Hours after mainland Chinese officials announced new rules ensuring that only handpicked candidates could run for Hong Kong’s top leadership position in 2017, local democracy activist Benny Tai Yiu-ting declared a new “era of civil disobedience.”
Tai, a co-founder of a movement called Occupy Central that has been pressing for “real democracy” for more than a year, called Sunday for Hong Kong’s 7 million people to stage “wave after wave of protests.” He urged Hong Kongers to participate in sit-ins on major roads and paralyze the city’s financial district – known as Central — to demand an unfettered field of candidates.
But two days later, Tai, a constitutional law professor at Hong Kong University, seemed to admit defeat. In an interview with Bloomberg News on Tuesday, he remarked that the strategies used by his civil-disobedience movement had failed.
Tai also expressed doubt about the number of people who would participate in any sit-in. He said that any mass sit-ins would have to occur on a public holiday or a weekend to inflict minimal damage on the economy of Hong Kong, a former British territory and major Asian financial hub.
Mainland Chinese officials have warned that any sit-in could cause major damage to the economy and stature of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and was promised50 years of significant autonomy.