• Fri
  • Nov 28, 2014
  • Updated: 12:59am
Occupy Central
NewsHong Kong
POLITICS

'X' marks the spot: Illiterate villagers boost Anti-Occupy Central signature campaign

Campaigners take petition denouncing the movement to rural Tai Po, and Benny Tai hits back - saying democracy message cannot be ignored

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 4:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 July, 2014, 5:52pm

Organisers of an anti-Occupy Central petition ventured into rural Tai Po district yesterday, hoping to rally support from indigenous villagers.

The entourage - targeting the villages of Sam Mun Tsai, Tai Mei Tuk and Lung Mei - was led by Alliance for Peace and Democracy spokesman Robert Chow Yung and included Tai Po district councillors and other pro-Beijing figures.

Chow described as a "world record" the 930,000 signatures opposing the civil disobedience movement collected so far, and said it reflected public opinion.

But Occupy Central co-organiser Benny Tai Yiu-ting hit back yesterday, saying no matter how many people signed the petition, the demands of those seeking genuine universal suffrage could not be ignored.

It came after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Saturday added his signature to the petition, saying he opposed "illegal means to achieve any goals on political reform". Yesterday, Tai said: "If they think balancing out [Occupy's 'referendum' on reform] with a signature will make [these views] disappear, then they are just deceiving themselves."

He said it was legal for officials to sign the anti-Occupy petition, but criticised Leung, saying he did not have a clear understanding of what Occupy was about.

Chow said Leung was just expressing his "personal views" and that officials of all stripes were welcome to do the same.

At least five high-level officials have signed the petition so far, among them health chief Dr Ko Wing-man, Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim and development chief Paul Chan Mo-po. Chow denied any officials had been approached to sign and said they had all done so in a personal capacity.

About 780,000 Hongkongers voted in the pro-democracy movement's unofficial plebiscite last month. All three proposals included public nomination.

Meanwhile, the media descended on the three sleepy villages yesterday, as locals - some elderly, illiterate, or indifferent to politics - were invited to show their support for the alliance. Those who couldn't sign their names were told an "X" would suffice. "I actually don't know what the Occupy Central movement is about," Sam Mun Tsai shopkeeper Cheung Wing-wah said after signing the petition. He nodded when asked by the campaigners if he wanted a "stable and prosperous Hong Kong".

Others were motivated by patriotism. "We Hakka people oppose Occupy Central because we love our country and our home," said Wong Bak-sing, 76, former village chief of Tai Mei Tuk.

But on Hong Kong Island, protesters targeted five of the alliance's booths in Causeway Bay and Central. "They chanted slogans against us. Some people who wanted to sign the petition were scared off," said alliance spokesman Stanley Ng Chau-pei.

Protester Leung Kam-shing said many of the people who were signing didn't know what the petition was about.

The pro-Beijing alliance has begun a one-month campaign to denounce the Occupy Central movement, which plans to rally protesters to block the main roads in Central if the government fails to offer a reform plan for the 2017 chief executive race that it deems satisfactory.

"Everyone's objective - including the government and the pan-democrats - is the same, and that is universal suffrage," Chow said. "The only difference is in method."

The alliance will report the results of the campaign to Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor today.

Additional reporting by Phila Siu

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This article is now closed to comments

