Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 July, 2013, 4:31am

People out of patience as Beijing's man plays for time


Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts TVB’s Straight Talk show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.

Next up: Occupy Central. The way things look now, there's no stopping it. Monday's annual July 1 street protest on a stormy day told the story. It doesn't matter if the turnout was 430,000, as the organisers claim, 66,000, as the police say, or 100,000, which is the figure that pollsters have come up with. And it doesn't matter that not everyone was demanding democracy. Some were fighting for gay rights, affordable housing and other issues. What matters is that there was genuine anger on the streets, more than in previous protests. Public Eye was there to take the pulse of the people. The anger came across loud and clear - directed mostly at Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Occupy Central organisers collected HK$800,000 in donations. Surely there's a message in that. Leung has precious little time to defuse the time-bomb of Occupy Central. And it is indeed a time-bomb. It's not just a matter of 10,000 civil disobedience protesters bringing Central to a standstill. It's also a matter of what happens to the other tens of thousands who marched on Monday. Will they be content to stay at home next year and let the 10,000 do the work? Or will the annual July 1 protest march proceed as normal. Will the two then merge into one? Who can then guarantee it will remain a peaceful civil disobedience protest? Are the police even capable of carrying off tens of thousands of people, not just 10,000, as the organisers of Occupy Central want? Leung's tired line of "We'll consult the people at an appropriate time" on universal suffrage has passed its shelf life. Even to the most clueless casual observer, it comes across as a clear case of stalling. He has to consult the people sooner or later. Why not sooner, with a timetable on when the process will start? Had he given a timetable before Monday's march, it would have won over more people than the day's pro-establishment camp carnivals.

Smoke may mean fire, but where are the facts?

Was former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang speaking with inside information when she said current Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is being shut out of top policymaking by boss C.Y. Leung and could quit? Or was it just a cheap shot to grab anti-Leung headlines ahead of Monday's march? Both Leung and Lam have ridiculed her claim, insisting they are working closely. But Chan's unproven claim has already stuck in the public mind. That's the nature of juicy statements - true or false. Many people now suspect there is indeed bad blood between Leung and Lam. No number of denials can reverse that. That's especially true because the former government No2 said it, not some attention-hungry politician making outrageous claims. To some people at least, Chan's words still carry weight. That's why Public Eye was flabbergasted she stirred the pot without backup. Did she hear it first-hand, even though Lam says she hasn't seen Chan in a long time? Did she hear it from a close Lam confidante? Or was it just unsubstantiated hearsay? Chan said she sensed things were not right, based on some of Lam's public comments. But surely that's hardly enough to justify making wild claims on the radio that Lam could quit. Chan has always held a halo above her own head as the voice of reason and truth. Some in the foreign media have even dubbed her the "conscience of Hong Kong". She has now tried to drive a wedge between Leung and Lam. She needs to justify her action with facts. It would be unconscionable for her not to.


Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host.



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