Occupy Central

Carrie Lam must read the hidden message in Occupy amnesty call by Democratic Party chair

Mike Rowse says Wu Chi-wai’s call to move on from Occupy was less than practical, but it captured a strong desire in the community for reconciliation and for the incoming administration to address the issues that divided the city

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 April, 2017, 12:02pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 April, 2017, 6:19pm

The idea of a pardon for everyone connected with the Occupy movement – both demonstrators and police – did not survive very long. The originator, Democratic Party chair Wu Chi-wai, was briefly supported by his Civic party counterpart Alvin Yeung Ngok-iu, but within less than 24 hours both had recanted and apologised to the public and their parties.

They accepted that the proposal had not been weighed thoroughly enough before it was aired. There was therefore barely time for others to criticise. The kindest comment was that Wu had “good intentions”, which as we all know is how the road to hell is paved.

What missteps on both sides at the political level caused us to suddenly start seeing each other as enemies?

But looking at the idea in context, what it did capture was a very strong desire in the community for reconciliation. Indeed, Wu’s call was not the first. Immediately after the conviction of seven police officers for assaulting a handcuffed protester, there were calls from self-described patriotic forces for them to be excused in the interests of “harmony”. Although that particular call was rightly dismissed, we should not allow the underlying desire for unity to be neglected.

Nor should we listen to the siren voices pushing the idea that we must choose between greater democracy and an orderly society. We are Hong Kong people and we can and should arrange to have both.

Last week, I attended the wedding banquet of a police chief inspector (son of a family friend), and his bride, who was from the media world. No doubt many present were strong supporters of political reform. But we all admired the bridegroom and his police colleagues in their dress uniform. The latter formed an archway of ceremonial swords above the aisle as the happy couple stepped away from the altar, and we all cooed in admiration when the video was played that evening.

Is that so surprising? After all, these are our police officers, our friends, the sons and daughters of people we know and love. They have our respect for the job they do keeping our community safe, but more than that, they have our affection. So at the human, personal, level – we are already way past reconciliation, we have remembered and resumed the warm and intimate embrace we all shared before.

How did our community lose this feeling? What missteps on both sides at the political level caused us to suddenly start seeing each other as enemies? No doubt part of the responsibility must be borne by those in the Occupy movement who stirred up our young people to the extent that they developed unrealistic aspirations. And part must be borne by the outgoing administration. The sincerity of the consultation exercise on political reform was questionable from the outset, with the sudden inclusion in a footnote of the idea that each candidate for chief executive who secured the required number of nominations would not automatically be included on the ballot paper given to voters. Instead, the aspirant would be subject to further vetting by the nominating committee from which he would require majority support.

The fight for universal suffrage in 2017

If that got the exercise off to a rocky start, what came later was worse. Though the consultation paper dealt with arrangements both for the Legislative Council and the chief executive elections, the final report on the outcome of the process omitted all reference to the many suggestions for reform of Legco. Even mild suggestions to make the election/nominating committee more representative of the people of Hong Kong – as required by the Basic Law – were ignored. All that was left on the table was an extremely conservative reform proposal on a “take it or leave it” basis. Small wonder our young people felt so frustrated.

All we have seen since last year’s Legco election is a guerilla war

All we have seen since last year’s Legco election is a guerilla war whereby the government has sought to disqualify as many as possible of the duly elected pan-democratic camp on shamelessly spurious grounds. This is supposed to be part of the healing process?

Incoming chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor needs to reflect on these issues. At the personal, individual level, we have got over Occupy. At the institutional level, we seem to be still fighting the old war. Wu’s original suggestion may not have been very practical, but at least he was trying to be a Jedi knight.

The administration, by contrast, is giving a very good impression of trying to be Darth Vader.

Mike Rowse is the CEO of Treloar Enterprises. [email protected]