Looking beyond barricades

Hong Kong’s fight for democracy and good governance descends into a war of attrition between police and protestors over street barricades. To the government, removal of pro-democracy occupiers’ barriers is an important symbol of power – a reassertion of manhood after the humiliation of losing control of three major roadways to homework-wielding schoolgirls (among others). To the protestors, it seems like a last stand:  once they pack up and go, they reason, they have nothing left.

Hong Kong’s authorities, after no doubt being egged on by no-nonsense Beijing officials, have learnt the hard way that getting tough against the occupiers simply provokes a SCMP-CollisionCoursebacklash and greater resistance. But the only alternative they can think of is doing nothing – and that’s not an option. So the latest tactic is to get tough mildly, by dismantling barriers at the fringes of occupied zones and re-opening a few lanes to traffic, as if to create an air and expectation of a calm return to normal.

But a third force is seeing this as a green light to come along and join in. Hired thugs, triads and mouth-frothing angry uncles have turned up to hasten the clearances. From where the protestors are standing, it seems these belligerent and even violent intruders have the blessing of the police or government. Beijing functionaries might be giving tacit encouragement to organizers, but it’s hard to credit even this government with being so desperate and stupid as to call in – that is, to depend upon – mercenary henchmen.

The counter-protestors do not help the government or the cops. Their obnoxiousness simply provokes yet more backlash, such as yesterday’s creation by sympathetic construction workers of larger and more complex barricades. And they are not all paid stooges: an awkward truth for the youthful protestors is that there is a sub-culture of their fellow citizens who sincerely and deeply hate them. These detractors are particularly incensed by what they see as police favouritism towards the pro-dem kids, such as letting them close streets for weeks. Their logic is that they are resisting intimidation, not dishing it out.

The thugs are losers and beside the point. Both the government and the pan-democrats should be raising their sights from the streets.

Does anyone in the administration have the imagination to try to reassert control not simply of roads but of events? The government needs to shock and surprise the community with some big and positive announcements. Not just the hackneyed resignation of Chief Executive CY Leung, but attention-grabbing and radical policy – overhauled expenditure priorities, fairer access to education/healthcare and cuts in Mainland shopper arrivals are just a few possibilities. But the answer to the question is probably ‘no’, so it’s irrelevant.

Can the pro-democrats decide what to do next to keep the pressure on and – crucially – maintain and increase the public support that government is too incompetent to attract? Considering that opinion polls routinely show that few think Beijing will make concessions on political reform, the focus on universal suffrage has served surprisingly well. But they need more. Declaring war on tycoons and cartels through consumer boycotts and protests would be a great way to force the Hong Kong and Beijing leaders to openly choose between siding with privilege or the people.

This is a struggle for public opinion, not barricades.

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26 Responses to Looking beyond barricades

  1. Grumpy Old Sod says:

    The Occupy Central Movement did yesterday call upon police to, “strictly enforce the law”.

    Works both ways, kids.

    Nice to see Queensway opening up again.

  2. Joe Blow says:

    Police are now doing the dirty work for the CY Leung clique.

    Hong Kong Police are scum.

  3. Scotty Dotty says:

    Sadly Hong Kong has been circling in this space since the handover… Shit government and shittier governing class but equally dire alternative/opposition.

    When’s the last time we heard anything like a policy from the dems other than frothing at the mouth over universal suffrage?

    Looks like much if not all of the Occupy energy will end up wasted

  4. Funster says:

    “Our duty is to hold ourselves responsible to the people. Every word, every act and every policy must conform to the people’s interests, and if mistakes occur, they must be corrected – that is what being responsible to the people means.’

    Mao 1945

    By people, I doubt if he meant the tycoons that run the city.

  5. Cerebos says:

    Easy. Perfect solution as usual is under their noses: beef up the competition commission. http://www.compcomm.hk/en/index2.html

    Govt gets to pass the buck. Communicate message that they’ve taken a crucial step to fight inequality and they have the perfect riposte to the entrenched interests: it’s this or years of sporadic business interruption.

