Whenever I recall ‘Occupy Central Movement’, a whiff of disbelief runs across my mind and it still amazes me even today. How could that be possible? I still couldn’t bring myself into believing that China would actually let it happened in its front yard and that’s still a mystery to me. After all, China is a communist country, public dissents or disturbances are hardly tolerated within China and Hong Kong is still an integral part of China.
‘Occupy Central’ itself was not only unprecedented but also a phenomenon in Hong Kong’s history and such event of massive proportion was not seen for decades. Thanks to the post-handover activism era, having rallies or public demonstrations in Hong Kong is pretty normal and a day hardly passes by without such news. Yet, ‘Occupy Central’ was way ahead of what we were seeing hitherto and it certainly raised eyebrows in the mainstream community. People were camping in the middle of the busy highway as it was a country park, occupying busy streets in Mong Kok as it was their own backyard, and participating in various activities as they were in a festival venue. What’s more, it continued not only for a day or a week or even a month but for a staggering 79 days and that’s a very long period of time in politics.
Hong Kong people had never shown such unity, courage, and resilience before for a common cause and created a history for which we shall actually feel proud. Having said that, however, cracks started to appear at the very moment when the government finally caved into the popular demands and agreed for the talk. I was genuinely astounded when I saw only the student leaders at the talk and my initial reaction was something like what’s going on. Why the leaders of the opposition party, the movement itself and so-called flag-barriers of the movement were not joining the talk? They should have come together as a united team and help each other until the goal of achieving universal suffrage was finally achieved.
Then, three leaders of the movement itself declared the end of the movement and left the field but many openly ignored the order and remained on the ground at their own will. It clearly showed the movement was not as united and strong as it was initially thought, different groups of demonstrators had different agendas, and they were operating rather individually inside under the veil of democracy which happened to be the pretext for the whole movement. We had a pro-democracy group, pro-independence group, government’s policy haters, Chief Executive Haters, and much more with real social issues such as unaffordable housing prices, inflation, and deterioration of livelihood, poor health and education system and so on. Yet, everything was boiled over because of one major issue and we all know what that was – China.
Had it not been for China haters, including the western world (the so-called protector of democracy, humans right, freedom of press and freedom of speech), there would have neither Occupy Central movement nor other demonstrations in Hong Kong for sure, and they would not have such a big say in the history of Hong Kong.
The failure of removing the protesters from the streets for such a long time clearly showed government’s lacking in implementing rules and orders and how top leaders at Beijing did manage to look on is still a mystery. I know the tradition of saving a face, or rather losing it, plays the great significance in Chinese society and Beijing is no exception. Besides, Hong Kong is said to be sacred for Beijing and they would never make any hasty decisions unless it’s absolutely necessary. Beijing turned out to be truer in their words, people were skeptical about ‘One country two systems’ and yet, the doubts seemed pretty unfounded by now.
Admit it; Hong Kong is still the one and only place in the whole Greater China where we have rules of law, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, human’s rights and some degree of democracy as well. We do have the choice of electing some of our legislatures and district councilors while the rest come through relevant constituencies. We could have even been able to elect our own Chief Executive, principal officials and government itself had it not been for our city leaders.
Our so-called city leaders should have been wiser and accept the offers on the table that had been won hard through Occupy Central movement. Although the offer was not perfect, it was still an offer far better than what we have at the moment. Only the naïve thinks democracy is perfect. We should have accepted as it was and use it as the foundation of future democracy and gradually build on it as we learn the trade with time. By simply refusing it outright, we ended up empty handed and have absolutely nothing to build something on. As a result, all the efforts, sacrifices and meaning of Occupy Central movement went through the drain hole and all we get a the end was a bitter and divided society.
In brief, no matter how to put it, ‘Occupy Central’ was the wasted opportunity and our city leaders are to blame for the mess. History shouldn’t forget them that easily.
TIM I GURUNG/AUTHOR AT ISSLCARE – http://www.timigurung.com