POLITICS
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Occupy Central

Occupy Central will not back down on threat of summer protest, says organiser

Summer blockade of streets back on agenda but not due to Taipei action, organiser says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 3:47am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 7:45am

Occupy Central activists may still block roads in the financial district this summer - despite an earlier suggestion the action could be delayed to the end of the year - if the mainland or local authorities make decisions that rule out any hope for "genuine" universal suffrage.

That was the view of a core organiser of the campaign yesterday, who said Occupy Central supporters appeared to have become increasingly impatient since protests against a cross-strait trade pact began in Taiwan last week.

But Dr Chan Kin-man insisted a summer occupation would be consistent with the movement's original ideas and not a change prompted by the Taiwanese students' occupation of the Taipei legislature.

"If we feel the government is still seeking a democratic reform proposal and is willing to talk, there's no need to occupy Central [soon]," Chan said.

However, if it was "gradually becoming hopeless" that the government would listen to the views of the public, then occupying Central in the summer "is absolutely possible", he said.

The Occupy Central campaign had originally been planned for July, but another organiser, Benny Tai Yiu-ting, said in December that the campaign could be put off until the end of this year, when organisers would be able to decide whether the government had tabled an "acceptable" electoral reform package for the 2017 chief executive election.

The government will continue gathering public opinion on political reform until May and officials are expected to file a report to Beijing by July seeking approval to proceed with the reforms.

Chan said: "We have been facing great pressure, but we hope [supporters] understand that even the action in Taipei was planned for a long time."

Meanwhile, the movement plans a third "deliberation day" on May 6 to gather thousands of supporters to discuss reform plans, before it holds a "referendum" on June 22 for Hongkongers to choose the proposal the campaign will submit to the government.

Referring to a mainland expert's remark that the National People's Congress Standing Committee was likely to approve political reform at a meeting in August, Chan said that could become the campaign's trigger point. He said he was worried the central or local governments would impose restrictions on how universal suffrage should be implemented.

Chan also did not rule out occupying the Legislative Council - but insisted Occupy Central would pursue all legal means of discussion and expression before resorting to civil disobedience.

"Before we take our action onto a full scale, we may have different ways to make our demands," Chan said. "Our action team will discuss different options."

On Sunday, the Federation of Students, an alliance of university student unions, said they would occupy Central on July 1 - the 17th anniversary of the handover - if the government rejected or failed to respond positively to the June 22 "referendum".