Why Hong Kong's Occupy Central Ended Peacefully
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 8, 2014
Summary: Hong Kong students are also engaged in civil disobedience. But they have
never attempted shirk legal responsibility. They declared that they
were prepared "to assume the risks and bear the consequences." Compare
the two. Perhaps the rule of law tradition in Hong Kong, inherited from
the British, is rooted more deeply than it is on Taiwan. Perhaps Hong
Kong students have greater respect for the rule of law. In June,
"anti-New Territories development" demonstrators twice occupied the
Legislative Council. Later, they either retreated or were arrested by
the police. By contrast, when students on Taiwan occupied the
Legislative Yuan, the government dithered for over 20 days. The rule of
law took an incredible hit.
Full Text Below:
Many observers have compared Hong Kong's July 1st "Occupy Central" protest, to the late March occupation of the Executive Yuan by students on Taiwan. They have expressed surprise at how peacefully the protest in Hong Kong ended. DPP Legislator Lee Ying-yuan noted how Hong Kong police did not use water jets, batons, or shields. He wondered "Is Taiwan really second to Hong Kong?"
This is true. In March riot police on Taiwan expelled protestors occupying the Executive Yuan. In July, four Hong Kong police officers carried away each student demonstrator. Everyone on Taiwan was impressed, and noted the sharp contrast between the two. Lee Ying-yuan wrung his hands. He wondered, "Is Taiwan really second to Hong Kong?" What he meant was the police in Hong Kong treated the protestors gently, while the police on Taiwan used excessive force. The only problem was the two groups of student demonstrators behaved differently, and Lee swept this difference under the rug. If Taiwan is in fact second to Hong Kong, it is because the public on Taiwan lacks Hong Kongers' respect for the rule of law.
Look back at Hong Kong's July 1st "Occupy Central" protest. The students staged an impromptu "preview." After dark, less than 1000 remained in the Central District. At two in the morning, Hong Kong police dispatched 3000 police to the scene. They urged crowds to leave. They carried away those who did not. Five hundred and eleven people were arrested. They were bussed to the Wong Chuk Hang Police Academy for questioning. The entire eviction process took six hours. Hong Kongers estimate that any future "Occupy Central" protest will probably involve over 10,000 people. The police may need to deploy riot police and use tear gas to disperse the crowd. Bloodshed my be unavoidable.
During the Occupy Central protest many students linked arms and shouted slogans. In this respect it resembled scenes from the Sunflower Student Movement in Taipei. Perhaps this was the result of communications between students in Hong Kong and Taipei. But when students and others were evicted from the Central District, they did not resist as violently. They allowed police to carry them off. The reasons were twofold. One. Most Hong Kongers have reservations about the Occupy Central protestors' methods. Therefore the student demonstrators were unwilling to fight to the bitter end. Two. The students reached a consensus before the demonstration. They agreed that they must be "willing to bear the legal consequences." They were willing to be arrested. This was why Hong Kong students displayed greater restraint than members of the Sunflower Student Movement while being evicted.
Compare this to the March 23 student occupation in Taipei. The students occupied the Legislative Yuan for six days. They stormed the Executive Yuan. Morale soared. Taiwan society faces the threat of chaos. The Sunflower Student Movement received green camp backing, from within and without. The ruling KMT was rendered helpless. Police did not know where they stood. At dawn, on March 24, the Ma government issued eviction orders. Students at the scene numbered over 1000. Crowds nearby numbered 6000 or more. The cacaphony was unimaginable. That night police advanced in six waves. The crowd dispersed, then regrouped. Some even began attacking the police and puncturing the tires of police vehicles. Early that morning, the police were forced to use water cannons to expel the protestors.
The eviction of demonstrators in Hong Kong proceeded smoothly. The implication that police on Taiwan used excessive force when they evicted the students is entirely one-sided. Students in Hong Kong and students on Taiwan both waged "civil disobedience" campaigns. But had dramatically different attitudes from students in Hong Kong held dramatically different attitudes from students on Taiwan. Political protests on Taiwan exhibit all the characteristics of "dang wai"era street protests waged by the DPP. These protests deliberately maximize conflict without regard for bloodshed. The Sunflower Student Movement adopted a number of different protest methods. But they knew they would be difficult to pick out from the masses in the streets. As a result, they took full advantage of this ambiguity.
The paint flinging incident during Zhang Zhijun's Taiwan visit, and the Wulai road chaining incident, show that student protests on Taiwan invoke "civil disobedience" to rationalize all manner of behaviors and give them a moral sheen. They need only shout anti-China and anti-Ma slogans. Then they can do whatever they want yet bear no legal responsibility. Taiwan society has invented a myth. This myth asserts that the rule of law must yield before democracy. This myth is seen as obvious and unchallengeable truth. Under the circumstances, government administration and police enforcement have become tentative and have lost all legitimacy.
Hong Kong students are also engaged in civil disobedience. But they have never attempted shirk legal responsibility. They declared that they were prepared "to assume the risks and bear the consequences." Compare the two. Perhaps the rule of law tradition in Hong Kong, inherited from the British, is rooted more deeply than it is on Taiwan. Perhaps Hong Kong students have greater respect for the rule of law. In June, "anti-New Territories development" demonstrators twice occupied the Legislative Council. Later, they either retreated or were arrested by the police. By contrast, when students on Taiwan occupied the Legislative Yuan, the government dithered for over 20 days. The rule of law took an incredible hit.
Compare the two Occupy movements, one on Taiwan, the other in Hong Kong. Taiwan has more democracy, but Hong Kong has far greater respect for the rule of law. Students in Hong Kong behaved better. So did the police. The July 1st Occupy Central protest is over, But it has taught both sides of the Strait a valuable lesson.
2014.07.08 03:09 am