• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 9:53am
Occupy Central
NewsHong Kong

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


  • Yes: 77%
  • No: 23%
3 Sep 2014
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 591

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

I feel sad but at the same time admiration for Mr Tai. He is a good person (naive though) with a good heart but this strategy without multiple back up plans is too risky and has now becoming clearer by the day that its failing. I blame the pan-democrats fools for ruining all these for HK with their infantile brains and c-grade strategic minds. For CCP to back down because of these pan-democrats with nothing but teenage angst is out of question. For god sake, we should really vote out these lousy democrats and change blood asap if we want to move forward. We need people who understand how the game is played and played it to their purpose in line with HK's needs.
major respect, at least he's honest and has HK best interest in heart
most people end up destroying HK in the name of saving it, I'm relieved Benny is not in that camp
Bunny Tai is just a narcissist who thinks he is the god that is saving HK while most sensible HKers prefer a steady and safe pace to democracy that bars out extremists like Long Hair, LSD, People's Power and now the People's Passion and Mad Dog and leftists like the Labour Party, who do not even bother to hide their intentions to put the fight against the central government before the interest of HK.
In these two days, Tai should sense that vigorous oppositions to the reform announcement comes only from the USUAL ACTIVISTS and not from the citizens. He should wake up from his heroic dream and meet the general public and not just his flattering followers. OC will meet strong resistance from HK citizens.
Bunny Tai, come out from your ivory tower and meet the public.
So now they are going to disrupt the one day off per week that the domestic helpers get a chance to gather together in Central.
This article has significantly changed since last night, given that in the interview Tai does not say or mean half the things the SCMP is proclaiming.
This is a classic attack on the Occupy Central Movement, don't forget the SCMP is a CPC rag and does its bidding.
What Beijing most afraid is an Arab Spring type momentum. Benny Tai is weakening the resistance by admitting failure and being a realist. That's why the campaign really depends on the students and youngsters, not because they cannot think for themselves like many idiots suggested, but for the reason they still believe in justice and ideals. For those of us over 40s with families wives and kids, yes there're responsibilities. But if the movement happened, will sure to come out and support. For the simple reason that HK is our home and we really don't like the direction this dysfunctional government is heading, the diminishing freedom of press, the 30 years old lie about Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong and high autonomy. Yes, it might be idealistic, but that's what gives meaning to lives sometimes. Don't give up guys. You will have your support. This needs to be bigger than the Anti-Article 23 march, bigger than the Anti-National Education protest. We are born here, we do have the right to speak out.
By and large, Hong Kong has been a peaceful city. Any intentions to provoke instability, violence and conflict will be defeated by inertia and the good sense of the general public.
Benny Tai sure capitulated fast. What happened to all that brave talk of "era of civil disobedience"? That era lasted exactly 1 day. And what about shaving his head? The guy either lives in his own ivory tower and is juvenile in the extreme or is someone looking for fame - a political wannabe.
Too bad a lot of people followed his nonsense.
Benny Tai has certainly lost the battle, but who knows if he has lost the war. The fact that his movement has stirred up such a heated debate about where Hong Kong should be heading in its pursuit of democracy, and how, here on this blog or on the street, is, to me, a clear sign that the war is not over yet. As the title to Mandela's autobiography says, it's a long walk to freedom. Nothing will be handed down for free, or just for the asking, and the Hongkongers have to prove that they earn it, and they deserve it.
The reality of the fact is that an Occupy movement happening on a holiday to 'minimize disruption' is a self-defeating concept. Occupy movements AND sit-in's in general are supposed to disrupt, in fact that is their primary purpose.
Standing outside a factory with picket fences will only get you ignored. It's when you start disrupting business and blocking corporate transport links with protesters that you get real results.



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