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Occupy Central

Occupy Central's Dr Chan Kin-man looks to 'era of disobedience'

Occupy Central's Dr Chan Kin-man believes protests will force Beijing to talk to pan-democrats - and insists both sides of the debate must change

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 September, 2014, 3:29am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 5:52pm

An "era of disobedience" featuring vigorous protests will eventually force Beijing and a more united pan-democratic camp to come together to talk, a co-organiser of the Occupy Central movement believes.

Dr Chan Kin-man, a Chinese University sociologist, made the remarks in a South China Morning Post interview after pan-democrats said there was no scope for dialogue after the national legislature imposed a tight framework for political reform in Hong Kong.

While Beijing's reluctance to "overcome" its concerns and allow Hong Kong more political power was the main reason for the impasse, Chan said pan-democrats should also reflect on a "lack of mutual trust among parties and their failure to form a team to negotiate with Beijing".

And to critics who argue protests are unlikely to get Beijing to back down, Chan said: "A day is too long in politics."

"You won't know what [President] Xi Jinping's next step is after he is done with the political struggle on the mainland," Chan said, in reference to Xi's attempts to consolidate power and fight corruption. Equally unpredictable was "what would happen in Hong Kong and in the Communist Party in one or two years' time".

Watch: Occupy Central organiser says critics should trust Hong Kong people will not resort to violence

Last month, the National People's Congress ruled that only two or three candidates, supported by at least half of a 1,200-strong nominating committee, could run for chief executive in 2017 - due to be the first time Hong Kong picks its leader by "one person, one vote". Pan-democrats believe the arrangement will be used to screen out candidates critical of Beijing and thus deny Hongkongers real choice. They have vowed to veto any such reform plan by denying it a two-thirds majority in the legislature.

Chan said joining a civil disobedience protest like Occupy would be like a baptism for key pan-democrat lawmakers accustomed to more moderate forms of dissent. And he believes students will carry on the fight for democracy when Occupy is over.

"Maybe after more vigorous struggles, the society - including the Communist Party - would realise that they must sit down and talk," he said. "I hope the pan-democrats would have changed by then, I hope [some groups] would merge."

Chan expects a Legislative Council veto of the government's reform proposal next summer to mark the official end of Occupy, and the beginning of a new wave of social movements.

"We are planning the next steps to defend Hong Kong's core values," he said.

After Occupy ends, Chan wants to write extensively and could help Occupy finance and banking professionals group founder Edward Chin Chi-kin set up a new economic newspaper for the "era of disobedience". Chin's Economic Journal column was scrapped earlier this month.

But one activity Chan cannot resume is his decades-long studies on the mainland. After joining Occupy, Chan stood down as head of the Universities Service Centre for China Studies. He also heads Chinese University's Centre for Civil Society Studies.

"It was a big waste because I built a large personal network on the mainland … I am clear that I cannot return to the mainland now, so I have put down my China studies," said Chan of the work he said "changed my life completely" over 10 to 20 years.

"Before Occupy Central … I was getting ready for a big career development, to do more China-related work. I gave it up," he said, without elaborating.

"But I haven't been regretful for a single minute because it is my responsibility," he said of the fight for democracy.

Chan was "disappointed and angry" to learn of the NPC Standing Committee's decision, but his spirits were lifted hours later at a rally by Occupy supporters.

"There is still hope … and I'm not frustrated because I believe that China will change," Chan said. "As long as the spirit of democracy is alive, we are not - and we will not be - defeated."