This is why Hong Kong’s struggle isn’t over yet

As Hong Kong’s civil society regroups and reflects in the aftermath of the 2014 pro-democracy protests, one of the founders of the Occupy Central campaign explains where they should go next.

Chan Kin-man
28 September 2015

In the wake of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, nothing is certain, and as different forces move to prove themselves, civil society remains in flux. To mark the one-year anniversary of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, Chan Kin-man – co-founder of the Occupy Central movement – sets out the critical problems and new battlegrounds that lie ahead for future movements.

No exit strategy

Hong Kong protests, September 2014. Demotix/Xian Jun. All rights reserved.

Hong Kong protests, September 2014. Demotix/Xian Jun. All rights reserved.Occupying for too long was not a wise decision

“The 2014 protests lacked a coherent leadership. Student leaders were torn between the "Occupy Central with Love and Peace" campaign (also pan-democratic legislators), and more radical protesters. We were against an escalation of action – just to avoid violent conflicts – while the radicals were against retreating from the occupation. 

“The standoff at the end led to a backlash from the community. Occupying for too long was not a wise decision.” 

Splits in the movement

Chan Kin-man. Demotix/David Smith. All rights reserved.

Chan Kin-man. Demotix/David Smith. All rights reserved.

Most people regard independence as unrealistic

“Radical groups, such as “Civic Passion”, promote both violence and independence for Hong Kong. This will only marginalize the democratic movement from mainstream society. Most people, including democracy supporters, are moderate and regard independence as unrealistic. 

“However, looking at a group like Civic Passion from a more dynamic viewpoint shows the regime how far society can go, if democratic reform is further delayed.” 

What happens now?

1 July democracy rally, 2014. Demotix/PH Yang. All rights reserved.

1 July democracy rally, 2014. Demotix/PH Yang. All rights reserved.

When the opportunity arrives, grievances will explode

“There is a strong sense of cynicism among people after the Umbrella Movement. It is difficult for pro-democracy politicians to push the government to initiate a new round of constitutional reform. What can people do when a large-scale moment of civil disobedience like the Umbrella Movement failed to create real change?

“I do not think there is going to be a large-scale demonstration this year. But sporadic conflicts will continue, and when the opportunity arrives – when Beijing picks the next Chief Executive – the grievances towards both Hong Kong’s Chief Executive C.Y. Leung and Beijing will explode. The 1 July pro-democracy rally in 2016 should be a critical sign.”

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