Occupy Central

Protesters must give up battle to continue democracy war

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 October, 2014, 4:50am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 October, 2014, 9:17am

It has been almost three weeks since the Occupy Central movement began.

The aspirations for "true" democracy expressed by the participants remain strong and clear, but doubts are growing as to what can realistically be achieved. It has become increasingly clear that neither Beijing nor the Hong Kong government is prepared to make any concession.

Meanwhile, disturbances to businesses and people's livelihood are increasingly being felt; clashes with anti-Occupy opponents and the police are also more frequent. So high are the stakes that the campaign may end in a manner that no one desires. It is perhaps time the protesters considered retreating and reviewing their strategy.

The overnight violence in Admiralty is regrettable. In what appears to be a tit-for-tat action, protesters extended the occupation to a road near the government headquarters, after the barricades they had put up to block traffic were removed by the police during the day. This prompted police officers to use pepper spray and other means to subdue the crowd.

While police operations have, by and large, been restrained so far, news footage showed a protester, later identified as a Civic Party member, apparently beaten up by a handful of officers in a nearby park. The matter is now being investigated.

The confrontations over the past two days are not the first. Ever since tear gas was fired to disperse protesters outside the government headquarters on the first day of Occupy Central, further clashes were to be expected. The emergence of men in masks ripping up barriers over the past two weeks has added fuel to the fire.

Genuine democracy is a laudable goal. That explains the sympathy shown by the public towards the student-led campaign in the early days. But as it enters a 19th day without any sign of a breakthrough, patience is wearing thin. Increasingly, more negative consequences have surfaced - schools suspended, shops closed, traffic diverted.

As grievances mount, support for the civil disobedience movement is waning.

However much we share the democratic aspirations, there is a limit to people's tolerance. Without any sign of success, there is no end to justify the means. What's more worrying is that as Occupy continues, the final outcome will leave no one satisfied.

The pro-democracy fighters have vowed to soldier on. If losing one battle is the way to sustain a war, there is no reason why they shouldn't vacate the streets for the time being and continue the fight in a more constructive and pragmatic way.