Politics

Central Unoccupied

The impact of Occupying Central on Hong Kong's financial hub has been minimal even though protesters have filled its streets.

WHEN Occupy Central co-convener Mr Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a Univer- sity of Hong Kong law professor, con- cluded the first stage of Occupy Central movement as a victory, he said "civil diso- bedience has bloomed everywhere."

He did not know then he meant it literally — protesters' footprints can be traced in the busiest districts of the city including Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, Ad- miralty, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. Even in Sheung Shui in north New Ter- ritories, small groups of people took to the street to call on Chief Executive Mr Leung Chun-ying to step down.

The Occupy Central with Love and Peace website explains that Central was chosen as the location for demonstra- tion because it is the "most fragile point of Hong Kong" as the pivot of financial activities.

Yet, Central seems to be the least affected area. There were no crowds swarming in the streets and no heavily jammed main traffic lanes.

"I find it strange that they picked Central as the occupying location to bring about political changes," said Mr Alex Shiu Siu-tao, a commentator who published an article questioning the location of the occupy movement.

Mr Shiu said financial clerks did not need much more than a laptop and access to the Internet for them to work. This means the financial system could still function even if nobody is physically working in Central.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority conducted a drill in June to test the stress capacity of 55 banks in Central if their offices became inaccessible. It found that back-up operating plans worked ef- ficiently for most banks, indicating that Occupy Central would not stop the core operations of the financial hub.

Mr Shiu said Central was the sym- bol of Hong Kong as an international fi- nancial centre. He believed that Occupy Central was meant to imperil the heart of financial business in the city.

Capitalists and Beijing would be alarmed as Hong Kong is a window through which capital flows freely from mainland China to the world, he said.

As much as the Occupy Central con- veners tried to minimise disturbance to citizens, as stated on their website, resi- dents in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay are seriously affected as most protesters there seem to find those districts better "leverage" than Central. Occupying those districts has drawn much attention and caused a lot of disruption.

According to the Transport Department, nearly half of the bus networks and more than 15 million passengers have been affected by blockades in the major traffic lanes since September 26. Schools in Wan Chai and Central and Western District were suspended for days as a result.

Mr Shiu believed that the occupation of Mong Kok was triggered accidentally, with less organisation and no specific leaders. He said some protesters in Mong Kok might have a different agenda from those occupying Admiralty.

He believed some protesters in Mong Kok were asking for more than just a fair electoral system by demanding the Chief Executive step down. Multiple violent incidents occurred in Mong Kok and have paralysed small businesses there. This has created a neg- ative image for the movement even with- out government's tactics, said Mr Shiu.

Another Occupy Central co-conven- er, Dr Chan Kin-man, a Chinese Univer- sity sociology professor, apologised for obstructing citizens' daily life at a press conference on October 2.

Mr Tai said that the objective of Oc- cupy Central was not to paralyse Cen- tral, but to generate social disturbance to an extent that the police had to arrest protesters.

He believes that when Hong Kong's governance could no longer be maintained at a normal level, the central government would have to make concessions. "Social disturbance is to generate social awakening. The more people are willing to sacrifice, the more power you will get. Self-sacrifice is also the power of the powerless," Mr Tai said.

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