The Hong Kong Occupy Saga Continues
After a two-month standoff that has caught the world’s attention, Hong Kong authorities are expected to attempt to make a final push against thousands of activists pushing demands for greater democracy in the territory.
The occupation appears to be reaching a crescendo, with hundreds of demonstrators back on the streets to await police action. For instance, Rose Tang, a firebrand who survived the Tiananmen Square massacre as a student in 1989 and was forced to flee the country, flew in over the weekend from New York to add her opposition to police action.
Hong Kong’s high court ordered the publication of a restraining order in the city’s newspapers requiring tents and barricades and the people who have manned them to be removed. Protesters have been pushed out of their base in the busy Mongkok area on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbor. Two remaining sites, one in the Causeway Bay shopping district and the other at government headquarters in Admiralty, are expected to be the target of thousands of police.
Unfortunately, according to an update by the Hong Kong-based country risk firm Steve Vickers Associates, as the police have been forced to do the work of the political interest, they have replaced the government as the “enemy” in the eyes of some of the more-radical demonstrators.
“SVA sources are picking up hints of intent to seek retribution against the Police for what some of these extreme groups perceive as its brutality over the past weeks,” the report said. “Their claims may prove to be just bravado, but a possibility of violence cannot be rwuled out.”
In a sense, the ejection of the protesters from the two sites is an anti-climax. Nobody has won, but the government and Beijing have probably lost more in the eyes of Hong Kong, at least in terms of credibiliy. The movement’s three original leaders, gave themselves up to police last week and said the movement had accomplished its aims, only to be thoroughly ignored by demonstrators camped at the two sites. The original leadership of the protest lost control to student protesters, who in turn have lost control to firebrands with no leadership and who appear to have no goals beyond continuing occupation.
The protests began in September in condemnation of an order by Beijing that full suffrage in 2017 elections, as democracy advocates believe was promised to them when China took over the territory, was not going to be allowed. While the city’s eligible members of the 7.5 million city would all be allowed to vote, the Chinese government said, Beijing would control the nomination process to make sure nobody harboring disloyal thoughts would be allowed to run.
The situation masks a much deeper split between Hong Kong and China. As frequently reported, Hong Kong University polls show fewer and fewer people identify themselves as patriotic citizens of the People’s Republic of China, but rather residents of an autonomous Hong Kong. Given the fact that Beijing is ruled by a Communist dictatorship, there was no way the government was going to back away by an inch
In that regard, the leaders of Occupy Central with Peace and Love, as they called themselves, set themselves an unachievable goal. They have had some undeniable successes. A wide majority of the citizenry now regard Leung Chun-ying, the chief executive installed by Beijing, as an ineffectual lackey. Despite widespread impatience with the stalled traffic, probably a majority of citizens are on the side of looser reins from up north,
That said, where do we go from here? There is a feeling, certainly, that the final chapter of the occupation is coming to a close, although heads could well be broken. While the court order specifies only a partial clearance of Harcourt Road, a main artery into Central, it probably means full clearance of the protesters once and for all. Certainly the public, while mostly agreeing with their aims, has grown tired of the chaos.
SVA, headed by a longtime former police official turned country risk analysis, has long been critical of the government’s handling of the affair, saying that the issuance of the injunction “highlights the Hong Kong government’s continued insistence on concealing clearance action behind court orders and bailiffs; this stance complicates the situation, ties the police’s hands to a certain extent, wastes significant resources and increases the likelihood of ugly clashes between protestors and the police. “
Those are unnecessary tactics, with more than adequate powers available to the police under the Public Order Ordinance, according to the SVA update on the situation. The local government, SVA sad, “may still result in operational half-measures, knee jerk decisions or perhaps a still partially blocked road, particularly if stiff resistance and casualties occur or if confusion reigns following on from executing this strategy.
A further risk, the report said, is that an increasingly frayed police force is goaded into overreaction by agitators or die-hard demonstrators, and that localized violence erupts and casualties occur as efforts are made to reopen the city.
Needless to say, any perceived overreaction by the Police or visible violence by hard core demonstrators or agitators could result in ugly scenes that bring more people back into to the fray, in support of whichever side they favor.
SVA foresees several scenarios that could emerge, ranging from the most favorable, in which the demonstrators melt away, that the diehard remnants clash on an aggressive basis, leading to arrests, that violence escalates and police make larger scale arrests, that police eventually overcome a period of resistance and the situation is contained after several days.
“In many respects unless serious violence materializes over the next few days as police move to clear the remaining occupation zones, the end of the occupation phase could very well prove anticlimactic,” SVA continued. “However, if circumstances dictate that the police have to move forcibly against either the protesters and/or their opponents, then considerable disruption and the widespread use of force, including the deployment of pepper spray, CS smoke, projectiles and other Internal Security equipment, should be anticipated.”