Supporters of Occupy Central range from Communist Party members to senior managers of regulatory bodies, says a hedge fund manager who has lined up some 70 players in the finance industry behind the pro-democracy movement.
Edward Chin Chi-kin said these “high-flyers and ordinary people” wanted an answer to one key question: “Will Hong Kong still be livable in 2047?”
In April, Chin’s group wrote an open letter to President Xi Jinping bemoaning political cronyism, an influx of suspect money and suppression of press freedom which they say threaten the economic health of the city. They called for Beijing to allow an open election in 2017 without screening of candidates.
“It is the influx of red capital which worries us,” Chin told the Post in April, referring to the cash flooding in from mainland enterprises.
“The style of living of the privileged Chinese class is unimaginable,” he said. “They can be spending tens of thousands of dollars in the Mandarin Oriental bar every night and you cannot know where the money comes from.”
Chin said group members, a lot of whom are “over 40”, fear their children will have to leave Hong Kong before the end of the city’s post-handover transition period, as some of them had done before the 1997 change of sovereignty.
“There are Communist Party members taking part in our regular ‘Occupy Lan Kwai Fong’ event, where we discuss democracy,” he said. “One donated HK$100,000.”
One party member has children born in Hong Kong and wants the city to have true democracy, Chin said.
“There are also incumbent heavyweights working for a regulator who felt the need to come out. That’s quite a dire indicator of Hong Kong’s situation,” said Chin.
“There are high-flyers – earning a few million US dollars annually – as well as brokers who struggle to earn HK$10,000 per month,” he said.
They also provided different levels of support, some just offering donations and others promising to join the protest with which Occupy Central aims to shut down the business district if the government fails to come up with a satisfactory reform plan.
Chin, a Hong Kong native and adoptive father of a three-year-old boy, was one of those who left before the handover.
After attending Diocesan Boy’s School, he went to Canada in 1984, the year that the Joint Declaration – which set out the terms of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule – was signed.
Before he returned in 2000, he had completed university education in Canada and the US, had started his hedge fund career – and as a radio host had interviewed a surveyor by the name of Leung Chun-ying.
“I interviewed him twice in 1992 and 1994,” Chin said of the present chief executive. “He was good at evading sensitive questions on the June 4 crackdown and the future of Hong Kong after the handover.”
Now Chin and other group members perceive a “deterioration of core values” in the city. So how would a mass sit-in in Central help the city?
“The real thing could be an anti-climax, but it is all about creating a call for the people to defend the core values of Hong Kong,” said Chin, once regional head of the London-listed Man Group hedge fund.