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Hong Kong: Why Occupy Central?

This post is part of our special coverage #Occupy Worldwide.

A group of activists in Hong Kong have occupied the ground floor of the iconic HSBC building in Central District for almost one week since October 15, 2011, in response to the global call for solidarity with the Wall Street Occupation.

Although some people find the slogan “Down Down Capitalism” too ideological, the occupation does provide a reflective space for people to look into the problem of the existing economic system which has marginalized the majority.

A group of activists are camping on the ground floor of HSBC. Photo from Occupy Central Hong Kong.

A group of activists are camping on the ground floor of HSBC. Photo from Occupy Central Hong Kong.

Below is a short video showing the initial solidarity protest on October 15, in Exchange Square in Hong Kong, uploaded by RishiWei to YouTube.

The Chinese University Left Wing Study Group has written a statement [zh] that sums up the problems in Hong Kong:


關鍵的是:這些問題從何而來?讓我不厭其煩地重申左翼學會的立場--這些問題的根源就是資本主義的經濟結構。當各大資本必須不斷賺取最大利潤以滿足自身累積的需要,它就必須剝削勞動者… 我們認為,要真正根治這些社會問題,就只有推翻整個資本主義制度一途。


就著這一個反資聲音極度薄弱的處境,這次佔領中環(Occupy Central)的運動便是一次絕好的時機。

There are so many social problems in Hong Kong. The Gini index is similar to African countries, income disparity is so extreme. The rich take all the wealth in their own pockets while the income of the poor can barely sustain their lives. The property developers control people's life, the property prices have increased to such a crazy level that people have to spend their whole lives working like slaves for the developers and the government officials take it for granted.

The issue at stake is where do all these problem stem from? Let us reinstate our study group's stand. All these problems come from the very structure of capitalism. The capitalists have to exploit the workers for capital accumulation… A radical solution of the problems is to abolish the capitalist system.

Perhaps we have been brainwashed by the spirit of the Lion Rock [a symbol of Hong Kong] for too long or perhaps we don't understand the root cause of the problems. That's why we never have heard any anti-capitalist statement nor have witnessed any anti-capitalist social movement.

The anti-capitalist circle is thus very weak and this Occupy Central movement is a great opportunity.

Protest Banner on October 15, 2011, Hong Kong. By CC: NC-SA

Protest Banner on October 15, 2011, Hong Kong. By CC: NC-SA

It is difficult for mainstream Hong Kong society to stand by the side of the occupants. Blogger Birdlw's questions [zh] reflect common people's doubts:

歐美經濟差, 赤字債務高, 失業率高, 民怨高, 有此行動, 我可以理解。
但是, 香港經濟穩定, 失業率只有3%, 為何要發起「佔領中環」這種活動?
示威者想表達什麼, 或爭取什麼?
給他們佔領中環之後, 又會做什麼? 大肆改革香港的金融體系?
如何改變? 朝哪一個方向改變? 哪個方向是香港市民會接受的?
如果, 示威者沒想過要改革金融業。那麼, 「佔領中環」這項行動的意義何在?是為了示威而示威? 玩完, 吵完, 再找別的活動來示威?
金融業是香港一項十分重要的行業, 有很多人賴以為生, 一旦被動搖了, 將會有很多人失業, 政府從金融業方面的稅收減少, 社會福利開支定必縮減, 影響之大, 「佔領中環」的示威者有沒有想過?

The economy in Europe and the United State is very bad. Their debts, unemployment rate and social discontent are very severe. I can understand their action.
However, Hong Kong has a stable economy, our unemployment rate is just 3%, why still occupy Central?
I really don't understand.
What do the protesters want to express and strike for?
After they have occupy Central, what will be their next action? A radical reform of the financial system in Hong Kong?
How can that be done? How would Hong Kong people accept such change?
If the protesters do not have plan to reform the finance system, what is the point of this occupation? Just for the sake of protest? After this protest party, will they will look for another topic to protest about?
The finance industry is a very important sector in Hong Kong. Many people depend on it for a living. Once it has been shaken, many people will lose their job. Government tax income will shrink and social welfare will be cut. Have they thought about all these things?

Anthony Chung believes that [zh] income disparity is inevitable because people are greedy:

假如…李嘉誠的身家也要分,每人 100 萬、1 個物業。
不出 10 年…大部份財富又會回到現在的有錢人手裡!

