A campaign group opposed to the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement hopes to more than double its targeted support base to 250,000 by March, after about 40,000 people signed up in the two months since its launch.
Robert Chow Yung, one of the six convenors of the Silent Majority for Hong Kong, also warned the pan-democratic camp could pay the price in the next Legislative Council election if it continued to back Occupy Central.
The movement plans to block roads in Central next summer as a "last resort" if the government fails to put forward an acceptable plan for a democratic 2017 election.
"The leftists were so powerful among the people of Hong Kong before the riots in 1967, but they suffered three decades of political obscurity after that," Chow said yesterday. "So I challenged the pan-democrats to a bet on this … In a meeting with Civic Party leaders, [their chairwoman] Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and [leader] Alan Leong Kah-kit looked so solemn, because they really had to think about it."
Chow suggested that since the pan-democrats won only about 56 per cent of the popular vote in last year's Legco election, which translated into 18 of 35 directly elected seats, a swing in votes could be catastrophic for them.
Eu said she did not feel threatened by Chow's claims when he spoke to dozens of Civic Party supporters in a recent gathering. "In fact some participants laughed and asked him: 'Do you really think we will all vote for [the pro-government] DAB if Occupy Central happens?'"
The Silent Majority group was formed by more than 40 academics and professionals in August to win the backing of at least 100,000 Hongkongers for a peaceful campaign to protect the city's interests. Chow said about 40,000 had registered so far, and he expected to reach the 100,000-people target by year's end. He hoped to take the supporter tally to 250,000 by March next year, and to a million in the long term.
But in apparent discord with another founder, economics professor Francis Lui Ting-ming, who said the group would release a "more feasible" proposal for electoral reform than those currently on the table, Chow said the group would focus on methods and principles instead.
Meanwhile, teachers have been advised to state their stance on the Occupy Central movement when they teach the subject in class, the Professional Teachers' Union said.
The reminder came as about 120 current and retired teachers gathered at Tseung Kwan O yesterday to discuss the electoral reform as one of 30 events for the movement's second "Deliberation Day".
"What is most important is that the students are presented with all sorts of arguments so that they can make informed judgments," said union president Fung Wai-wah.