Hong Kong’s 10-day-old standoff between student leaders and the government appears to be abating, with civil service workers returning to work and the presence of protesters on the streets falling sharply to a few hundred on Tuesday morning as moderates urged dialogue and a managed clearance of access for civil servants with the cooperation of the students.
Both supporters of the Umbrella Revolution, as it is called, and the police appeared to be keeping their cool on perhaps for the first time since the protests began. Preliminary discussions to prepare for talks with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor have begun, But despite the apparent amity, neither side can even agree on the guidelines for the meetings, sources said.
Students ditch talks
The Hong Kong Federation of Students originally ditched the talks last week after hooligans smashed into their encampments in Mongkok. The students still hold the government responsible for the unprovoked assaults amid police indifference in Mongkok on Saturday, saying it showed bad faith. Student leaders do not believe in government sincerity if law enforcement is working with gangsters, a common theme The most important takeaway from the violence is that this is a major psychological turning point in Hong Kong society’s traditional trust in its police force. From respected guardians and protectors, they are being turned into symbols of state repression, with police watching passively as triad members groped a female student. The root cause for the police inaction lies higher up in the non-leadership of CY Leung and the shadowy CCP enforcers who now shepherd him. The PRC sees all organs of state as tools to control citizens. They cannot understand how the police and courts in Hong Kong can be allowed to exercise independent professional judgment.
Local papers quoted residents receiving What’s App messages offering HK$500 to harass the student protesters. This is of a pattern with other mass mobilization rent-a-crowd tactics seen during the Anti-Occupy signature campaign and pro-Beijing marches. It carries all the hallmarks of “underground front” activation by the China Liaison Office. There was an instance where an assailant whom the students surrounded and handed to police, was helped by cops into a taxi to depart.
Riot police armed & dangerous
The senior superintendent who ordered the lobbing of 87 teargas shells into the crowd told a local newspaper that he made the right decision and did not regret it, saying he would do it again. He referred to the 1992 New Year tragedy in the trendy district of Lan Kwai Fong where revelers on the street lost their footing on beer-soaked pavement, sliding the packed crowd down the slope, crushing 21 people to death. By some convoluted logic he justified his decision to shoot teargas into the crowd last week, as saving them from similar tragedy.
His only regret was the live TV coverage of his work which brought even more residents out to join the students. He stands ready to repeat his performance.
“I hope people understand why teargas was used. It was to ensure their safety. There was no political motive. I did not want people seriously getting hurt...No one is actually injured by the use of CS. Nobody dies from CS smoke. It’s not pleasant but no one was injured.”
Professor Ronnie Poon Tung-ping of HKU’s medical faculty dismissed that as ignorance. On his Facebook page he said exposure to teargas can be injurious and induce acute lung problems.
“I am very surprised that the police force in possession of lethal weapons seem to have no knowledge of the potential harm of these weapons,” Poon said.
The chief executive in his Saturday night press conference warned students to vacate access roads and the overhead bridge to the government complex so the 3,000 civil servants can return to work on Monday. He said it would be “dangerous” for them to stay.
Leung framed the protest as an attack to disable government, making it a confrontation between students and the administration. That dovetails neatly into the Beijing narrative that this is a law and order challenge which needs to be dealt with firmly.
There were no answers from the chief executive on the 2017 CE Election formula which students see as a sellout by the leadership of the people of Hong Kong. He has avoided meeting directly with the students, delegating his no.2 for the task. The students want the talks to be held under live TV coverage, so the HK public can follow the discussions without information distortion by the administration.
Why are students upset?
The students are on the streets because their futures are at stake. They do not trust the CCP and reject the National People’s Congress Standing Committee ruling of Aug. 31 on how the 2017 CE candidates will be screened and selected by a tight group of mainly pro-Beijing faithful. They say the central government has betrayed the Basic Law under which Hong Kong was promised democratic elections. They see the “universal suffrage” being offered, to vote for pre-selected pro-Beijing candidates, as a sham.
Students see their future being hijacked by people who do not represent them and who are unwilling to face the Hong Kong electorate openly. They see no one standing up for Hong Kong. They have lost respect for governance by Beijing appointees. They want transparency and accountability of local leaders to the people of Hong Kong.
That however is not how the CCP likes to operate. It prefers elections for which it can guarantee the outcome and candidates who are beholden to the Party for their positions.