South China Morning Post
Time for yet another review of the Occupy movement in Hong Kong. The present strategy for dealing with the occupiers and indeed for the rest of us appears to be that we should be allowed to stew in our own juice.
The message seems to be that if you want to give direct or tacit support to those demonstrating for political reform, then this is how it going to be. Traffic inconvenience, chaos in Legco, and some problems for small businesses.
Meanwhile, public opinion oscillates from being fed up with the inconvenience caused by the occupiers to intense irritation with the government for its inability to negotiate with the students. This has to be because the government is obeying orders from Beijing.
But there is a big disconnect here between the students and their supporters, and the central government. Years ago, say in the 1980s, if you spoke to young people about Li Ka-shing and his wealth, he was generally admired.
He was a role model, a symbol of what could be achieved in Hong Kong. People reckoned that if they worked hard, they too had a chance to be rich.
That dream has disappeared out of sight for large swathes of society, particularly the young.
Since so much of Hong Kong business is geared towards the mainland, young people have to compete with often better educated and more ambitious mainlanders with better English and who are native Putonghua speakers.
At the same time, the prospect of being able to afford renting a property, let alone owning their own home, has faded as asset prices have gone through the roof propelled by the US Federal Reserve’s low interest rate policy.
Hong Kong’s attraction as a financial centre with a well-established rule of law, good infrastructure and so on has proved to be double-edged. It is an attractive place to do business and to invest.
But this has not only attracted a large number of visitors from the mainland but also mainland funds, which have helped to support property prices. The tycoon economy has flourished in this environment.
As dissatisfaction levels have risen over the past few years, people have focused on trying to change the electoral arrangements in the hope of getting a leader that would pay more attention to the needs of the dissatisfied.
What the protesters and those that support their aims want is a change to the tycoon-led status quo. It’s a class struggle.
The Communist Party has bigger fish to fry than Hong Kong. People wonder whether giving Hong Kong a more democratic system is such a threat to the mainland. After all, people argue, Hong Kong has been different for years, so people on the mainland should be used to it.
The problem for the Communist Party is that it thinks making concessions might make a difference. It might set a precedent. It might be the start of something on the mainland.
Xi Jinping’s father and many others fought a long, bloody war for control of China. It is not something that the party is going to put at risk because of student protests in Hong Kong. There’s a lot at stake – family networks of princelings, money, property and so on. It is inconceivable that the Communist Party is going to make significant concessions to Hong Kong’s student protesters if it thinks this may threaten its grip on the mainland.
It will certainly be most reluctant to be seen apparently making concessions in the face of pressure. If nothing else, this Occupy movement has stripped away the stark political realities facing Hong Kong people.
The Occupy movement can go on forever – it’s not hurting the mainland, just Hong Kong.