in June.
Those familiar with Beijing's thinking have long warned against such a step. They say Chinese leaders are not likely to yield to threats. From Beijing's view, Occupy Central is fraught with the danger of political interference from abroad. Worse, it risks being hijacked by radical groups and may end in bloodshed.
Evidently, Occupy Central did not bring Hong Kong closer to democracy. Some even accuse it of pushing Beijing into tighter restrictions. Despite the threats of class boycotts and protests, the National People's Congress Standing Committee is not going to change its decision. There is nothing wrong if the campaign is turned into a long-term battle aimed at instilling a stronger sense of democracy among the public. But if it pushes ahead with the occupy plan, it will bring chaos to the business district. Participants may also land in jail. However lofty the goal, it does not justify unlawful activities.
The people are understandably dissatisfied with the stringent electoral framework. They have every right to take to the streets and get themselves heard. But they should express their opinion in a peaceful and lawful manner. There are other legitimate means to pressure Beijing and the Hong Kong government for democracy. The organisers should call off the occupy plan.