  6. Thanksforthefish says:

    If I may point to a very good summary of what should happen now: here it is. Take a page out of the book of what Ghandi did.

    Compromise with something small, knowing that a greater change has already occurred in HK’s political surroundings. Of course we cannot expect anyone to be so clever in politics here, as the last few years have shown.

    http://www.dissentmagazine.org/blog/gandhi-win-lessons-salt-march-social-movements

  7. Hills says:

    But a more important issue, why are these pro Peking people always so amazingly ugly?

  8. Colonelkurtz says:

    The govt and bureaucracy are bereft of ideas. They want more of the steady as she goes, down the plug hole governance that has been their guiding mantra since the colonial govt left. I’m no fan of colonialism and don’t doubt the local population are capable of and deserve better governance. But don’t look to this govt for it or to the civil service. HK deserves better and will only get it when the CE and Legco fully answer directly to the people. you may think the students were naive. But at least they stood up when everyone else was bending over resignedly to take it in the arse from Beijing. Imagine what could have been possible if the more resigned parts of the population came out and did the same. The outcome may well have been different. I’ve been several times down to Admiralty. Though here’s a certain doomed kumbaya atmosphere in some ways, but I also heard some of the best political rhetoric I’ve ever heard in HK. Often from people in their early 20s. They have massively sidelined the traditional democratic politicians in HK and silenced the so called elite and rent seekers who I suspect we’re genuinely frightened or shocked by the outrage a sizeable proportion of the population showed with both intelligence and dignity. HK’s political scene will be fundamentally changed by this. It took high school students and university students who are braver than most of the commentators here to stand up and show it was possible.

  9. Stephen says:

    @thanksforthefish

    Just heard Emily on the television in full mouth frothing mode – Taiwan, International Community, Peoples Republic of China were all mentioned – very commendable.

    But, and here’s the compromise, shut up about Taiwan, International Community and especially the Peoples Republic of China and represent Hong Kong only. Seventeen years after the handover and the distrust is still there and the home return permits are gathering dust. Start talking to them regularly and I think if legislators promise to not say or do anything against the CCP, in return they may allow greater democracy in Hong Kong.

    The people of China will take care of the CCP one day, when they’ve had enough and out grown it. However an anti-Tycoon boycott now – definitely! I will not patronize any bar or restaurant that leases its premises from Allen Semen.

  10. Real SCMP Commenter says:

    Well said, Colonelkurtz. The list of public figures I despair of in HK is a long one, but the list of ones I admire has grown considerably in the last few weeks.

  11. Citizen says:

    ColonelKurtz – he right

  12. Knownot says:

    “a war of attrition”

    We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here …

    +

    “consumer boycotts and protests”

    After the June 4th crackdown people spontaneously withdrew their deposits from Chinese banks. But they went back sooner or later.

  13. Here’s an idea for the government to consider if it wants to break the deadlock. Propose one small change to Beijing’s reform package – add “None of the above” to ballot papers for the CE election. If more people vote NOOA than for any of the nominated candidates, all the candidates are thrown out and we get a fresh round of nominations in which they cannot stand again. Beijing still gets to screen the candidates, but this gives them an incentive to nominate at least one candidate who can genuinely command public support – otherwise all their handpicked choices can be rejected by the people.

    Actually this should be done for all elections – LegCo and district councils as well. Give the people a veto as well as a vote.

  14. Queensway Stroller says:

    Happy days are here again !
    The foul bus fumes of which I yen
    The endless Queensway traffic jams
    Now all I need is just the trams

  15. PCC says:

    The Dissent Magazine article cited by Thanksforthefish above is worth reading in the context of the Occupy Hong Kong movement’s meaning and next steps.

