Viable End Game Circumvented in Hong Kong 香港佔領行動:如何在現今的困境中尋找可接受的出路?

(中文譯文在下,由 Sally Kwok 提供。Originally published in Asia Sentinel, 19 October 2014

The message came through early last Monday morning. A source close to the Occupy Central leadership had written that the pan-democrats, the student leaders and Occupy Central had jointly agreed to issue a statement calling off the protests should the government agree to negotiations. It was a decision that demonstrated immense goodwill and trust in the government.

After all the government had only recently called off the negotiations it had offered on October 3rd when the occupation was less than a week old. The reason cited, that comments made by student leaders for more protestors to join, seemed flimsy and their reaction disproportionate. Similar comments were after all being made on a daily basis, as one would expect from a public protest.

This move closed the door on an early end to the occupation, and the definite (if often over-played) inconvenience it has caused to the public. Perhaps more importantly, it demonstrated to an increasingly tired and emotional crowd that a government already insensitive to their position could not be trusted to act in good faith. If police over-reaction had brought the people to the street to make this a mass movement, and the thuggish behaviour of the blue ribbon brigade added a radicalism and very personal and emotional pain to what had been a solemn protest, the government’s u-turn only served to undermine what little trust had existed between the two camps.

I read the message with a hope made circumspect by experience. It was what I and many other sympathetic to the movement would want. But I had heard it before. The reasonable heads of the movement agreeing on what is a sensible and popular way forward; the more outlandish demands dropped; and the focus squarely on what has always been the movements core demand – that our government listen to and respect not only those voices in Hong Kong it chooses to hear.

As early as Friday October 3rd the moderate leadership had considered calling off the occupation. Then news began to arrive of “blue ribbon” thugs assaulting protestors and threatening girls with rape, and the movement changed.

The next day, as I penned my initial plea to the protestors on the street to retire with the moral high ground and if not a majority support then certainly with their sympathy, I received another message stating that the occupation would be called off that weekend. But as violence and extreme provocation of the protestors continued, once radical and fringe elements found themselves speaking for more of those who choose to remain. Again nothing happened and the protests were to continue.

The threats and provocations that have radicalised the protest must also be understood within the context of Hong Kong society. Whilst there have been comparatively few incidences of physical violence, and that which has happened has been limited, the threat should not be underestimated.

Hong Kong society is both notably for being peaceful and also heavily criminalised. Even triad violence is rarely wanton, but rather symbolic; a limited though often shocking act to give credence to a threatening posture. It was not that a few protestors were assaulted that defines the threat, but that they were wantonly and, crucially, eagerly threatened with beatings and rape. This all occurred as the police stood by, a situation eerily reminiscent of the way triads and some rural villagers demonstrate their power over official authority.

Insults may have been traded by both sides, but a threat came only from one. These were emotional threats. This is a deep hurt that has not been acknowledged.

It came as little surprise that nothing came of Monday’s message. Having lost the chance to call it off early when the leaders could dictate the movement, they are now left with an impossible dilemma: to call off the occupation would leave an embittered and territorial fringe unchecked on the streets; to stay is to watch a once genuinely popular movement become marginalised and slowly fall apart.

More importantly, both these options are bad for Hong Kong. Many have complained that the protests don’t seem to have an end game, but have they been allowed to have one? The government reaction has not been to promote the interests of moderate leadership within the movement but to undermine them. Far from seeking to resolve a dispute through dialogue they have consistently sought to frustrate and demonise it.

The reports that the protests are a CIA conspiracy are absurd, the evidence present so flimsy that even those who broke the story of Edward Snowden don’t bother to invest resources in investigating. These are malicious lies that are deeply disrespectful of both the legitimate concerns that the protests represent and the courage and dedication they have shown. They are also an insult to the people of Hong Kong, questioning our capacity to organise and our generosity and sense of community spirit to support a protest of this magnitude. And yet, the government does not refute these claims.

Whilst confrontation makes the headlines, it is the stories of mutual compassion and humanity that I find most compelling. There are the students who stood in the rain holding out their umbrellas to offer shelter to the police. The policeman who, on the night when subdued protestors were being beaten by some of their colleagues, was heard calmly pleading to the crowd to walk slowly and lent protestors water. ”We are all Hong Kong people”, he was noted as saying. There have been many others on both sides that have shown such common decency; many on the front line who have embraced the situation not for what they are led to believe but for what they see themselves. This is a side the government seem intent on ignoring.

