• Wed
  • Oct 1, 2014
  • Updated: 12:32pm
Occupy Central
NewsHong Kong
ELECTION 2017

Is this goodbye to Occupy Central? Co-founder Benny Tai admits, 'We failed'

'We failed', admits leader of civil disobedience group, as he says date for sit-in will be chosen to cause 'minimal damage' to the HK economy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 September, 2014, 3:12pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2014, 10:28am
 

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  • Yes: 77%
  • No: 23%
3 Sep 2014
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Total number of votes recorded: 579

Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting surprised Hongkongers yesterday by suggesting the civil-disobedience campaign had been a failure "up to this point" and that public support for its planned mass sit-in was waning.

His comments in an interview with the Bloomberg news agency came just two days after he and others declared Hong Kong had entered "an era of civil disobedience" after Beijing announced a restrictive framework for the 2017 chief executive election.

Watch: Bloomberg's interview with Benny Tai

In later comments to the South China Morning Post, he said it might be easy for people to vent their anger over Beijing's decision in rallies such as the one on Sunday, but determined civil disobedience might be another thing.

"I could not press Hongkongers for that, and they might need to think about that themselves," he said.

The Occupy Central movement tried to play down Tai's comments. A statement from the secretariat of the movement said it would "definitely not back down" and would go ahead with the plan to rally at least 10,000 people to block the main roads in the business district to protest against the lack of "genuine democratic reform" for the 2017 election.

Tai told Bloomberg that Occupy's strategy to get Beijing to agree to a set of universal suffrage arrangements that met international standards had failed.

"Up to this point, we failed. What we planned is that we use the threat of the action to create tension," he said.

Beijing's strong stance meant "the number of people joining us will not be as big as we expected, because of the very pragmatic thinking of Hong Kong people", Tai, who had previously voiced confidence that 10,000 protesters could be mobilised, was quoted as saying.

He also said Occupy organisers would pick a date for the mass sit-in that "would cause the minimal damage to Hong Kong's economy". Bloomberg speculated this could mean the protests would be held on a public holiday or over a weekend, with critics raising questions over the impact of the campaign.

‘We do what we say’: Occupy Central set the record straight after Benny Tai interview

Dr Chan Kin-man, an Occupy co-organiser, told the Post Tai's pessimistic tone was "not an accurate representation" of the prevailing mood in the movement.

"Of course there are some pragmatic citizens who believe that there is no need to carry out Occupy Central as the National People's Congress Standing Committee has ruled out universal suffrage," he said. "But I have received many emails from moderate people who are angered by the decision, saying they are now more determined than ever to join the movement."

Another founding member, the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, said the movement was ready for a long struggle. "The battle is only halfway through. It's too early to give up," Chu said.

Chan said the movement might choose a public holiday to begin the occupation in order to allow supporters reluctant to break the law to take part. "We are talking about days of occupation - it's not only a one-day action."

Watch: Occupy Central leaders promise civil disobedience campaign in Hong Kong

Chan agreed with Tai that the movement had failed to change Beijing's mind during its deliberations on electoral reform.

"I am of course very disappointed … but I have already accepted the reality," Chan said. "We wanted to change Beijing's stance but their decision could not have been any worse. There is no shade of grey between genuine and fake universal suffrage."

Meanwhile, Song Zhe, commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, met 70 consular officials to explain Beijing's stance on the electoral reform plan.

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This article is now closed to comments

pslhk
Though the fact can’t be clearer
disprove it if you could
that HK "democrats"
even with the collective “intelligence”
of OC three stooges, ALI, Anson C, …
can’t hope to come up with a reply
that is half as well argued and convincing
as whymak’s 4-part exposition Sep 3d 11: 30pm
req
hey, it says it in sun tzus art of war. Don't play chicken with a rock. If benny wants to go head to head it'll be funny to see the aftermath.
partridge
You failed to date, Benny, because you are up against one of the most intransigent of governments; however, no group ever won this kind of struggle in a day, or even a year.
So Occupy must learn to stay the course, as have other groups who have resisted, who have kept the door open to self-determination for themselves and others.
Part of that learning will be in this instance recognizing how to handle the media so that they can't take a comment out of context and spin it into something that works against you or Occupy.
whymak
What Democracy Is Not #1
In the midst of all these pros and cons, no one has asked why all this sound and fury but not a word about what Democracy is not. Founding Fathers of the American Republic never used the D word in the US Constitution. Federalist papers express many misgivings about the uncertain future of the Republic. Bill of Rights is a pragmatic compromise in conflict resolution between federalism and state rights appropriate only in the early days of the Republic. Today’s so-called constitutional textualism is nothing but doctrinaire folly.
Founding fathers were elites. They believed in a republican governance structure, but not universal suffrage. James Madison wrote: “…instability, injustice, and confusion ...have in truth been the mortal disease under which popular governments everywhere perished..”

