Occupy Central Protesters In Hong Kong At Crossroads As Beijing Takes Hard Line

The powers that be in Beijing have now told the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong that, despite their demands for an open and unrestricted process, there will be no changes to the Chinese Communist Party’s plan to select who may or may not be a candidate for the election of Chief Executive starting in 2017. This leaves Occupy Central protesters at a crossroads as no progress has been made on the protester’s demands and Beijing has endorsed the current Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s “wait them out” approach. Commerce is scheduled to resume on Friday as the national holiday has ended and it is an open question as to how much support the protests will have if large parts of Hong Kong remain shut down.

The communication from Beijing occurred via The People’s Daily, the party’s official newspaper. In a front page commentary the CPC claimed the protests were illegal and threatened the social order of Hong Kong and attacked “Occupy Central” by name. Though the commentary reiterated that the CPC believes in autonomy for Hong Kong with the “one country, two systems” paradigm, it also made clear that Chief Executive Leung had Beijing’s support and that Hong Kong’s political system would continue to be managed by Beijing.

The People’s Daily commentary accused Occupy Central With Love and Peace, the movement that has led pro- democracy campaigning in Hong Kong, of “desecration” of the rule of law in the city.

“The actions of ‘Occupy Central’ have flagrantly violated the laws and regulations of Hong Kong, severely obstructed traffic and disrupted social order,” the commentary said. “This is placing the political demands of a minority above the law, hijacking public opinion in Hong Kong for selfish ends, damaging the social stability and economic prosperity of Hong Kong.”

Yes, despite being the second largest capitalist economy in the world the government of China still makes public statements in vaguely Stalinist terms. Doublethink aside, the statement by Beijing signals that the CPC will let Leung run with his approach hoping the people of Hong Kong get tired of traffic jams and losing money from not working. If public opinion turns against Occupy Central sufficiently then perhaps Leung will try again to disperse the protesters.

As always it is a question of timing. Is the time right for a mass demonstration against Beijing’s control of the 2017 elections or did Occupy Central jump the gun? If it was too early the protests will be broken up and organizers will likely face persecution. But if the people of Hong Kong stand with the pro-democracy activists then Chief Executive Leung’s Beijing-endorsed plan will fail. Then Beijing will have to provide a substantive response – for better or worse.

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