  16. Grumpy Old Sod says:

    @Joe Blow

    I’m sure you’ll tell the nice officer that the next time you’re involved in a car accident, your house is burgled or your darling little teenagers are beaten up in a bar fight.

  17. Joe Blow says:

    @ GOS: Yes, I will happily tell the stormtroopers.

    @ Stephen: I second you. I will never set foot in a Semen resto / bar again.

    The barricades were cleared early this morning in Causeway Bay and this evening there is complete gridlock. Good on you, fuckers.

    “The people have the right to us the road” the Gestapos told the students in Admiralty. And I, as another HK person, have the right to breath air that is not polluted by Alphards and Porsches.

    As long as CY Liar sits on the chair, I will not pay any tax.

  18. Joe Blow says:

    Why are the police able to organize and execute the removal of intricate steel barricades at protest sites, but they are not able to remove DAB and mainlander thugs blockading the Apple Daily print factory ?

    If ANYBODY still has doubts about the partiality of the Hong Kong Police, HERE is the proof, plain and simple. They don’t serve us: now they only serve them.

    By the way: Webb has published a report, showing that the DAB received over 100 million dollars last year. Where did that come from ? And was the RMB conversion taken into account ?

  19. Real Tax Payer says:

    If anyone watched the whole show in Queensway today, as I did from early morning till late afternoon from the bridge to Lippo Center, one would have to hand it to the HK Police for being a model of peacefulness and efficiency.

    Totally amazing !

    And yes – the students (or whoever were in the front lines leading the students that first night when tear gas was used ) were truly storming police lines so viciously that tear gas was more than justified. It was a real riot of the first degree, and I would be happy to testify to that in court.

    I was there in the thick of it as an observer, both in Gloucester Road and later in Lockhart Road.

    Since then, things calmed down.

    Regardless of the political repercussions, which I’m sure will reverberate ad infinitum, we have a pretty damn good police force . Give them full marks , please

  20. Scotty Dotty says:

    @ Joe Blow

    Chill my dear fellow.

  21. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Joe Blow

    Yes, calm down, please, dear fellow !

    Also easy not to pay tax….

    Just go to High Court 7 ( 5/ F) and and ask our ex CS in person whenever he leaves the dock for coffee break and / or is on the lift how he managed to evade the IRD for so many years

  22. nulle says:

    how you contribute to the billionaires of HK
    http://www.timeout.com.hk/media/specialPages/large/20386_98.06-Feature2-4.jpg
    http://www.timeout.com.hk/feature-stories/features/48834/evil-overlords-or-lucky-devils.html

    If you want to help Occupy Central and make a statement to the CCP, do this:
    – Avoid doing ANY BUSINESS with the tycoons of HK
    – Write to mutual/hedge funds and large multinationals urging them to pull/avoid investment in China
    – DO NOT INVEST in the tycoons corporations and PRC Chinese corporations
    – Write more re: inequality in HK and translate them in Trad Chinese so more HK people can find it.

  23. Joe Blow says:

    Just saw this video clip on Reddit: half a dozen plainclothes cops taking a single, unarmed protestor in Admiralty to an unlit, secluded corner, forced him to the ground and started to kick and beat the shit out of him, while one pig was on the look-out to make sure that nobody noticed.

    Did I say ‘scum’ ?

    SCUM

  24. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    @Joe Blow – is this the clip?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvsrEF3gp-U

  25. anon says:

    @nulle

    Thank you! Hyper-links to TIME-OUT, show crystal-clear information: HK students are protesting against REAL ESTATE BLOOD-SUCKERS & their corrupted supporters. Any HK leader must clean out that intolerable mess. Otherwise he/she has no claim to leadership.

  26. nulle says:

    @anon,
    Sadly, the CCP also protecting these “REAL ESTATE BLOOD-SUCKERS” & their corrupted mainland counterparts.

    Any Beijing-backed HK leader must clean out that intolerable mess…Otherwise he/she, just like the CCP has no claim to leadership.

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