jrfsl
It's not the author who is contemptuous of the illiterate signees. It's the organisers. They should be making clear to people exactly what it is they are being asked to sign, ESPECIALLY to people who can't read. They're clearly not, which is why the whole exercise is a complete sham.
But then these organisers don't really care what ordinary people think. They just want to make up the numbers. This is why the statements on the "voting slip" are so broadly and blandly worded. Sign if you're against violence. Sign if you support peace. Sign if you support democracy. Oh, and sign if you're against Occupy Central.
Why are there no concrete proposals for electoral reform? Because the organisers don't care for electoral reform, just as they don't care for democracy. If they did, they wouldn't be asking illiterate people to sign without explaining to them what it is they are signing.
Then there are the widely-reported material incentives being offered in return for signing. And the lack of ANY sort of mechanism for weeding out duplicate signatures.
But this is no real surprise. The forces behind this campaign are also the forces who want us to accept the no-electoral-reform proposal presented to Beijing last week. As one of the signees said to me, "Just do whatever Ah Yeh tells you to do - very good!"
And so they speak the language of democracy, but their aim is to take that democracy away. The horrible irony is, many of us are choosing to let them get away with it.
53ae0c69-5e94-4706-924a-743c0a320969
By the same token, there were bound to be illiterate elderlies with little knowledge of politics who signed up at the OC referendum. Come on Mr Kao, you need to be honest with yourself. So what's the purpose of this article? Perhaps to smear the campaign?
raglan
"Benny Tai hit back..." LOL
Benny needs to get a proper job - having spent his career life in an ivory tower, he needs to get out more and learn how the REAL world works, not everything adheres to textbook theory and model answers - the end is near when you put clueless academics in charge.....
hunghingshek
I find it funny to note Benny Tai Yiu-ting is reported as saying that Leung did not know what Occupy was about. To me, Occupy means occupy. It seeks to occupy the main roads in Central to block up all traffic, in order to make a point about how one camp thinks democracy should progress in Hong Kong.
People who signed the present poll simply did not think the means is correct as it causes chaos in Hong Kong and the Central Government will never agree to their demand which is against the Basic Law. I think if they are so determined to express their view, it is much better for them go to donate blood to the Red Cross and show they are willing to "shed blood" for their cause. Hong Kong will forever be grateful to them.
raglan
Also Benny should take note of what's happening in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and of course Ukraine....the wonders of tyranny of the masses - something they don't teach you in political science textbooks......
cleareye
"But Occupy Central co-organiser Benny Tai Yiu-ting hit back yesterday, saying no matter how many people signed the petition, the demands of those seeking genuine universal suffrage could not be ignored." But Mr. Tai ignores the majority (no matter how many people!!!) who sign the petition and expects the government to do the same. He just exposed his own ignorance and insincerity on true democracy, taking the city hostage by inciting occupation of a main district in Hong Kong. Major democratic countries like the U.S., U.K., Israel, etc. do not negotiate with hostage-takers, why should we?
"Protester Leung Kam-shing said many of the people who were signing didn't know what the petition was about." Did protester Leung Kam-shing take a poll or interview them to reach this conclusion? How many who signed the OC petition knew what were they signing? Propaganda are on the right as well as on the left.
HK-Explorer
I was in Kowloon Bay and allot of people were signing. Young, middle age and old. I and my wife signed as we disagree with ocupy central. I am very literate. Based on the number of people I saw signing when I was there the numbers are probably credible. As for literacy I am sure it went both ways.
People in Hong Kong are very literate and those who are not would know the details from watching TVB as there has been allot of coverage.
I would think SCMP wanted to get a story of people signing an X and then having them say they did not know what they were signing. I am sure they put allot of effort into getting the quotation.
I like SCMP but they are biased when reporting on occupy central. It is very evident that they want it to happen. They most likely realise that they can write allot of great reports if it does occur and possibly receive awards or international recognition. However it is not a newspapers job to make a story but rather report on one. I only read in English but from what I hear other Chinese language papers seem to be playing towards having an occupy central.
Hopefully it does not occur. It will only impact the poor. Banks and bankers will stay wealthy regardless.
mcheung
Is literacy and knowledge of politics a prerequisite for caring about what's happening in your own land and home?
pliu
Mr. Kao, the elderly indigenous villagers that you look-down on may be illiterate and don't know much about politics, but they are very patriotic and do not want to see instability and chaos in Hong Kong. That's why they are adding their signatures in great numbers!
There are also some indigenous villagers who are highly educated and western-trained who support more democracy for Hong Kong but don't like the confrontational approach taken by pan-democratic legislators, student activists and OC.
So I will be adding my signature soon!
philpaul
The heading is highly offensive.

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