Then there is the elderly man from the pro-Beijing Chao Zhao Association who, when no government representative would meet him, was met in person by student leader Alex Chow. The man knelt down to present the students with a letter from his association and a box of sweets, said (to the embarrassment of his association) that he personally supported the student’s cause, and declared with respect rather than anger that it was time to end the occupation. In response Alex and several students prostrated themselves before him in a mark of genuine respect and apologised again for the inconvenience. An event that eye witnesses found to be symbolic of the respect that could be allowed to define how both sides engage was instead reported by the local media as an example of the delinquency of the young. Rather than focus on the mutual respect the plight of the elderly man was highlighted, his kneeling down presented as an act of frustrated submission, and Alex Chow and the HKFS accused of being heartless. The CE office lack of response was conveniently avoided.

It is in Hong Kong’s interest that the occupations end and order is restored. For this to happen we should focus not on apportioning blame but on finding a solution.

For the protestors it will allow a movement that is in its cause genuinely representative of majority opinion (that our government and Beijing have not been honest in representing the opinions of the majority of HK people and that the framework for electoral reform proposed by the NPCSC should be rejected) to remain popular movement with a significant voice deserving of respect. Having conducting a protest that has set a new standard in civil disobedience they owe it to their own efforts to ensure an orderly and peaceful end.

The government must accept that extremism feeds on a culture of blame. By rejecting a more moderate and reasonable mass movement that is representative of genuine concerns the government is only empowering a small and radical fringe. Far from working to restoring order they are creating a situation where there may be genuine disorder. This disorder, unchecked by moderate leadership, threatens chaos at the slightest provocation. This will hurt this city far more than the restrained protests of the last 3 weeks.

The government, employed and paid to provide leadership, need to do their job, and not fall to the petty politics of the radical elements on both side of the political divide. They need to stop playing dumb to real nature the protest. They need to be firm, but also sympathetic to the real hurt that these protestors have faced. They need to demonstrate a more honest, and a more human face.

You can no longer crush a movement with force, nor can you slander its reputation in to irrelevance. Hong Kong is too documented, its people too connected, for the truth to remain hidden. Instead we must work to allowing the protests to enact an end game that is acceptable to the reasonable majority on both sides. We should not let Hong Kong suffer for the sake of pride.

***************************************

上星期一的清早傳來了一個消息。一位接近佔中領導層的人士撰文,指泛民、學生領袖及佔中組織同意發表聯合聲明,宣佈假如政府願意談判就會結束佔領。他們這決定無疑對政府釋放了極大善意和信任。

畢竟,政府在不久之前才把10月3日那天(佔領運動開始不到一個星期)宣佈的談判取消了。當時政府提到的原因是學生領袖還在呼籲更多示威者加入抗爭。這理由根本就站不住腳,政府所作的反應也極不相稱。類似的呼籲每天都有一大堆,而這在一個公眾的抗議上也毫不稀奇。

此舉無疑對早日結束佔領關上了大門,也讓(被誇大的)給公眾帶來的不便持續下去。更重要的是,它向一群日益疲憊和綳緊情緒的人群,展示了這個本已不肯聼取民意的政府在善意前也絕不可以信任。如果警方的過度反應激化了人民上街而帶動了整個佔領運動,藍絲帶大隊的兇殘為這個嚴正抗議增添了一點激進與個別痛苦經驗,政府的180度轉彎就已把兩方之間僅餘的一丁點兒信任都消除殆盡了。

我從這信息嗅到了一絲希望。跟許多同情運動的人一樣,我也希望佔領能在和平的情況下主動結束。但這並非是一個新的主張。雨傘運動的帶領人明智地同意了把合乎大衆意願的方案推前,而不再提一些不切實際的要求。他們把訴求回歸這場運動的核心——即我們的政府傾聽及尊重民意,而並不僅只選擇性地偏聼。

早在10月3日(星期五)那天就有—些溫和派考慮叫停佔領。隨後,「藍絲帶」暴徒開始襲擊示威者,並威脅會強姦示威中旳女士,從那時起,整個運動就起了變化。

第二天,我寫下了初步構思,打算懇請示威者站在道德高地上,就雖未必得到大衆支持但已贏得同情的情況下撤出佔領。我也收到了另一條消息,說佔領大會將會在那個週末撤離。但隨即暴力和極端挑釁接踵而至,激發了更多示威者選擇留下,加入那些一度被認為是相對激進和極端的群體裏。於是,撤退並没如期發生,抗議活動繼續進行。

在這裡,我們必須根據香港的實際情況把激化示威的挑釁本質認識清楚。雖然發生在肢體上的暴力相對較少,而那些個案也已受控,但所帶來的威脅卻絕不容小覷。

香港社會一向和平,犯罪要面對的刑責也相當嚴苛。黑社會暴力雖具象徵性,但一般張力有限而且甚少肆意,更多時是擺出姿態多於實際威脅。因此,這次黑社會竟然在光天化日下,肆無忌憚地威脅要毆打和強姦示威者,這當中的意義遠大於對示威者實際上採取的襲擊。這一切都詭異地在警察眼底下發生,難免使人聯想到黑社會和部分村民是在得到了官方默許下行兇。

