Occupy Central, One Year On: Who Are the Winners and Losers?
We look at who got waterlogged and who stayed waterproof since thousands took to the streets.
Has the umbrella movement turned inside out? Or is it just furled and put aside for another rainy day?
The Hong Kong Police Force
A heavy-handed response to peaceful protest cemented the Hong Kong Police in their new role as Hong Kong’s most hated—at least among the protesters and their sympathizers. But even the most strident Blue Ribboner would concede that the initial response was more worthy of Aleppo than Admiralty. Meanwhile, the cops seem to be dragging their feet over investigating their own. Have the police regained their reputation as Asia’s finest? Hell no. But at least they’ve cleaned up Lan Kwai Fong, right?
(Photo: SCMP / K.Y. Cheng)
Ever since the Occupy protests, the majority of the pan-dems have been on the back foot. Depending on your point of view they either didn’t go far enough by not fully supporting the protesters—or went too far by associating with the law-breaking scum. Either way, since 2014 it’s been all about trying to regain the initiative. The Electoral Reform proposal was a great chance to get the public back on their side—but the pan-dems’ refusal to budge was more frustrating than inspiring. You expect it from student protesters. You expect it from our intransigent government. But should you expect the same from our lawmakers?
(Photo: SCMP / David Wong)
The Legal System
In a year fraught with questions about the rule of law, the last thing we needed was any hint the system was getting shaky. But it’s taken prosecutors almost the whole of the year to bring the student leaders of Occupy to court. At the end of August they were finally charged with taking part in and inciting others to unlawful assembly. The prosecutor has said that the case was “straightforward,” but as presiding magistrate Bina Chainrai pointed out: “If it is pretty straightforward, it should not take a year to prosecute.” What a very good point. Was the prosecution delayed until public memories died down? Is this just another instance of the government playing the waiting game? The case has been adjourned until October 30—even more time will tell.
Want to know how much the umbrella movement was separated from the usual run of politics? Exhibit A: The pro-Beijingers were unable to capitalize on the movement’s dissolution. When the tide of public opinion turned against Occupy, the loyalists (rightly) feared to rush in. But their true uselessness was underlined by June’s embarrassingly botched electoral reform vote. The pro-establishment camp accidentally walked out en masse before the vote, turning the government’s defeat into a landslide. With friends like these…
(Photo: SCMP / May Tse)
Occupy Central’s Founding Fathers
When university professors Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Chan Kin-man, and minister Reverend Chu Yiu-ming created “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” in March 2013, they lit the slow fuse on a powder keg they couldn’t hope to stamp out. As soon as Tai had to announce the start of Occupy four days early, it was evident the movement had outgrown its leaders. In a recent interview Benny Tai expressed regrets over the speed and scale of the whole thing, maintaining that he’s hopeful for a “tipping point” when the public will be back on the side of democracy. But the establishment seems to have found its own way of reprimanding Tai. In August he was banned from managerial-level responsibilities at HKU for three years, due to the improper handling of Occupy-related donations. Institutional retaliation or a way to dodge dismissal? That’s up to you.
Face it: Despite everything—and we mean everything—somehow, someway, CY Leung has come out of Occupy on top. We don’t mean his public approval ratings—which have been on a reliably steady downwards trajectory—we mean that somehow, someway, he’s still IN CHARGE. You can’t deny it: after the Chief Executive’s masterful stonewalling over Occupy, he’s got Beijing’s confidence. Recent liaison office comments about the “transcendent” role of the CE only underline this. With an unchanged electoral system in place, there’s every chance that CY Leung will run for office again in 2017—and there’s every chance that he’ll win. Buckle up.
(Photo: SCMP / Simon Song)
The New School
The weakness of the pan-dems during the protests left a huge hole to be filled, and the post-Occupy groups have stepped into the breach. Organizations such as Youngspiration, the Progressive Lawyers Group and Power for Democracy are presenting a new wave of pro-democracy voices in the city, a more political aspect of the umbrella movement. It’s these groups who will stake out the next battleground in the city. In November, Hong Kong goes to the polls for one of the very few things it can vote in—the district council elections. While most of the pan-democrats and the new groups have been working to avoid splitting the pro-democracy vote, there are a few post-Occupy groups who are in it to win it, even if it means going up against other pan-dems. Will the post-Occupy world be as fractured as the one before it? Or can we remember that for 79 days in 2014, half of Hong Kong came together in a communal belief that something had to change? After all, there’s a chance it still might.
It’s been a good year for the white-haired ex-journo founder of anti-Occupy groups the Silent Majority for Hong Kong and the Alliance for Peace and Democracy. He was recently back in the news, vowing to stay vigilant to ensure that Hong Kong did not become “another Syria, Egypt or Libya.” Hey, remember his video predicting that if 10,000 people occupied Central, the city would fall apart within an hour? Or his snitch hotline that encouraged the public to inform on students who boycotted classes? We can’t shake the feeling that Chow’s done very well out of the fears of the older grassroots: Presumably he’s well paid for the privilege. At least he’s admitted that he doesn’t have the answer to the whole situation—although we look forward to yet another hare-brained scheme.
(Photo: SCMP / Dickson Lee)
This has been the year that Scholarism’s darling grew up—and it’s been a difficult adolescence. For many, Joshua Wong was the voice of Occupy—the most present and constant of student leaders. Since then, the road hasn’t been quite so smooth. Wong’s role ever since has been one of waiting, as prosecutors try to work out what exactly to do with him. But in the last year he’s been attacked in Mong Kok, denied entry to Malaysia and most recently been hounded on the MTR by a Youtuber in search of a few more video views. But it’s not all been bad. He’s also got a girlfriend, a makeover from Apple Daily—and appeared on the cover of Time magazine. And he’s still only 18. He’s got plenty of time to change the world.
(Photo: SCMP / Bruce Yan)
It was inevitable. This has been the year of the localists, thanks to a populace increasingly worried about the encroaching influence of China in the city. Can we blame them? Nope. Between Beijing’s increasing heavyhandedness and Occupy’s failure to achieve its goals, there’s ever-growing cause for concern. So localist groups are on the rise: Especially Civic Passion, whose media outlet the Passion Times is highly popular with Hong Kong youth. Localists are rightly proud of our city and its unique status in the world—to the extent that some are even pushing for Hong Kong to break off into its own city state. It’s easy to understand why localists are worried. It’s easy to agree with them, in fact. But the problem is that so many of them appear to be such assholes. In the quest to defend Hong Kong’s rights they appear to have conflated our dear leaders in Beijing with mainlanders themselves, giving rise to an ugly and largely misdirected hatred against our cousins north of the border. Hatred and house prices are the two things Hong Kong needs less of, but it looks like they’re here to stay.
Smooth jazz clarinet crooner Kenny G visited the Occupy site in Central, posting a photo of himself on Twitter and his wishes for “a peaceful and positive conclusion to this situation.” He was forced to backtrack and withdraw his support once the Chinese Foreign Ministry got involved. G’s butter-smooth melodies are inexplicably popular in China, and his cheesetastic tune “Going Home” is commonly played to indicate closing time in malls. Go home, Kenny G.
A Gentle Reminder
Remember how CY Leung insisted that “foreign forces” were at work in Hong Kong during the protests? And not only that, but he had compelling evidence of this which would be revealed “at the appropriate time”? It is 11 months since he made this claim, and we’re still waiting on the evidence. Any time now, CY…