MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/02 October) — The world is watching, protesters in Hong Kong proclaimed, as if to warn the Chinese government against using brute force as it did in June 1989 in Tiananmen Square, an act of suppression that killed thousands of mostly young demonstrators.
Of course, the eyes of the world are now fixed on Hong Kong, but not necessarily because it will come to fight on the side of the protesters if the Chinese Communist Party decides to mow them down with bullets. In fact, China’s media has warned there is no way the Party would change its mind. And such reality could be lost on the idealistic, never mind angry, youth who comprise the bulk of the warm bodies that have occupied the streets of the former British territory.
But first, it is important to understand the undercurrents of the unrest in Hong Kong. Media reports have only pointed to the imposition that candidates in the 2017 election for Hong Kong chief executive should be screened by Beijing — and only up to three nominees can run – as the trigger, the roots run deeper.
The British had tried to negotiate to be allowed to continue administering the former colony even after China assumed sovereignty, to no avail. Nonetheless, Hong Kong managed to remain an autonomous region even if Beijing succeeded to wrest both administration and sovereignty from the British during the “handover” in 1997. Such autonomy is the last thing its residents would yield to the Chinese government, and, up to this moment at least, they appear willing to challenge Beijing head-on, if only to keep this distinct political character that sets them apart from the Chinese in the mainland.
Yet, one crucial element seems to be missing in the “Occupy Central” movement – there is no visible organized group leading [the movement] with a clear agenda and course of action beyond the “polite” manner of expressing dissent and pressuring China to relent. It is not clear if the protesters are simply demanding that Beijing keep its iron hand off the 2017 election or if a more radical consciousness – complete independence – has evolved.
Given the apparent absence of a vanguard force among them, it can only be surmised with a high degree of certainty that the election remains the central rallying point of the protesters. If at all the independence agenda exists, it could only be talked in hushed voices.
The absence of an organized, ideologically-motivated leading force serves as both the strength and weakness of “Occupy Central”. The variety of political tendencies that have converged on the streets would discourage the emergence of any one group to try to seize the day for its own agenda, in effect, encouraging participation by a large segment of the population. Efforts by one bloc to dictate the conduct of the protest may create suspicions and dissuade broader involvement in the political act.
On the other hand, the absence of a vanguard makes the whole thing volatile. Like in Tiananmen, the demand for democratization will likely be buried with the bodies of casualties if Beijing sends in troops and tanks. And the world – though angry and appalled – will only be watching a repeat of the bloodbath 25 years ago. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])