Demonstrators returned to the streets in droves today after the government abruptly cancelled talks with the protest movement:
Crunch negotiations between protesters and Beijing-backed city officials were slated for Friday, but fell apart Thursday after the government pulled out, blaming student leaders for attempting to escalate demonstrations. The decision deepened the political crisis convulsing the Asian financial hub, with the failure of talks expected to reinvigorate mass rallies that have paralysed parts of the city for nearly two weeks. …
Sunny Lo, a political analyst at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, said the government was spooked by a promise from pro-democracy lawmakers Thursday to disrupt the workings of the government in the city’s parliament, known locally as LegCo, in a show of support for protesters. “This is not a good sign now. The temperature is rising both inside and outside LegCo,” he told AFP. “If (the) Occupy Central movement drags on for a few more weeks I’m afraid police action would be inevitable. It would just be a matter of time,” he added.
In a roundup of expert opinion on the current situation, George Chen doubts that Occupy Central is coming to an end anytime soon:
By all means, we are now seeing the protest movement becoming a very long-term political struggle in Hong Kong. I’m not talking about two months or three months. You may see fewer protesters blocking the roads by the end of the year but the Occupy Central movement means a new era for Hong Kong — we will see more on-and-off protests, of a large or small scale, around the city, and for different causes. It is unfortunate to see Hong Kong becoming a less happy and more divided society. It’s even more unfortunate to see that the governments in Beijing and Hong Kong perhaps haven’t really realized what Occupy Central means for Hong Kong. Simply labeling it an “unlawful” event won’t be helpful at all to end the crisis.
Kang Yi expects the government’s decision to backfire:
I talked to a few people shortly after the government called off the scheduled meeting. While some of them supported the movement and others claimed to be neutral, they all perceived the government’s move in a negative way, criticizing it for “being hypocritical” and “throwing its weight around.” The government’s flip-flop may incur a strong feeling of aversion among citizens. Also, Carrie Lam may have misjudged the situation by commenting that “the number of protesters has seen a decline.” In an era where the Internet’s public sphere has flourished, online mobilization can be accomplished swiftly. People could come back to the street at any time.
And Allen Carlson advises the demonstrators to bide their time and let the authorities keep making mistakes:
For now, I would tell them to do nothing. If the rug is being as unceremoniously pulled out from beneath the talks as now appears to be the case, it is the Hong Kong government and Beijing that will look to all as incredibly disingenuous, clumsy, and uncompromising. In other words, this has the potential to be a public relations disaster for the government. Anything the protesters do, in terms of taking to the streets, would only, for the time being, undermine the crystal clear nature of such a blundering move. This being said, once the dust settles the protesters will be in a stronger position to make their case to the people of Hong Kong and the rest of the world about the legitimacy of their concerns and misgivings about a government that they no longer trust.
The Bloomberg View editors advocate a compromise:
To get anywhere, both sides have to climb down from their stated positions. Protesters should temper calls for Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to resign; an investigation into payments he received from an Australian company could accomplish that for them. Their central demand — that the Chinese government allow future candidates for chief executive to be nominated directly by the public — is no less a nonstarter. For their part, Hong Kong officials must stop tonelessly insisting upon Beijing’s formula for the elections, which allows for only two to three candidates, each of whom must be approved by a 1,200-member nominating committee that is stacked with Beijing loyalists. The city’s leaders should focus on expanding what little wiggle room this framework allows.