Occupy Central

A new term for Leung in 2017 will make Hong Kong more radical, says co-founder of Occupy protest movement

2017 will be a watershed for Hong Kong, says Occupy Central co-founder, who predicts tough battle for pan-democrats in upcoming elections

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 September, 2015, 2:36am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 September, 2015, 9:25am

Hong Kong's constitutional development might remain deadlocked in the coming years, but whether Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying can secure a second term in 2017 will be a key watershed for the city, an Occupy Central co-founder says.

Dr Chan Kin-man, one of the key leaders behind the pro-democracy sit-ins last year, believes Hongkongers will become either more radical or cynical should the beleaguered Leung win the next election as that would signal a continued hardline approach by Beijing towards Hong Kong despite widespread public dissatisfaction.

"You could expect an even stronger confrontation by then," said Chan, a sociologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in an interview with the South China Morning Post ahead of today's first anniversary of the start of the mass sit-ins.

"Meanwhile, a fairly large number of already disappointed people - who are adopting a wait-and-see attitude for two more years [after the political reform package was voted down] - will make up their mind to move out of Hong Kong if Leung remains in place," he said.

Watch: 'Students will become more radical if CY Leung stays in power,' predicts Occupy Central co-founder

A completely different picture would emerge if a moderate - or a so-called dove - took the helm, said Chan, as Hongkongers would be more optimistic about the prospects for future political reform.

But before that day came, Chan expected the city's pan-democrats, who were one of the crucial forces supporting the civil disobedience movement, would face a tough battle in district council elections in November.

The academic said previous studies indicated that 60 per cent of Hongkongers were pro-democracy supporters. However, he said, various polls showed that only 40 per cent at most backed the Occupy protests and objected to the Beijing-decreed political reform model.

"It is a very big drop from 60 per cent to 40 per cent. The supporters we lost are mostly moderates and the grass roots," he said. "Their preferences are crucial in district council polls as they are the most active voters."

But Chan said it was too early to say if pan-democrats would suffer in the Legislative Council elections next year, given that some voters might swing back.

"Pan-democrats should think carefully how to resolve this crisis," Chan warned, suggesting they should allow younger members to replace old faces in the forthcoming polls.

With the great challenges lying ahead, Chan did not think the city would see protests mounted on a similar scale as Occupy in the coming years.

Occupy participants were still healing their wounds, he said, adding it was still uncertain when the reform process would be restarted.

"It is very hard to figure out the next step in pressuring the government … Further radicalisation will only narrow down support [for protesters]," he said.

Hongkongers in the meantime should protect the city's core values amid intervention by Beijing, Chan added, "until enough political power is consolidated to push once more for political reform".