Even if the government redistributed all the wealth equally now, even if Li Ka-shing shared his wealth with every one in Hong Kong and each of us got one million and an apartment, in 10 years the majority of the wealth would fall back to the same group of people.
Some people would spend the money for enjoyment… the Central finance experts would induce people's greed with all the finance investment package and transfer the money to their own pockets. The business experts in Mongkok and Causeway Bay would introduce fashionable products to make money. The property experts would invest in property and get more and more apartments.
They win because they know the rules of the game and are good at managing their wealth. Income disparity? The government can do little, we have to depend on ourselves.

Chiu08112003 however, points out that the rules of the game are not fair in the first place, in particular after the handover of Hong Kong to China. He describes the situation in a sarcastic tone [zh]:




The post 1980s generation and alternative poor guys do not want to be squeezed into a meat roll. They miss Chairman Mao's redistribution of the landlord's land, and talk bullshit about strikes, revolts, robbing and revolution. They want to share the landlords’ apartments and wealth, want the stock market to collapse, want the money to fall from the sky; the rich fight back. Like dragons, they strangle the central government, talk bullshit that if the government let them go veggie and stop eating meat with their shark-mouths, they would take all their money and migrate elsewhere. Hong Kong will be struck by thunder.

Since the handover of Hong Kong to China, the government has become a puppet controlled by the central government and the tycoons. They claim that they are protecting economic freedom in Hong Kong, but that's a cover-up of their monopoly and exploitative measures. They are foot-dragging in opening up the market to reinforce their monopoly status; or they use all kind of pretexts to get special favors for land development rights. The losers would never know how they make their profit. The capitalists are working hand in hand with the government in this monopoly system. The high land price has squeezed small developers from the market and the giant developers have controlled all the land resources and profit rate. They extend their influence to other areas such as the sales industry, by forcing the suppliers to give them monopolized rights to sell their products. The trend for big corporates to monopolize the market is getting obvious. The monopoly of supermarkets, the merging of railway companies and bus companies have excluded SMEs from the market.

The government ignore the monopoly and let the giant corporates control the market. The essence of monopoly is against economic freedom and harms the business environment and consumer rights. The so-called liberal economy is just a pretext to monopoly. The competition between giant corporates and small business is like a fight between an armed man and a kid, however when someone hands the kid a rod to defend itself the monopoly class feels unhappy and order their drummers and loquacious women to give lectures about “fairness”, blaming society for helping out the kid. Their bullshit is so stinky. Hong Kong is yet to pass its anti-monopoly law under the influence of monopolized capital, can we still say it is a free economy?

Hui Yuk believes that [zh] the greatest achievement of the occupation is the reflective space it has generated:

當人們能接受不需要確切的目標的時候,想像就真正開始﹕無限的訴求(infinitively demanding)。佔領中斷了我們固有的操作手法,並開拓了一個新的思考空間。我想許多人並未能真正領會這樣的驚嘆﹕「佔領竟然可以在香港發生!」。要留意「佔領」並不是一個純粹的反抗行動,例如駐地留守 、保衛家園。傳媒的鏡頭永遠只會將「佔領」視為抗爭,而無法理解「佔領」實踐上的多層意義。最基本的,是它嘗試顛覆空間既定的符號(symbol),例如將一個辦公室當成了住所,將那裡工作的人當成客人或者入侵者,於是人們重新建立空間的秩序,行動者重新去論釋空間、物件的使用,使他們從一個使用者、消費者的被動身分,重奪(re-claim)他們的主權。

When people begin to accept an indefinite goal, they start imagining, which is a state of demanding. The occupation has disrupted our habit and opened up a reflective space. People are yet to understand and exclaim: occupation can happen in Hong Kong! We have to be aware that “occupation” is not just a pure resistant action like protecting one's home. The media only sees occupation as social struggle and cannot understand its multidimensional meaning. It has subverted the symbolic space, such as turning an office into a home and turning the workers into guests. People has to reconstruct the order of the space and the activists have to re-interpret such space. People within that space transform from as passive users or consumers into active interpreters and in the process they have reclaimed their autonomy.

This post is part of our special coverage #Occupy Worldwide.

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