Hong Kong Protest

Tens of thousands of people gathered at Hong Kong's Victoria park to join a protest march to oppose a planned civil disobedience campaign by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong on Aug. 17. Pic: AP.

As Beijing prepares to hand down its decision this Sunday on whether or not Hong Kong will be granted political reforms for the 2017 election, pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong expect the worst and are prepared to set in motion their campaign to occupy Hong Kong’s financial district.

The week-long session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) will conclude this Sunday when it officially announces the framework for Hong Kong’s electoral system for their 2017 candidates. That same evening in the streets of Hong Kong, the pro-democracy Occupy Central campaign are organising a public ceremony, which depending on the decision of the NPCSC, could very likely be the start to their long campaign of civil disobedience.

Extreme opposition to Beijing’s decision seems all but inevitable now, with the Chairman of the NPCSC Zhang Dejiang even being quoted by the China Daily newspaper saying that the central government expects “something is going to happen” after its decision on Sunday. Although Zhang did not refer to the Occupy Movement, he did state that these problems are expected to arise in the course of political reform, and that the central government is well prepared for such problems.

These comments from the chairman of the NPCSC strongly suggest that Hong Kong will not be granted universal suffrage come Sunday, but that the civil disobedience campaign will be quashed before it even gets started.

“It appears that the decision to be announced on Sunday will confirm our worst fears and damage all hope for a genuinely democratic electoral system,” said Joseph Cheng, convener of the Alliance for True Democracy, a coalition of democratic parties supporting Occupy Central movement.

“The Occupy Central campaign will organize a ceremony at 7p.m. on Sunday to announce the implementation of the civil disobedience campaign should Beijing deny us political reform. Other pro-democracy groups will also announce their action plans then,” added Cheng.

What the central government have prepared to counter such opposition, or how much force they are willing to use, remains to be seen. The state-run Global Times newspaper ran an editorial during the week which stated that, “The opposition camp in Hong Kong embraces some unrealistic illusions that must be knocked out.”

Although the Occupy Campaign is the most publicised movement in the pro-democracy camp, it will be difficult to put into effect. The leader of the occupy movement, Benny Tai Yiu-tingas, has said that the mobilisation of such huge numbers of protestors – without being arrested before reaching the financial district – will be the campaign’s hardest task. For this reason, the Occupy Central will not likely take place this Sunday.

“I don’t anticipate that the Occupy Central will last long,” said Cheng, who intends to be part of the campaign. “The Chinese authorities will take a hardline approach and the Hong Kong police will severely crackdown on the protestors at an early stage.”
Despite the campaign’s aim to shut down Hong Kong’s financial institutions, it is a non-violent movement. Tai said that if it gets out of control, the campaign will definitely be stopped.
“When the day comes, some may know we are going to occupy central, but we will not make clear which day that will be,” said Tai when speaking to The Standard.