Commentary: The Hong Kong pro-democracy movement compared to other nonviolent freedom struggles, part 2

In my last piece, I compared the Hong Kong democracy movement to other nonviolent freedom struggles, focusing on three ultimately successful ones, the Indian independence struggle, the US civil rights movement, and the eastern European fight against Communist dictatorship. While these movements are today regarded retrospectively as successes, we noted that what they have in common is that 1) they took decades to accomplish their aims and 2) they required a deus ex machina beyond their control as a catalyst for realization of their aims (respectively, World War II, Lyndon Baines Johnson and Gorbachev). The conclusion drawn from the comparison is that freedom struggles are often long, hard and uncertain, and rarely are freedom struggles powerful enough in themselves to accomplish their aims; they usually need other forces to align with their interests. Those struggling for freedom must persevere even when the outcome appears highly uncertain and distant. They must continue to exist until the opportune moment.

Today I look at some ‘failed’ freedom struggles, namely China ‘89, Iran ’77-‘79, Burma ’88-’90, and Egypt ’11-present. Note that all four of those countries are still ruled by authoritarian regimes.

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Commentary: ‘When you’re pushed around, what else can you do?’ – The dilemma of Hong Kong people in facing a big bully

Our friend the accountant is, typical of a certain sort of Hong Kong person, generally apolitical. Whatever else you might say about him, he certainly isn’t a rabble-rouser. But that was his sympathetic comment about Occupy Central: “When you’re pushed around, what else can you do?” To him, Occupy Central is a logical response to bullying: Either you back down and comply with the bully’s wishes, or you stand up to the bully- there isn’t much middle ground. In a nutshell, that is the dilemma Hong Kong faces at the moment—what to do with a big bully.

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China Restricts Voting Reforms for Hong Kong

Chris Buckley and Michael Forsythe | 31 Aug 2014 | New York Times

HONG KONG — China’s legislature laid down strict limits on Sunday to proposed voting reforms in Hong Kong, pushing back against months of rallies calling for free, democratic elections.

Occupy Central says it will engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to avoid major disruption. Its organizers have said that they do not plan to plunge into mass protests immediately.

“We’re not making threats, we’re just sending warning signals,” said Mr. Tai, the group’s co-founder. “The house is on fire, something has to be done.”

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British Response to Election Limits Upsets Activists in Hong Kong

Alan Wong | 5 Sept 2014 | New York Times

HONG KONG — For months, democracy advocates in Hong Kong have called for an open election for the city’s leader and for international pressure to be exerted on Beijing to not interfere with Hong Kong’s autonomy.

That effort suffered another blow on Thursday when the British government said that it welcomed an act of China’s legislature that set strict limits on how Hong Kong is allowed to select its next leader, even while it acknowledged that the “detailed terms” of Beijing’s decision would “disappoint those who are arguing for a more open nomination process.”

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Occupy Central’s Greatest Weapon – The Law!

2 Sept 2014 | Rich Scotford | China Op-eds

Beijing wants a subjugated Hong Kong like Macau is today. High on money, low on morals and locked-down on any real freedoms. That’s the model they desire for Hong Kong. However, the political awakening that is happening in Hong Kong now rejects this model for the city. The students are now the foot soldiers in an opening front to protect the Rule OF Law in Hong Kong. The students know they can go onto the street and break the law in a small way to prove that the law is still just.

The CPC can not play this kind of game in Hong Kong yet without becoming the biggest loser. Currently the laws of Hong Kong are steadfast and are guarded by a robust and dynamic internationally recognised legal system. If things get bad, Beijing can throw out all the laws of Hong Kong  and declare a state of emergency and impose marital law on the city – but if they do this, they lose. They lose an international city and the Hong Kong stock markets will crash and China will be an international pariah once more. Enormous proportions of the CPC’s wealth will be lost in a HK crash. Most Hong Kongers on the streets at the time will not care if the HK Stock Exchange collapses, Why? Because they have no interest there. That ship sailed for them years ago. Most Hong Kongers can barely afford housing or schooling, let alone stocks. Even Hong Kong’s once influential middle class have been pushed out of this market and struggle to survive in a city dominated by CPC corrupt money,  The CPC will be the biggest loser in any lock down of the city. They will effectively be killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

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Exam Review: Hong Kong’s Occupy Central with Love and Peace

Justin Tse | 29 August 2014 | Religon. Ethnicity. Wired.

