• Mon
  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 8:32am
Occupy Central
NewsHong Kong

Jaded professor ready for handcuffs

Lady Youde once told Chan Kin-man democracy in HK wasn't far off, but that was 26 years ago and the Occupy Central figure is losing patience

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 April, 2013, 2:53am

Chan Kin-man is no stranger to the delays and unfulfilled promises that define the city's long fight for a fully democratic system of government.

In 1987, Chan was talking with Lady Youde, wife of the late colonial governor Edward Youde, at a scholarship awards ceremony. Chan had been chosen for a postgraduate studies grant set up to honour the governor, who had died the previous year.

Lady Youde asked Chan whether he supported introducing direct election for the Legislative Council in 1988, a hotly debated issue at the time. Without hesitation, Chan, whose topic for his master's degree at Chinese University was democratic development in Hong Kong, said "yes".

"Lady Youde told me the business sector in Hong Kong was not ready for direct election and it may be introduced later," Chan recalled. The colonial government decided not to introduce direct election in 1988, and three years later, 18 directly elected seats of the legislature were returned by "one man, one vote" for the first time in the history of the colony.

Twenty-six years later, Chan, now an associate professor of sociology at Chinese University, said he was saddened that the prospect for universal suffrage in Hong Kong remained uncertain and that the business sector continued to resist its implementation.

For many years, Chan advocated engaging in dialogue with Beijing over Hong Kong's political reform. Whether certain outspoken critics liked it or not, communicating with the central government was necessary for reaching a solution, he said.

Chan was convenor of a scholars group under the Democratic Development Network led by veteran pro-democracy activist Reverend Chu Yiu-ming. Chan and fellow academics in the group were frustrated after Beijing rejected electing the chief executive in 2007 by universal suffrage.

Chan persevered and became a core member of the Alliance for Universal Suffrage, a coalition of moderate pan-democratic group founded in January 2010.

In May 2010, he was one of seven alliance members who discussed the electoral reform package for 2012 with Li Gang , a deputy director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong.

In a dramatic U-turn, Beijing gave the green light to the Democratic Party's "one man, two votes" proposal, under which candidates for five new seats would be nominated by elected district councillors. The winners would be decided by the city's 3.2 million voters.

But since that small victory, Chan's frustration has grown over Beijing's lack of commitment in preparing for universal suffrage.

"The central government has not been making a serious effort in communicating with moderate pan-democrats to pave the way for attaining universal suffrage in 2017," he said.

Chan was further alarmed by recent remarks by chairman of the National People Congress Law Committee Qiao Xiaoyang . The top official said on March 24 in Shenzhen that those "who confront the central government" would be ineligible to become chief executive. Qiao's remarks sparked fears among pan-democrats that their candidates would be screened out of the 2017 election.

"It sounds terrible that Beijing does not bother about international democratic standards when it talks about implementing universal suffrage. My bottom line is that pan-democratic candidates should be allowed to enter the chief executive race because the camp enjoys the support of a substantial proportion of voters in Hong Kong," he said.

Frustrated with Beijing's stance, the academic made a surprising move when he joined hands with University of Hong Kong law Professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Chu to spearhead the Occupy Central movement.

The civil disobedience plan aims at blocking traffic in the heart of Central to force Beijing to follow through on its universal suffrage promises. They will launch the action in July next year if the Hong Kong government fails to deliver a proposal for universal suffrage in line with international democratic standards.

"I was very down and sad when I attended the press conference on March 27. I have advocated dialogue with the central government for many years, but now I will take part in the civil disobedience movement," he said.

"But I believe that Beijing won't take political reform in Hong Kong seriously unless it faces tremendous pressure from Hong Kong people. The central government should understand that there is an urgent need to introduce genuine universal suffrage to resolve the city's governance crisis," he said.

Chan said he was ready to be arrested for taking part in the movement, even if it costs him his teaching post.

"Benny and I want to trigger a debate in the community whether our universities would be justified in sacking academics who engage in non-violent civil disobedience campaign to fight for social justice."

"If we face a trial in court, we won't dispute that we broke the law and we will make a political statement in the courtroom to spell out our vision," Chan said.



Age 53


1983: Bachelor of Social Science, Chinese University.

1995: Doctorate in sociology, Yale University.


1993 to present: Teaching at department of sociology, Chinese University.

Director, Centre for Civil Society Studies, Chinese University.

Director of Universities Service Centre for China Studies, Chinese University.



Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

hard times !
bravo,professor Chan says that he is going to take part in the movement,'Occupy Central' for the well-beings of most Hongkongers (except those slave-servants of course) and their rights and he is ready for his arrest for it or even lose his teaching post for his participation in the movement. We are touched by your words indeed, professor Chan who has demonstrated the courage and sense of righteousness of an intellectual with conscience during the crisis of his people/fellow Hongkongers/ his compatriots who might never have a chance to enjoy a geniune universal suffrage according to the UN standard. Bravo, Professor Chan,we Hongkongers are really proud of you and your words ! Shame on those followers of the autocratic rulers or autocratic rule. Shame on them !!!
hard times !
In 2010, Professor Chan still had a chance to talk with the deputy director of the Liaison Office in Western, Mr.Li Gang on our electoral reforms.Yet now he has to...
hard times !
probably now Professor Chan and other mild scholars in town are totally frustrated and disappointed at the attitude of Beijing towards our universal suffrage in 2017-----there won't be a geniune universal suffrage as most Hongkong commoners expect and earnestly wish but just a faked one--------------allowing qualified voters to vote on 2-3 candidates handpicked by the so-called Nominating Committee (more or less formed by those Election Committee members or just have them enlarged a little bit only) which is formed by pro-establishment,Beijing-loyalists ! Just wait and see.
hard times !
Professor Chan Kin-man met Governor Youde (who died in Beijing mysteriously while paying a visit there)'s wife in 1987 and was asked whether he supported a direct election of the legislature.Chan told her (during a ceremony of a scholarship conferred to him) that he did.But Lady Youde told him plainly that she thought the business sector in town might not be ready for a direct election in 1988.That is 25 years ago.Now Professor Chan,a Phd. of Yale Univ. is an associate professor of sciology at Chin.Univ---a local jaded scholar who is readying for handcuffs once he is arrested at the venue of the 'Occupy Central' movement------a civil disobedience just like those staged by India's saint,Mr.Gandhi who sacrificed himself for the justice and fairness of his compatriots under the British colonists in India at his time. Salute ! Professor Chan ! We (most Hong Kong people) are really proud of your courageous and selfless act which might land you and your comrades, Professor Tai and Reverend Chu in jail for blocking roads in Central !
hard times !
if pflim040 knows that you(bluechinagroup/redchinagroup) orders him/her to stop referring himself/herself in the third person,he/she will definitely continue to do so in order to annoy you and your alike----no matter whether it is so-called deceptive----------which is so common and already a norm in this cyberworld/the internet world which never asks any writers/contributors to express themselves in real names or just one username only ! You maybe belong to the past worlds-----autocratic dynasties like the Ming or Qing dynasties which demanded their peopole to be loyalists and gentle slave-servants towards their masters in court ! You were actually born too late ! It is a pity indeed !
hard times !
this so-called bluechinagroup (redchinagroup) is annoyed by a mysterious writer here named pflim040.I wonder whether this guy(actually a hired group sent here to monitor our postings on the internet ) can express his/her/their views on the given topic ! pflim040 may use different usernames to post his/her comments here,so what ? He/She is free to do so ! It is okay since it is legal and acceptable ! No one says that (even the editor of this Comment forum) it is not allowed.Bluechinagroup (redchinagroup) is making a fuss ! it is so-called,' Much ado about nothing ' !
hard times !
'jaded professor ready for handcuff'----what a shocking and pitiful scenario indeed ! Yet our professor of sciology at Chinese Univ.,Mr. Chan Kin-man is now involved in the civil-disobedience movement,'Occupy Central' which will only take place once our promised universal suffrage turns out to be a faked one---again a small-circle election controlled by Beijing and its loyalists in town, instead of one through,'one man, one vote' according to the UN's International Convenant on Civil & Political Rights which Britian had rejected in 1976 when Hong Kong was still a colony.Yet now we are running Hong Kong ourselves---its master ourselves:high autonomy but not full autonomy---independent. Our elected chief executive (even in a geniune universal suffrage) still has to be appointed by Beijing.Right ?
hard times !
now even moderate pan-democrats like professor Chan Kin-man is frustrated as Beijing seems not interested in introducing a geniune universal suffrage in 2017 for our election of chief executive. So, professor Chan, together with professor Tai and Reverend Chu has to organise a peaceful gathering in Central called,'Occupy Central' movement to demand for a geniune universal suffrage in 2017 or at least an acceptable plan for all pan-democrats and their followers (including this Old Hong Kong of course).Otherwise, the movement will definitely take place though it is the last resort only !
pflim040 stop referring to yourself in the third person. Yes it's annoying, because it's really deceptive of you to do this. Also you are a hypocrite because you advocate people like Michael Chugani to shut up because they don't agree with your views on democracy.

You are free to comment about yourself with as many usersnames as you want, but I am free to point out the fact that you are using multiple usernames. I will also comment about your racist hypocrisy such as the statement you made that you think that Michael Chugani shouldn't express his opinions on democracy because he is not Chinese!
Both comments below me are Pflim040. Pflim040 keeps changing his username to obfuscate his identity and create the false appearance that there is massive support for Occupy Central. His tactics are fraudulent and the opposite of what is considered democratic.

It's very annoying that Pflim040 does this. Pflim040 is a racist who thinks non Chinese like Michael Chugani should keep their mouth shut about democracy reform if they do not agree with Occupy Central. This is pflim040's hypocritical view on democracy: Tell anyone who dissents with his opinion on democracy to shut up!


SCMP.com Account