Occupy endgame calls for voluntary retreat
At long last, the three co-founders of Occupy Central and some pan-democrat allies have followed their plot to turn themselves in to the police. But the high-profile surrender did not result in much drama, as the police did nothing more than take their details when they came forward yesterday. Although no arrests or charges have been made at this stage, a police source revealed that more than 200 people had been identified for investigation. The public expects the cases to be handled according to the law.
The Occupy movement was never quite what it set out to be. The original script was to pressure Beijing for free elections by staging a peaceful sit-in in the heart of the financial district - and to be arrested without resistance in a so-called civil disobedience. But it was overtaken by students' class boycotts and rallies, followed by spontaneous street blockades in Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay.
However lofty the goal, Occupy has not brought us closer to democracy. Instead of being civilised and peaceful, the protests were marred by scuffles and clashes. On Tuesday, the trio finally admitted that the campaign had deviated from the spirit of peace and love, referring to the worst clashes yet over the weekend. It is therefore time to surrender and retreat.
There is no question that Occupy breached the law. Until now, the trio have only admitted taking part in an unlawful assembly, sparking a debate on whether more serious charges should be made. The secretary for justice said yesterday that the government would handle the cases according to the law. How they evolve will be closely watched.
It has been suggested that the rule of law has been left intact in that those who have broken the law have come forward to face the legal consequences. Hong Kong is built on rule of law. Such an argument is tantamount to legitimising law-breaking activities and will not be accepted in our society.
While the surrender marks the final stage of civil disobedience, the campaign is not yet over. Many have vowed to soldier on, despite an appeal by the co-founders to retreat. Leaders of two key student groups, the Federation of Students and Scholarism, say they will not give themselves up yet.
It remains unclear how long the protests will last. But the scenes over the weekend suggest the campaign is getting out of control. Unless the protesters retreat voluntarily, forced clearance seems inevitable.