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Occupy Central

A year on, Hong Kong has yet to move out of Occupy's shadow

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 September, 2015, 1:18am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 September, 2015, 7:05pm

Seventy-nine days is a relatively short span of time. But when it involved a campaign that saw tens of thousands of people breaking the law to achieve what they want, it is significant enough to shape the political landscape. Indeed, a year after pro-democracy activists blocked the city's streets to press Beijing for universal suffrage, the repercussions can still be felt today. The Occupy protests did not achieve their aim - our society has become more polarised and our relations with Beijing are just as strained, if not more. We have yet to move out of the Occupy shadow.

The street blockades in Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay did not end with the doomsday scenario predicted by critics. But they also failed to secure the so-called genuine democracy for the people. While the rule of law remains just as robust, the handling of individual protesters and police officers continues to be a subject of debate between the rival camps. The antagonism still prevails.

Equally deep is the divide between Beijing and Hong Kong. Since last September, the level of distrust in the central government has hovered around 40 to 50 per cent, according to a University of Hong Kong survey. Occupy and the rise of localism have prompted Beijing to become even more assertive about its authority. The tension is expected to rise as Beijing has stepped up the rhetoric on "one country" recently, raising fears that the grip over "two systems" will be tightened further.

If there is a silver lining to Occupy, it is the wake up call for both sides to reflect on its approach towards democracy and "one country, two systems". As a special administrative region with a high degree of autonomy, Hong Kong must realise that there are limits as to how far it can push. The outcome of Occupy proved that Beijing will not yield to confrontational tactics. It is imperative that the pan-democrats learn the lesson and opt for engagement rather than struggle in future.

Beijing should also appreciate that Hongkongers cherish freedom and a high degree of autonomy, both of which are guaranteed by the Basic Law. The preservation of our free-wheeling way of life after the handover means people are not used to political indoctrination and restrictions. Any tightening of the "two systems" will be seen as interference.

Given the different emphasis on "one country, two systems" by Beijing and Hong Kong, discord will be inevitable. Both sides need to be more receptive to others' concerns in order to achieve a balance with which they are comfortable.