Fi­nal cur­tain for last out­post of Hong Kong protest camps

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY AARON TAM

With days to go be­fore law­mak­ers vote on a con­tro­ver­sial po­lit­i­cal re­form pack­age that has split Hong Kong, pro-democ­racy pro­test­ers who have camped out at the leg­is­la­ture for months are pre­par­ing to go home.

Around 150 tents, com­plete with flower pots and large col­or­ful ban­ners call­ing for democ­racy, form a fi­nal out­post of the sprawl­ing tent city which blocked a high­way through the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict un­til it was cleared at the end of last year.

The huge camp was part of a mass protest against the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment’s elec­tion plan on how to choose the city’s next leader in 2017.

The pro­posal sticks to a rul­ing by Bei­jing that can­di­dates must be vet­ted by a loy­al­ist com­mit­tee, de­rided as “fake democ­racy” by cam­paign­ers.

The bill will go for de­bate at the leg­is­la­ture on Wed­nes­day be­fore a vote in which pro-democ­racy law­mak­ers are ex­pected to block the plan.

Seventy-year-old Un­cle Wong, a fix­ture at the camp, dubbed the Tim Mei New Vil­lage, said he gave up a peace­ful re­tire­ment to fight for true uni­ver­sal suf­frage.

“If you don’t give me free­dom, if you don’t give me a so­ci­ety where every­body has equal rights, I’d rather die,” said Wong, who has stayed at the site for more than 200 days.

Wong said he would stay un­til the po­lit­i­cal re­form pack­age was voted out and was moved by stu­dent pro­test­ers dur­ing the Oc­cupy move­ment.

“Even when it was windy or rainy, the stu­dents were still there singing songs. How could I leave? The fu­ture is theirs, we who have a con­science must come out.”

‘Peo­ple have not forgotten’

An­thony Kwok, 50, who has been at the camp since Septem­ber, also said he planned to go home af­ter the re­form pack­age was voted out.

“If it doesn’t go through, then ev­ery­thing will go back to nor­mal, that’s bet­ter than the sit­u­a­tion right now,” Kwok said, adding that the Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties had tried to force through the re­forms.

“If you re­ally want Hong Kong or the coun­try to im­prove, there needs to be com­mu­ni­ca­tion (be­tween the au­thor­i­ties and the peo­ple),” Kwok said.

Po­lice have re­peat­edly warned that the camp is il­le­gal and that it would be re­moved “at an ap­pro­pri­ate time” but are yet to take ac­tion.

To Tif­fany Chan, a 25-year-old stu­dent uni­ver­sity stu­dent, the vil­lage serves as a re­minder that the is­sue of uni­ver­sal suf­frage will not go away.

“The mean­ing of this vil­lage is to re­mind every­body that this is­sue of uni­ver­sal suf­frage is still here, peo­ple have not forgotten about it,” Chan told AFP af­ter watch­ing po­lice search her tent as they scoured the camp for “danger­ous ob­jects” Satur­day ahead of a se­ries of ral­lies at the leg­is­la­ture.

Chan said she de­cided to join the camp in Fe­bru­ary as a sign of protest against prop­erty ty­coons — seen to be too cosy with the gov­ern­ment — as hous­ing costs soar.

Chan added she felt true uni­ver­sal suf­frage would solve the prob­lem.

Hong Kong is semi-au­ton­o­mous af­ter be­ing handed back to China by the United King­dom in 1997 and has much greater free­doms than the main­land, but there are fears that those are be­ing eroded.

AFP

Po­lice re­move a brick while in­spect­ing the tents of pro-democ­racy pro­test­ers on a side­walk out­side the gov­ern­ment head­quar­ters in Hong Kong on Satur­day, June 13.

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