Costly Political Standstill

Hong Kong is on its knees, literally.

The Occupy Central Movement is holding strong, and in a few hours from now we will know if the Hong Kong Government has gathered its strength to remove the barricades and the protesters from their locations to facilitate the operation of the government offices on Monday (tomorrow).

It is not clear at this stage as to what will happen eventually. One thing is clear, this protest is causing harm to the city’s reputation as a business hub which works most efficiently without any delays. In fact, it is not incorrect to state that Hong Kong is a 24 x 7 business city at the core of its ethos, a city which never sleeps, a city where the Government’s focus has always been to improve the pace of efficient business.

Well, if the protests continue for another week or so, that hard earned reputation might come under question.

I am not saying that the protests are wrong. If there is no proper political avenue to express their opinions, people would of course seek other avenues to do so. There are many options available for protests, but the protesters have chosen the one which would hurt the Hong Kong Government the most.

The world is closely watching the utterances of the Mainland China Government mouthpieces. It has been apparent for the past couple of days that their patience is not infinite, even when it comes to the administration of Hong Kong, a “Special Administrative Region” which does not follow the China rules under the “One Country, Two Systems” deal between the U.K. and China.

If and when that patience runs out, China could do several things. One action would be to dismiss the current Chief Executive (yes, the head of the HK Government is called a CE !) and replace him with a more hardline CE. The other action would be to issue a threat that the Peoples’ Liberation Army would gain control of the city. Or, they could issue arrest orders – but how many people are they going to arrest ?

The worst would be more aggressive police tactics to control and push back the crowd, supported by the threat to bring in the army.

That would have a noticeable impact on the protesters.

It would also break the deal with the U.K.

While there appears to be no simple solution to this political deadlock, there is always some way out as in any complex situation, which has not yet been thought through, or articulated by any one of the parties involved.

One could be a deal direct with the Mainland China Government interlocutors, ignoring the CE and his secretaries who appear to be powerless at the moment. It is always possible to reason with Government on economic damage avoidance, and explain the rationale for a political solution which does not violate the deal with the U.K.

Well, Hong Kong is at a cross road which needs to be successfully crossed without any damage to any party, specifically to the people of Hong Kong.

Leaving the protests to student leaders’ directions may not be the only way forward. Hong Kong needs maturity of senior folks in the protest movement to come up with an acceptable formula.

Hope that would happen in the next couple of days.


Vijay Srinivasan
5th October 2014


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