Things are heating up over there in Hong Kong over the movement known as Occupy Central with Love and Peace. There’s going to be a rally on August 31 to deliberate over what sorts of acts of civil disobedience the movement will take in response to Beijing’s newly proposed framework for Hong Kong’s electoral reform. This is because while the Occupy Central movement put forward a proposal for Chief Executive candidates to be determined by civil nomination, Beijing has de facto rejected the proposal by insisting on choosing the candidates. Universal suffrage, however, seems to be still on the table. All of this comes on the heels of an anti-Occupy Central rally that was held in Central, as well as several seemingly political investigations of pro-democracy legislators. To add even more alarm in terms of the parallels to the Beijing Spring in Tiananmen Square in 1989, armoured vehicles have been reported to be entering Hong Kong from China.

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Beijing’s ‘knock-on-the-door’ warning to Hong Kong’s democracy movement

Patrick Brown | 29 August 2014 | CBC News

According to Nicolas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch, “The rule of law in Hong Kong has eroded faster in the past few months than it had over the whole period from 1997 to 2014.” And there are probably two main reasons for this.

Consolidating his power after almost two years in office, President Xi Jinping has spoken of the need for a firmer hand with Hong Kong, partly out of concern that allowing greater democracy there might lead to demands for the same in other parts of China.

The regime has also been caught off-guard by the strength of the campaign for democracy known as Occupy Central with Love and Peace, which participated in a huge march on July 1, the anniversary of the handover.

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United Front absorbs ICAC, and other stupidity

29 Aug 2014 | Big Lychee

In the past, Hong Kong has usually had moderate politicians, reasonable media voices and neutral bureaucrats and business people with the wisdom and good humour to maintain some basic cohesion. Even after the Article 23 uproar, or Donald Tsang’s anti-democrat tantrums, some sort of civility returned. This time feels different. In its attempts to assert control, Beijing has polarized the city, and it looks permanent. If they’re going to use law enforcement agencies for political persecution stunts, what’s the point of being moderate and constructive?

Maybe Beijing will realize its tactics are overkill and counterproductive. Otherwise, the city is going to end up more alienated, more disgruntled, and less governable than ever.

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Civil Disobedience 101 Hong Kong Style

Rich Scotford | 26 Aug 2014 | China Op-eds

It looks increasingly likely that some form of civil disobedience campaign will take place in Hong Kong in the near future. Political reform is now turning into a high-stakes game pitting the desires of significant proportions of the Hong Kong public, who wish for a credible democracy, against the might and coercive strength of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which is used to getting its own way, eventually.

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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?”

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Hong Kong’s political future

26 August 2014 | Khaleej Times

The principle of ‘one country, two systems’ has come full circle.

These days Beijing is engrossed with the puzzle of how to handle Hong Kong, as universal suffrage demands pick momentum. The pro-democracy Occupy Central movement is out on the streets of the downtown calling for reforms and an electoral system that shouldn’t be censured by Chinese authorities. The issue is all about electing a new chief executive for the former British colony in 2017 through a popular vote. The fear that China will try to influence the outcome by screening candidates has stirred an unending debate. Activists want no restrictions on the nomination of candidates.

The final decision, per se, rests with the National People’s Congress, which is in session in Beijing. It is widely believed that the politburo will not budge from its stated positions and would like the candidates to be vetted before they stand for public office in Hong Kong. The Congress also wants the new chief executive to be a ‘patriot’ and must not oppose the Mainland government. With such ifs and buts at work, the plenary session of policy-makers in Beijing will not be in a position to scale down soaring tensions in its offshore territory. Things as they stand seem to be heading towards a showdown as hundreds and thousands of activists are camping on the streets to force the authorities to accept their demands.

If Beijing remains adamant on screening the candidates through a nominating committee, it will be end of the road for the hard-earned consensus that Hong Kongers had experienced since the historic transition. China has to take into consideration the fact that the world has changed for good, and it is no more the Tiananmen Square era where demonstrators can be crushed under the wheels of army tanks. China’s self-invented social media is more than enough to act as a bulwark against the dictates of communism.

