09/12/2014, 00.00
HONG KONG - CHINA

Occupy Central ready for a lavish democracy "banquet" in Hong Kong

The "courses" include peaceful acts of civil disobedience to be held on an almost weekly basis. The first one will entail a 500-metre-long black banner to express Hongkongers' ire at Beijing's offer of universal suffrage. Chinese scholar warns that Beijing might restrict the territory's freedom. Catholic Church backs the student strike.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Occupy Central is preparing a lavish "banquet" for democracy whose main courses include peaceful actions as part of a campaign of civil disobedience.

Occupy Central is made up of Hong Kong activists and citizens who want Beijing to keep its promise on democracy in the territory.

As a start to the campaign, a protest is slated for this Sunday in which participants will parade a 500-metre-long black banner from Causeway Bay to Central to express Hongkongers' ire at Beijing's perceived insincerity in offering the city universal suffrage.

The actual date and other details of the overall action are being kept secret, although participants have been informed, Occupy founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said yesterday on the radio.

The Occupy Central movement is carrying out its threat to stage a 10,000-strong sit-in in the city's business hub. The protest would take place on a public holiday to reduce inconveniences, Tai said. This will be the first of many protests, on an almost weekly basis, to make Hongkongers "wake up", Tai added.

"We hope more Hongkongers will understand that even after the National People's Congress' decision, we still need to occupy and continue to fight for [true democracy]", he said.

Tai was referring to China's official position on the election of Hong Kong's chief executive in 2017. Although Hong Kong's Basic Law, signed by Great Britain and China, sets up a real democratic process, the National People's Congress has determined that this will not be granted to the population. People can vote, but only for candidates selected by a pro-Beijing committee.

Occupy Central's response has been the announcement of a new era of "civil disobedience", and the strike announced by student groups on 22 September is part of it. In view of this, the Catholic diocese, which runs 87 middle and secondary schools, will not punish students who go on strike.

Card John Tong Hon, head of the diocese, told the church newspaper Kung Kao Po he shared the feelings of Hongkongers worried about Beijing's limits on nominations for the 2017 chief executive election. Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus, in a comment to AsiaNews, wonders whether Occupy protests "provoked the Emperor's ire".

Of course, Chinese authorities are concerned about the pro-democracy movement's renewed desire to demonstrate. In fact, Beijing could curtail Hong Kong's autonomy if actions such as Occupy Central go ahead, a mainland academic has warned.

"If the Basic Law is not being recognised - as per Occupy Central's contention that it is draconian - I am afraid this relationship could only move towards political adjustment," said Professor Zhang Dinghuai, deputy director at Shenzhen University's Centre for Basic Laws of Hong Kong and Macau, in an article submitted to the South China Morning Post.

For Occupy co-organiser Dr Chan Kin-man, Zhang had "completely misunderstood" the democracy movement. "Even if we undertake acts of civil disobedience, it can be handled by Hong Kong law. [. . .] It is frightening ... and dangerous for [Zhang] to suggest [that Beijing would adopt a political approach]."

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