Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting says the movement’s supporters will gather on Sunday – after Beijing officially lays down its framework for political reform – to mark the beginning of a “continuous and long-term” civil disobedience campaign.
Tai promised the campaign will be peaceful and rational. “If the campaign begins to lose control or violent acts occur, I will stand at the front of the crowd to stop them,” the legal academic added.
He told RTHK on Thursday that the finer details of the movement’s “final resort” – a mass sit-in on Central streets – were still under consideration after Beijing on Wednesday laid out a restrictive draft framework for the city’s first popular election of its leader in 2017.
But Tai said weekly protests would be held as part of the civil disobedience campaign, and he will shave his head to show the “spirit of sacrifice”.
Thousands of university students are expected to boycott classes in mid-September, said Alex Chow Yong-kang, general secretary of the Federation of Students.
“Civil disobedience campaigns require a continuous and long-term effort to arouse people’s awareness of democracy,” said Tai. “We don’t expect an instant change after the Occupy movement, but we will begin with small sacrifices such as shaving my head.
“I believe change will come when the demands reach a critical point,” he added.
Sources revealed that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the top national legislature, has preliminarily decided that only two or three candidates would be allowed to stand in the 2017 election, with 50 per cent support from a 1,200-member nominating committee needed to get on the ballot paper.
The draft framework will be discussed in groups on Thursday morning in Beijing before a final plenary session on Sunday to vote on the document.
Tai said more details of Occupy’s campaign will be announced at Sunday’s rally outside the chief executive’s office in Tamar.
Critics of Occupy have blamed the pro-democracy movement for the tougher-than-expected draft framework, arguing Beijing feels threatened by the prospect of mass civil disobedience.
Tai rejected suggestions that Occupy had got its tactics wrong. “The draft has shown Beijing’s bottom line on reform, and this bottom line – which is not true democracy in nature – would still be there with or without the Occupy campaign.
“Even without the Occupy campaign, and if Beijing was willing to relax some of the restrictions, I still could not foresee Beijing giving Hongkongers genuine universal suffrage,” Tai added.
Pan-democrats in Hong Kong fear a nominating committee stacked with Beijing loyalists will screen out potential candidates the central government does not want on the ballot paper, leaving Hongkongers without a genuine choice in 2017.
Occupy leaders have said that the mass sit-in would be triggered if the Hong Kong government’s official model for the election, which must conform to Beijing’s framework, fails to offer genuine choice to voters.
Elsewhere on Thursday morning, executive councillor Starry Lee Wai-king, also a lawmaker for the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said Hongkongers need to face the political reality that Beijing has to make a “cautious” decision about reform due to national security concerns.