Hong Kong activists defiant but looking into an uncertain future

Analysis: Divisions in democratic camp will make finding common ground difficult

Police confront a pro-democracy protester earlier this month.  There are fears Beijing may be planning a more severe crackdown. Photograph: EPA/Rolex Dela Pena

Police confront a pro-democracy protester earlier this month. There are fears Beijing may be planning a more severe crackdown. Photograph: EPA/Rolex Dela Pena

 

After two weeks of protests seeking full democracy for Hong Kong, there is no sign of the region’s government and its Beijing supporters backing down on any aspect of the debate, placing the demonstrators in a very difficult position.

There are fears that by painting the protests as a “foreign-led colour revolution”, Beijing may be setting the ground for a more comprehensive crackdown in the financial hub.

“The situation is pretty bad for the pro-democracy movement. We are quite divided and cannot get a united leadership and, at the same time, the pressure from Beijing is coming,” said Joseph Yu-shek Cheng, a political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong.

“More significant than the violence this morning was the branding by Beijing of the Occupy Central campaign as a Hong Kong version of the Colour Revolution,” said Cheng, who is a convenor of the Alliance for True Democracy, which supports broad public participation in elections.

“To use Communist Party terminology, the crackdown is natural, negotiation is impossible. It is very difficult for the pro-democracy movement to secure some achievement to enable us to have a step-down process.”

He said the tearing down of the barriers wasn’t important. “We have adopted guerrilla warfare tactics. We shall continue with our wave after wave of peaceful civil disobedience . . ,” said Cheng. “If the pressure is bad, we always advise people to retreat.”

There has been speculation that chief executive Leung Chun-ying may come under pressure as investigators look into a €5 million payment received by him from an Australian engineering group in 2012 and 2013.

However, this was unlikely to force him out. “Beijing cannot afford to let CY Leung step down now and will support him. We don’t have the votes to impeach him,” said Cheng.

More protesters are expected to join the demonstration in the next few days, and even more at the weekend. “If the police don’t release those arrested from last night that will only fuel anger, and if the officers aren’t punished quickly, that will also drive anger,” said one rights activist.

More ominously, there are growing signs of Beijing’s impatience with the situation.

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