The call on protestors to withdraw du jour comes from lawmaker Felix Chung. He seems deeply concerned about the impact of the pro-democracy Umbrella-Occupy road closures on small enterprises, some of which are known to be struggling to pay the rents that go to his Liberal Party’s tycoon and landlord constituents.
Despite exaggeration by hypocrites and sycophants, the Umbrella movement has undoubtedly harmed some businesses (and benefited others, like camping equipment stores). A recent court judgment even refers to the damage as ‘not evanescent’…
…and authorizes bailiffs, with police support, to clear some of the occupied streets.
Media today quote ‘sources’ as saying that 7,000 cops could turn up in Mongkok tomorrow. Why would officials give advance warning of the timing? Maybe they expect the demonstrators to meekly pack up and go home this evening to avoid unpleasantness. Or maybe this is a trick – that’s what they want you to think! – and the multitudes of bailiffs and police will descend on the site in 10 minutes, or in a few days. (I was wondering where they’ll find 7,000 cops. Since this is a civil matter, and the police won’t be directly involved, the real question is, where do you find 7,000 bailiffs?)
The occupation does have a sort of getting-to-the-end feel about it – but then this must be the 10th or 12th getting-to-the-end feel we’ve had since it all started in late September. Do the authorities have what it takes to, yet again, screw things up and provoke reinforcements and renewed public sympathy for the students just as the occupation would finally be waning? I’d give it a good 50-50 chance. The tactic of waiting for exhaustion to set in among both protestors and public opinion requires a lot of patience. And the government, with Beijing’s opposition-crushing advisors growling down the phone, seems frustrated and itching to act.
One reason is that – lest we forget – a public consultation on the electoral arrangements for 2016-17 is underway. This might seem an obscure, laughably irrelevant, downright evanescent detail now, but the bureaucrats have a Beijing-written script to act out, and a timetable to keep to. A climactic, once-a-generation, everything-changing political uprising accompanied by the biggest outbreak of unrest in decades can’t get in the way.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam would like us all to move on and (dare we say it) get back to normal. Let’s talk and achieve universal suffrage! We shall see. This second round of the consultation will go into the nitty-gritty of things like the composition of small-circle functional constituencies and how the Nominating Committee will produce its ballot of screened Chief Executive election candidates. Just the sort of thing to remind everyone what triggered the students’ sit-in in the first place.