Occupy Central On Its Last Legs

Leaders of Hong Kong’s protest movement are mulling whether to keep going, shift tactics, or retreat after two months of street demonstrations failed to persuade authorities to hold an open election for the city’s leadership in 2017:

The Hong Kong Federation of Students will decide in the next week whether to call on protesters to pull up stakes from camps which straddle some of the Chinese-controlled city’s main thoroughfares and have tried residents’ patience. Chan Kin-man, joint founder of the “Occupy Central” protest movement that has called for the students to pull back, said the federation had a “very major decision” to make. …

Benny Tai, another joint founder of Occupy Central, reiterated calls for students to leave and pondered where the disobedience movement could go next. “Blocking government may be even more powerful than blocking roads,” he wrote in the International New York Times. “Refusal to pay taxes, delaying rent payments by tenants in public housing … along with other such acts of non cooperation, could make governing more inconvenient.”

Whichever way the movement goes from here, Rachel Lu calls this round for Beijing:

Everyone in Hong Kong will probably emerge from the Occupy movement a bit bruised, either physically or mentally, but some in Beijing might be smiling. China’s central government has stood fast on the core issue — that Beijing will vet the slate of nominees for Hong Kong’s chief executive in the 2017 election. Years (if not decades) of “united front” work, a term used by China’s ruling Communist Party to describe efforts to hew non-party elites close to its goals, seem to have paid off. Beijing has proven that it knows how to pull the right levers in Hong Kong to wield considerable influence — all of the local government officials toed the line, tycoons spoke out against the occupation, and grassroots groups staged counterprotests. When one businessman took the position that Leung should resign, he was swiftly removed as a delegate to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference as a form of discipline and censure.

The ranks of the pro-establishment camp will likely tighten, while the opposition pro-democracy camp is left in disarray amid infighting.