By Leigh Barber
Students and other groups troubled by the actions of the Chinese government have rushed to the streets of Hong Kong to protest in the hopes of gaining what they desire: universal suffrage for the people of Hong Kong. Over the past month, motivation for the protest has decreased, however, the Chinese government has decided to talk to the leaders of the protests in order to get the people off the streets for good.
The leaders, professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, sociologist Dr. Chan Kin-man and Baptist Minister Chu Yiu-ming have named the movement Occupy Central. Others have dubbed it the “Umbrella Revolution” because some protesters used umbrellas to defend themselves from the pepper spray that the police were using.
Occupy Central also has a very large number of student protesters from the Federation of Students and Scholarism. Benny Tai, the main leader behind Occupy Central, believes that civil disobedience is the most powerful weapon, which is why about 30,000 protesters have flooded several different districts of Hong Kong. The movement reportedly grew to 50,000 after the police used violent tactics such as tear gas to fight against the peaceful protesters.
“The government brings out more protesters when they do those sort of things,” Professor of Political Science Barbara Hicks said. “It evokes sympathy from other groups.”
After weeks of tear gas and protests, the government has agreed to sit down with students and negotiate with them about what the government can do to meet their needs.
“The government provoked this whole crisis,” Hicks said. “It is an ideological standard operating procedure of a repressive communist regime. Corruption in China is a major issue, it is an issue that frustrates everybody, making it a very popular issue to tackle. It is not an unreasonable position by the protesters. I think they have generally been nonviolent and focused on what they want.”
The actual number of protesters still remaining on the streets of Hong Kong has dwindled, but the students are still hopeful and show no signs of backing down, as seen in recent talks with the city’s senior civil servant, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam. Five leaders represent the students and Lam represents the government.
During the talks, students have stuck to their original demand to change the way candidates are selected in elections. They want an unrestricted choice in candidates for the elections coming up in 2017. They also want Chief Executive CY Leung to step down. Their idealism was met with Lam’s pragmatism. She claims that it is impossible for those demands to be met. It has been reported that the students used passionate rhetoric, imploring Lam to understand their desire for a truly democratic society, while Lam and the other government officials present responded to their claims with concrete legalities.
Not much was accomplished from the meeting. Lam proposed to send a report to the Chinese government that will represent the requests of the protesters. She also suggested to set up a platform to facilitate dialogue on future constitutional changes. While these proposals may appear to reveal the light at the end of the tunnel, Lam stressed that Hong Kong could not decide on its own its political development because it is a special administrative region within China.
This proposal from Lam and the government of China did not please the protesters. Many agree that the suggestions were inadequate and they rejected the idea of setting up a platform for dialogue and have decided to take to the streets and poll protesters on whether or not they will accept the government’s proposal and end their sit-in. Leaders of Occupy Central want to make sure that their voices are heard. They will use this poll as a strong negotiation tool in further talks with the government.
Information for this article was taken from bbc.com, scmp.com and smh.com.au.