The occupation of downtown Hong Kong is drastically reduced and the opening of negotiations with the government remains uncertain.
After the increase of popular participation in the last weekend (October, 4 and 5) which reached about 200 thousand people at peak times, the occupation of Hong Kong central areas undergoes an emptying and only a few hundred protesters keep their tents and some barricades.
This large participation was not limited to students, since thousands of workers started attending the occupation after the chief executive of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, made a statement on TV on Monday (October 6th) when he said that “all necessary measures” would be taken in order to restore the order, so that the entire central area was liberated.
With the disastrous result of his action, which was like throwing gasoline to put out the fire, he has expressed once again asserting that the proposed date was not an ultimatum and that he was willing to seek a “frank dialogue” on electoral reform, but he asked once again that the population returned to their homes.
The fatigue after several days of occupation, sleeping in tents and under extreme tension due to the police repression and then, due to the repression perpetrated by the Triad gang members – a sort of local mafia, which charges merchants for protection – caused many protesters to leave downtown.
The fact that workers who joined the fight had to go back to work also played a decisive role. Mainly because nothing was done towards a general strike, despite an initial call by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (which is not aligned with the central government in Beijing).
Teachers issued a manifesto with hundreds of signatures, but the trade union, which is the largest of the city, also did not call any supporting movement.
Even so, several hundred of protesters defied the government commands and remained in their tents in the main area of occupation, Admiralty, where is the government headquarters, and fewer in number in Mongkok, the area where they were attacked by the gang.
On Monday schools reopened normally and civil servants were not prevented from returning to work after several days of blockade of the government headquarters. But in the evening, after work and school, thousands of protesters go back downtown every day in order to thicken the occupation.
Negotiations where nobody negotiates
The current situation, although very favorable to the government, remains stalemated, now involving the opening of negotiations.
Both parts – the government at one end and the Federation of Students Dickey together with the “Occupy Central” at the other end – have already made mutual offerings to begin negotiations, but these have not happened yet.
Lau Kong-wah, sub secretary for constitutional affairs, said the government agreed with multiple rounds of negotiations, conducted on an equal basis.
Students also agree to negotiate and in their agenda they demand that “civil nominations” are accepted for the 2017 elections.
The fact that the government agrees to negotiate on equal terms shows its weakness, mainly because the occupation was heavily emptied. On the other hand they are aware of the fact that the occupation is only a “measure” of public discontent with its government.
In a survey conducted in 2010, more than half of those surveyed showed dissatisfaction with the latest local chief executive. If this survey were repeated today, this percentage would greatly increase, not only because of the democratic demands struggle, but because of the worsening living conditions of the population.
The first meeting was held on Sunday evening, but did not progress because the government did not agree to extend the discussions beyond what was allowed by the “Basic Law”, that is, beyond what was dictated by the ruling Communist Party of China.
In short, the government accepts to negotiate, but do not want – or cannot – accept any of the demands of the other party. On Tuesday, another appeal was made and a new round was scheduled for October 10th. However at a news conference on the previous day, the protesters promised to start “another wave of civil disobedience” and demanded, once again, free elections in 2017.
JoshuaWong, leader of the ‘Schoolarism’ movement, which in 2012 managed to stop a project for curriculum reform carried out by Beijing, said a new student strike could be held and Pan-Democrats MPs said they would ask for the impeachment of the chief executive and the blocking of the government accounts.
The authorities’ response was the cancellation of the following day negotiation accusing the movement leaders of “undermining the efforts for constructive dialogue”. The impasse continues, but now poisoned with new denunciations.
A dictatorship which pleads for ‘democracy’
The Communist Party of China (CPC), through its People’s Daily continues to attack the movement stating that it “uses illegal methods to achieve the political goal of violating the Basic Law”.
According to the CPC, “against the will of the majority of Hong Kong the illegal movement, led by some hotheaded politicians interrupted the normal functioning of the main business centers of Hong Kong”.
Finally, the government advocates the police crackdowns saying that “to use legal methods to manage illegal actions is the best defense of the law and it is also a powerful defense of democracy” and issues its concept of democracy: “The existence of some people who are encouraging illegal activities and demanding their ‘genuine elections by universal suffrage’, whose center is to ensure that its representatives, including those who oppose the central government, may become candidates for the local chief executive position. “
These are not uncertain terms, the presentation of opposing candidates is impossible because it is a “matter of principle”, not negotiable. For the CCP it is very clear, democracy is when I command and you obey…
It is not only for the vote
It is clear that the “matter of principle” mentioned by the CCP it is not the right to present candidates or not, but rather its maintenance in power, which would certainly be questioned in free elections in Hong Kong, but probably also in China.
Not by the force of an opposition candidate, but because of what Beijing represents to Hong Kong, much beyond the false ideology preached by the CCP itself that China lives in communism. The oppression felt in every corner of the city is reflected by one of the most unequal societies in the world.
In Hong Kong, one out of five inhabitants lives below the poverty line. There is no salary increase according to inflation, which leads to earnings losses of 15% since 2000, and the minimum wage, which was only introduced in 2010, is of R$ 8,5 per hour, less than half the minimum wage of United States. There is no right to salary negotiations, there is no unemployment insurance, and there is no right of retirement. And the housing prices are among the highest in the world, driven by the massive arrival of new wealthy people from China to live or to go shopping luxury items.
With the transformation of Hong Kong in a financial center and gateway to the opening of factories in China, it is great the Beijing concern with a possible social unrest in the city. The CCP itself has already warned about the possibility of “outflow of capital” towards more stable centers. There is much more at stake than a ballot in a ballot box.