Response to the Ice Bucket Challenge from Pro-establishment Councillors

25 August 2014


The three organizers of Occupy Central with Love and Peace have recently received the Ice Bucket Challenge requests from some pro-establishment Councillors. We appreciate its achievements of the IBC in raising public awareness on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). However, we think that there are many more problems in our society that have not gained the support they deserve. The best way to promote love and peace is to encourage the general public to support organizations that foster public welfare. Therefore, we’d like to respond the requests with a donation of HKD 3000 to Amnesty International to support prisoners of conscience and to let the world see that justice can be served.

Occupy Central with Love and Peace Conveners
Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Chan Kin-man, Rev. Chu Yiu-ming

Pan-democrats take a hike to share their view

Hilary Wong | 25 August 2014 | The Standard

About 600 pan-democrats and activists hiked to The Peak yesterday calling for genuine universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election.

Among those who showed up at the event organized by Occupy Central were stalwarts Martin Lee Chu-ming, Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, Alan Leong Kah-kit, Gary Fan Kwok-wai, Albert Ho Chun-yan and Emily Lau Wai-hing.

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‘Waves of struggle’ will lead up to Occupy Central sit-in

Samuel Chan | 25 August 2014 | SCMP

The Occupy Central movement will plan “wave after wave of struggle” culminating in its blockade of the city centre if Hongkongers are denied a genuine choice of candidates in 2017.

Speaking at a hike for democracy that drew about 300 participants yesterday, Occupy founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said core groups of the campaign as well as major student activist groups would meet to discuss their strategies next Sunday, immediately after Beijing announces its framework for universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

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Threshold set for Occupy Central

25 August 2014 | RTHK

Occupy Central organiser Benny Tai says his movement won’t carry out their full disobedience campaign if Beijing only rules out public nomination for the 2017 chief executive election.

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress is expected to make a decision next Sunday. Occupy Central has said it will peacefully block Hong Kong’s business district if Beijing doesn’t offer democracy which meets international standards.

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Police ‘perform second major drill over Occupy Central’

Samuel Chan | 20 August 2014 | South China Morning Post

Almost 10 per cent of the 28,000-strong police force gathered yesterday as units from across the city took part in what is understood to have been the second major exercise to prepare for the Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign.

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In political activism, good things come in small packages

Jason Y Ng | 20 August 2014 | South China Morning Post

They used to live in the same residential complex, attend the same school and ride the same bus every morning. They both grew up in devout Christian families and were taught to take an interest in society.

But 17-year-old Joshua Wong Chi-fung and 20-year-old Ma Wan-ki – better known as Ma Jai – can’t be more different from each other. Joshua is a household name and his spectacled face has appeared on every magazine cover. He is self-assured, media savvy and can slice you up with his words. Ma Jai? Not so much. He gets tongue-tied behind the microphone and fidgety in front of the camera. He is a foot soldier who gets up at the crack of dawn to set up street booths and spends all day handing out flyers for someone else’s election campaign.

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The time is now: Hong Kong’s Occupy Central

Kong Tsung-Gan | 19 August 2014 | Open Democracy

In any freedom struggle, much of the struggle is between not only the oppressed and their oppressor but between the oppressed themselves, some of whom side with the oppressor, and within each of the oppressed, who in struggling against their oppressor also struggle against the voices within themselves that tell them to unconditionally obey authority or that there must be something wrong with them if they have such a grievance against ‘the way things are’, or that even if there is something wrong, it is utterly futile to fight it.  The fault lines are many.  Such is the case in the Hong Kong freedom struggle.  This is the result of Hong Kong’s history as a colony and an immigrant society.

In the entirety of its modern history, from the start of British colonial rule in 1842 up to today (when Hong Kong finds itself under the new colonial rule of the Chinese Communist Party), Hong Kong has always been a colony and never a democracy.  Like the rest of China, it has no democratic tradition.  Much of the current freedom struggle involves building the democratic culture Hong Kong has never had from the ground up.  Creating culture and changing culture is by no means an overnight process.  It takes time.  The question is, does Hong Kong have the time it takes?

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