Benny Tai: The rationale of Occupy Central is the pursuit of justice

Original published in Apple Daily on 26 August 2014: Read original
Translation on 28 August 2014

The real problem is not the alarm bell, but rather the fire.  It is still burning out there even without any alarm.  The loud alarm goes on just because of the fire, which is the root cause of the problem.  Those who ring the alarm bells, which are very loud indeed, are not trying to create disturbances but are actually trying to warn the occupants instead of fleeing himself.  What is really ridiculous is that the determination, courage and decisiveness are not used to put off the fire but rather used against the one who notices the fire and rings the alarm bells.  I could not help but ask: “What the heck is the rationale behind?”

Li Fei, chairman of the Basic Law Committee, expressed by far the strongest standpoints from Beijing officials on Hong Kong’s constitutional reform after having met with delegates from various sectors.  He said, “A simple logic underlying certain viewpoints in Hong Kong is that people who confront the central authorities should be allowed to run for chief executive through universal suffrage.  This is not possible under the Basic Law.  They threatened to use civil disobedience acts such as Occupy Central if their requests of the so-called ‘genuine universal suffrage’ and ‘international standards’ are not met.”  He questioned, “What the heck is the rationale behind?”

A weak logic underlying Li Fei’s argument is that people whom the central authorities does not trust should be excluded from chief executive elections.  People in Hong Kong who are asking for universal suffrage have never meant to confront the central authorities.  Nor do they ask to allow people from any particular parties to run for election or get elected.  What they want is only a fair and just electoral system so that the chief executive thus elected will have the necessary credibility to resolve deep-rooted conflicts and bring about better governance in Hong Kong.

In order to achieve its purpose, Beijing has imposed a lot of constraints on the Basic Law stipulations.  Although civil nomination forms a part of the chief executive electoral method selected by the participants in the civil referendum, Beijing simply gave the final verdict that civil nomination is in violation of the Basic Law without ever offering any convincing legal justifications.  Even if civil nomination is rejected, the electoral system still needs to conform to the international standards of universal suffrage that provide voters with a genuine choice.  The room for maneuver between civil nomination and international standards, though very narrow, does exist.  The stance of OCLP has been that Occupy Central, an act of civil disobedience, will happen only if the proposal does not conform to international standards.  But now Beijing is trying to force the people of Hong Kong into settling for a pre-screened chief executive electoral system which, if vetoed, will be made the fault of the pan-democracy camp.

In response to Li Fei’s question of “What the heck is the rationale behind?”, my answer is: “It is the pursuit of justice.”  In return I would like to ask him: “What the heck is the rationale behind accusing people who pursue equal political rights as rioters?” Maybe Li Fei’s response will be: “Might is right.”  Li Fei also strongly criticized Occupy Central as “organizing a large-scale illegal activity, paralyzing Hong Kong’s international financial centre, and hurting Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”  He said, “If we yield to the threat of radical and illegal activities, we will only invite more and bigger illegal activities.  Never will there be days of peace in Hong Kong as well as in China.”  He added that Beijing is determined to deal with any disasters in a decisive manner and make a historic choice.

What I can say is that Li Fei has completely misunderstood the nature of Occupy Central.  By way of analogy, suppose there is a fire in a building in the middle of the night.  While everybody is asleep, someone has noticed the fire and tries to wake up the occupants by ringing the alarm bells.  The watchman on duty, instead of trying to put out the fire, blames that person for causing panic and chaos, making people difficult to sleep.  As the fire keeps on burning, the watchman goes on to mobilize the occupants to stand against the person who rings the alarm bells, and is determined to stop him from making any more noise. 

Even if the alarm bell is stopped and the people can go back sleeping and dreaming again, the fire is still burning out there. Some may say this is just a false alarm as he is seeing no fire in his own place.  Everything seems fine except the alarm bells. 

The real problem is not the alarm bell, but rather the fire.  It is still burning out there even without any alarm.  The loud alarm goes on just because of the fire, which is the root cause of the problem.  Those who ring the alarm bells, which are very loud indeed, are not trying to create disturbances but are actually trying to warn the occupants instead of fleeing himself.  What is really ridiculous is that the determination, courage and decisiveness are not used to put off the fire but rather used against the one who notices the fire and rings the alarm bells.  I could not help but ask: “What the heck is the rationale behind?”

If there is nobody who is willing to sacrifice himself to keep a watch on the society and the country, leaving only yes-men around our leaders, how can there be days of peace in our society and our country? Would there be any hope? Yes, but it will be just false harmony built on sand dunes.  I have very high expectations of Beijing officials and believe they can do better than this.

Benny Tai
“Occupy Central with Love and Peace” Convener

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