Editor’s Note: Robert Chow is a veteran Hong Kong journalist and co-founder of “Silent Majority for Hong Kong,” a group established in 2013 that opposes the “Occupy Central” movement. The opinions expressed here are solely his.
Hong Kong's "silent majority" want protesters to go home, says Robert Chow
1.5 million Hong Kongers signed a petition to demand peace and reject Occupy Central
Protests will hurt economy, businesses and stock market, he adds
Ordinary people don't want to be unwilling pawns in a political game
Hong Kong is at the threshold of a revolution.
No, I am not referring to the movement colorfully dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution” by the international media.
True, having faced police tear gas and efforts to dislodge them, students and the “Occupy Central” group have captured and are holding parts of Hong Kong – main thoroughfares in Central, Causeway Bay and Mongkok. And it is escalating.
They are also demanding the resignation of the territory’s Chief Executive C.Y. Leung and a back-down from Beijing on their recently announced plans on political reform for 2017.
The revolution I am referring to is that of the silent majority, the nondescript middle-aged and conservatives who prefer change in an orderly fashion – the segment usually ignored by the media and the “haves” of the society as “aging and not sexy.”
You see, while as many as 70,000 students and “Occupy Central” group supporters occupy the streets now, only six weeks ago, 1.5 million Hong Kongers boldly came out from their cocoons to sign their names on a petition to demand peace and reject “Occupy Central.”
That’s one in almost every five people in our city of seven million.
The campaign was organized by “The Alliance for Peace and Democracy” of which “Silent Majority for Hong Kong,” a group I co-founded, is a member.
So are all 1.5 million of us stooges of Beijing? Hardly likely. We are just as diverse and politically divided as any silent majority group in other cities. The only difference is we came out before things turned ugly.
We want peace and democracy – universal suffrage in 2017 – but we abhor and reject “Occupy Central” for trying to hold Hong Kong hostage in the fight for its brand of democracy.
We believe political reform should be negotiated and then the people can decide for themselves, conservatives and progressives alike.
After all, the pan-democratic group, which is backing “Occupy Central” to the hilt, is holding the trump card – it has enough votes to veto any reform packages they deem unacceptable in the Legislative Council.
We believe “Occupy Central” and its vow to paralyze our financial center by occupation and blockages are for real, and it will hurt the middle class and common folks more than the wealthy.
We do not want to be held hostage and be unwilling pawns in a political game, and we do not want the same fate as tens of millions in other parts of the world who suffer financial losses, injuries and even deaths in turmoil brought about by the politically aggressive and adventurous.
Now that “Occupy Central” has happened, we are feeling the effects of its strangulation. The stock market is down, shops are closed, people’s daily lives are disrupted – and this is just the beginning.
Some say it is a small price to pay for “true democracy” — so why don’t we accept it for the good someone else is chasing? Hostages are always told that and then left to suffer.
But we are not hostages: 1.5 million people have said no already, and we won’t sit and suffer. People are walking up to the occupiers and telling them to go home.
The Alliance has openly asked for “Occupy Central” to desist from occupation of Mong Kok and Causeway Bay as a show of goodwill to the people. We are ignored.
The silent majority’s anger and demands are a trickle now, but may turn into a tidal wave. The question one must face in a civilized and democratic society like Hong Kong, where guns are near nonexistent, is: the will of the majority or the ruthlessness of the minority?
We cannot foretell the outcome. Hong Kong is a divided society now. But the minority cannot hold the majority hostage, unless they surrender.
Whatever happens, we hope it will be peaceful.
A social revolution is brewing, and when it ends in success and peace, it may inspire a whole generation of the silent majorities in this world to think: what if we break our silence and control our fate.