Gearing up for 'peaceful sit-in' in Hong Kong

Gearing up for 'peaceful sit-in' in Hong Kong

From asking civil disobedience campaigners overseas for help and advice to scouting for toilets in the financial district, Occupy Central organisers are ramping up preparations for a "peaceful" sit-in, even as police arrested 22 people agitating against Beijing's decision on Hong Kong's constitutional reform.

Those nabbed late on Monday night included the leader of radical activist group Civic Passion, Mr Wong Yeung Tat, and are not linked to the Occupy movement.

The disparate developments encapsulate the challenges that the Occupy movement faces.

While its three mild-mannered organisers - two academics and a Baptist minister - have stressed the non-violent nature of their campaign in a city with a long tradition of peaceful protests, there are concerns among the establishment and business community that it could be hijacked by extremist groups.

A police statement yesterday accused protesters near visiting Beijing official Li Fei's hotel of "violent acts", saying they forcibly pushed the mills barriers, charged the police cordon and dashed onto the road.

The ugly scenes on Monday came a day after China's top legislative body announced harsh rules on how the city can elect its chief executive in 2017, which essentially rule out candidates not anointed by Beijing.

Hong Kong has seen the rise of radicals in recent years as people become increasingly frustrated that other ways of lobbying for greater democracy appear futile, said academic Mak Hoi Wah, who researches social movements.

"Is violence (at Occupy) inevitable? Maybe," he said.

Civic Passion's Mr Wong told The Straits Times that "real action does not mean giving speeches".

He added: "We will continue to act like how we did yesterday to pressure the Hong Kong government and Beijing."

Occupy organiser Benny Tai is confident that his movement can deal with "radical or even violent groups".

He said it is getting help from campaigners overseas, but declined to say where they are from. Taiwan's Sunflower Movement, which staged a successful occupation of the legislature in March, could be one of the groups.

Dr Tai said there will be teams of marshals responsible for "different regions and districts" at the sit-in, whose date is still shrouded in secrecy.

Social psychologists are being roped in to help maintain calm. There are also contingency plans in case violence erupts.

"We have our way of managing the scene, there are lots of technical things we're doing," he added.

However, in an interview with Bloomberg, Dr Tai acknowledged that Occupy's strategic aim of getting China to permit the right to vote by international standards has failed.

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