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Shiu Ka-chun: "Civil disobedience is always an act by a minority." Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Key Occupy Central supporter ready to sacrifice to set an example

“Civil disobedience has two elements – paralysing the city’s operation and self-sacrifice,” says Shiu Ka-chun. “We have done the disruption but not many people are willing to do the latter part.”

The sound of a hand drum made by Shiu Ka-chun has become routine to the occupiers at Admiralty, signalling the beginning of another evening for the pro-democracy protesters dubbed the “Umbrella Movement”.

Shiu – who lectures on social work at Baptist University and hosts the nightly rally at Harcourt Road – is one of a core group of Occupy Central supporters determined to turn themselves in to Hong Kong police soon.

The three co-founders of Occupy Central, as well as volunteers, plan to surrender themselves to police on November 21. Student leaders have reservations, saying they would rather be arrested than surrender.

Tension at the protest camps in Admiralty and Mong Kok has mounted since the High Court granted injunctions ordering protesters away from certain areas. Critics say those who ignore the court’s rulings threaten the city’s cherished rule of law.

Professor Joseph Chan Cho-wai, a political scientist at the University of Hong Kong, has argued that the sit-in could best be described as a “resistance movement” rather than the “civil disobedience” protest the Occupy organisers planned.

That’s because the majority of protesters are reluctant to accept the legal consequences, said Chan, who helped to coach student leaders ahead of their talks with the government last month.

“Civil disobedience has two elements – paralysing the city’s operation and self-sacrifice,” Occupy supporter Shiu told the Post. “We have done the disruption but not many people are willing to do the latter part.”

Shiu said he was attracted – and fascinated – by the self-sacrifice element of Occupy from day one.

“It is the self-sacrifice which makes Occupy different from the previous civil movements I took part in,” he said. “It is the task I set for myself in the second part of my life.”

Shiu, who said he has entered “surrender mode”, will write a confession telling the courts and public why he was willing to pay the price for the movement.

He would have no hard feelings if only hundreds of protesters turn themselves in as “civil disobedience is always an act by a minority”.

The social worker first met the press last April when he vowed to join the protests with other nine comrades, dubbed the “ten Occupy Central diehards”.

Eighteen months later and some of those allies – such as businessmen Jeff Tsui Siu-wah and Tony Tsoi Tung-ho – have faded from the campaign due to political pressure or other reasons.

“All I could say is, I have more advantages [to join Occupy] than Jeff and Tony,” said Shiu, who has neither mainland business links or children.

He also expressed sympathy with the protest organisers – particularly the trio behind Occupy Central. Some protesters, especially the supporters of the more radical pro-democracy group Civic Passion, say that neither the students nor the Occupy leaders represent them, while others say the trio are too moderate or even spineless.

“I do not mind [some people] attacking the ‘main stage’,” said Shiu, referring to the sit-in’s organisers. “What I mind is that you refuse to take up the leading role while you fire those attacks. A movement of such scale needs organisation.”

He said the sit-in’s organisers had put forward some ideas – such as an electronic ballot at the protest zones – in an attempt to break the impasse, but most of the suggestions were poorly received by protesters.

Nevertheless, Shiu believes Hong Kong will never be the same even if the political system remains unchanged in the short term.

“The occupation is like an intensive course which turns rally participants into organisers,” he said. “When many of us are in jail, these people would be the ones who take the lead for the future’s pro-democracy movement.”



This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Lecturer drawn to sit-in by spirit of self-sacrifice