Quoting without substantiation is meaningless. But a litany of recent failures among established and new democracies should give the faint hearted pause when forming new governments.
Yeltsin, a drunkard elected president, showed how easily a populist government could run the once mighty Soviet Union into the ground.
How or why Democracy could spread like wild fire is no different from the successes of monotheistic religions. Europe, with most advanced science and technology at the early part of 20th Century, did not adopt democracy until after WW2. Conquest gave the victors prerogatives to dictate the losers the terms of peace.
whymak
What Democracy Is Not #2
In the West, it’s always about proselytizing their religion and culture to the vanquished. This is how new mandate from future generations of the governed is continuously established. The ways advanced countries of Europe got converted into Democracy are no different from those succumbed in battles and converted in Christian and Islamic eras.
Hong Kongers were a vanquished people – now resurrected – by a Christian and democratic nation. In the formation of a new government, it behooves us to learn the pragmatic art of compromise like the US Founding Fathers. Our success and survival depends on how well we manage conflicts and tensions among Christian evangelicals, Democracy cultists and Chinese traditionalists. To that extent, we have different issues than China. For this reason alone, one country two systems slogan is a useful reminder.
There is one pitfall we must avoid. Majority rule is not a virtue in governance. All the talks about international standards in nominations and elections – a peripheral issue to complex ones on good governance – just show how dumb Hong Kongers really are.
whymak
What Democracy Is Not #3
58.2% of world governments are considered democratic. 59% of the world’s population proclaims an Abrahamic faith. Aside from our painful memory of materialistic deprivation in old Hong Kong, do we really want to go against our Chinese cultural grain to imitate others’ recent economic failures, past history of sectarian and civil strife, foreign and colonial wars of occupation? If you live in an Indian village where the majority is infected with antibiotic resistant TB, would you want some of that too?
America’s path to the world’s hyper power is achieved through her unique, inimitable brand of democracy. Universal suffrage in the US has been long and tortuous. It is still a work in progress. Women got their rights to vote in 1920 and Afro-Americans got theirs in 1960s, almost 2 centuries after independence. Today, the country is mired in dysfunctional parliamentary processes. Gerrymandering, or reapportionment and redistricting, i.e. voting districts, to guarantee political party dominance, have made the US national elections a mockery. Despite the one-man-one-vote veneer, presidential elections are now decided by a fractional number of states which you can count with fingers on one hand. Worse, popular votes could be overridden by politically motivated jurists of the highest court. Chalk up another one for rule of law in the US democracy.
whymak
What Democracy Is Not #4
Black voters in red states are still being challenged by racist vigilantes to produce their voter registration and ID. This is now 238 years after Independence.
All criticisms aside, my comments are not meant to disparage the West. The Western democracies will likely adapt and continue to be rich nations for generations to come. My point is really about the natural course of history, the rises and declines of empires, dynasties and nations.
Hong Kong has a first world living standard, but many Hong Kongers still possess only third world skills in a very competitive world. Imitating Western declining empires is economic seppuku. Perhaps our colonial mindset prefers this English aphorism instead: White man’s meat is yellow man’s poison.
kelana67@hotmail.com
CCP leadership is what crucial factor that makes China strong and advanced as seen today, capable of making arduous, giant decisions at the lightning speed and efficiency, for instance the mega developments such as the Three Gorges Dam; Lhasa-Xining Railways; HK-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and so forth.
The Empire is striving at their best efforts to tarnish and attack the CCP to weaken China, or even farther, to split China into a kind of Balkanization consisting of several smaller and weaker states. [Yugoslavia ver 2.0]
Understandably The Empire won't accept any potential contender, esp. any power that is capable to cause a crack upon the dollar's GRC status. All this fanfare is affecting more than HKSAR alone.
One must see in a much bigger picture.
kelana67@hotmail.com
These guys, Mr. Tai, Rev. Chu and the like, are living in their own delusional world, highly probable that their religions blind their thoughts to blindly adopt the Western system in China's power realm. At the worst case, they're "the agent of change" funded by the George Soros' myriad of NGO networks or the Langley agency to create problem in China through HKSAR.
Just remember about the USD's Petrodollar and global reserve currency (GRC) status; The Cabals will do anything to keep their hegemony from maintaing the current status quo!
whymak
Mercedes:
You miss out on the OC organizers brilliant strategy. More than using Filipinas guest workers as relief, organizers plan to quintuple their number before adding it to the grossly exaggerated OC participants head count. They know SCMP reporters and editors will report their tall tales as usual in a banner headline.
If Mr. Tai and Rev. Chu strike you as sincere folks, I totally agree. We have witnessed first hand the denials and delusions of sanctimonious Jesus freaks (fundamentally religious) and Democracy cultists. They have little problem fooling themselves, Jesus, their flock and followers.

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