雙方可能都受到了侮辱,但真正的威脅卻只有一個,那就是情緒綳緊後的威脅。但一直以來,大家所受的深刻傷害至今卻還沒得到正視舒緩。

週一的消息結果無疾而終,但這並不令人意外。佔領人士之前錯過了提早退出的機會,現在已經無人能駕馭這運動。他們進退維谷,面對兩難境地:呼籲示威者離開徒令他們載滿失敗的苦澀,留下來卻要看這次群眾運動慢慢被邊緣化後而土崩瓦解。

更重要的是,兩種結果對香港都沒有好處。許多人抱怨說,抗議活動似乎並沒有退出計劃,但他們又何曾有過機會實現這些計劃?政府的囘應從來沒有令溫和派得勢,反而處處矮化他們。政府從來沒有嘗試以對話來解決困局,反而一直將抗議人士妖魔化,逼使他們做出更激烈的反抗。

把這抗議活動説成是美國中央情報局的陰謀簡直荒謬透頂。目前提出的證據是完全站不住腳的,即使是那些追查斯諾登故事的人,也不屑投入資源調查。這些惡意的謊言,對這個莊嚴正當的抗議,以及當中表現出的勇氣和奉獻精神是大大的不敬。他們的質疑,更侮辱了香港市民的組織能力和對支持這種大規模抗議體現出的慷慨和社區精神意識。然而,政府並沒有反駁這些陰謀論。

雖然警民對峙經常成爲頭條新聞,對我來説當中富人性化的溫情故事更是吸引。在雨中,有學生為警察撐起了傘。那邊廂,一些警察毆打了被制服了的示威者,另有一位警察卻冷靜地懇求人群慢慢退後,並把水借給抗議者。「我們都是香港人」,他說。兩面都有不少人展示出這樣的溫情,許多前線人員並沒有被眼前的佈局迷惑,他們還是忠於自己是港人的身份。但政府對這些事情似乎故意視而不見。

然後就是那個來自親北京的協會——「長居香港潮籍人士中西區居民」的老人。沒有政府代表願意接見他,於是他就去找學聯的領袖周永康。該老人向周永康跪送上一封信和一盒糖果,說出一番令協會感到尷尬的話。他表示個人支持學生的訴求,並理解他們一心為香港爭取普選權益,但在出於關心而非惱怒學生的情況下,認為佔領是時候結束。周永康和幾個同學也在他面前跪下,以示對他的尊重以及再次為帶來的不便道歉。目擊者都覺得事件代表了雙方的尊重,而非報道所說的年輕人不知好歹。可惜在主流媒體報道中,強調的不是這事顯示的相互尊重,而是老人的困境、他跪在地上作爲憤怒抗議、以及學聯及周永康對他的無情。而行政長官辦公室對此事是理所當然的默不作聲了。

大家也許都會同意為了香港的利益,應該及早結束佔領並恢復社會秩序。為了達到這目的,聚焦的不該是追究責任,而是尋找解決方案。

對於示威者來説,和平主動退出能彰顯出導致這場運動發生的主因,即香港和北京政府沒有確實反映香港民意和人大常委設下的選舉框架應被否決。這些都是香港的主流民意。同時這運動也能在繼續得到民意支持與贏得大衆的尊重情況下告終。在為公民抗樹立了新的標準後,示威者應該致力確保抗議得以和平有序地完結。

政府也必須意識到指責文化只是衍生極端主義的溫床。拒絕真正關心施政、行事也較溫和的群眾運動,只會把社會推向佔了少數的激進邊緣。現在政府非但沒有致力恢復秩序,反而正在創造一種真正導致失控的情況。這種溫和派缺席了的失控,在絲毫的挑釁威脅下就可以引致動亂。對這個城市來説,這種創傷將遠遠超過了過去3週抗議所造成的破壞。

政府作爲受薪的人民公僕及領導者,需要盡己之能,而非為政治鴻溝再深裂痕。他們不可以再對這抗議的本質充耳不聞。他們需要的是堅定地面對示威者,並向他們的傷害表示同理心。他們實在需要有更多的誠信,更多的人性化。

一個負責任的政府,絕不能用暴力壓碎群衆運動,也不能對毀其名譽的事視爲「浮雲」。香港的故事全世界都會記載,香港的人民穿梭全球,真相決不可能被掩埋。相反,大家必須努力使佔領在能接受的合理情況下結束。我們不應因驕傲之名,而讓香港蒙災受苦。

Respond to Viable End Game Circumvented in Hong Kong 香港佔領行動:如何在現今的困境中尋找可接受的出路?

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