Opinions: Occupy Central

Emily Meringolo, Contributing Writer

Almost exactly on the third anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011, upwards of 4,000 members of “Occupy Central” protested in Central Hong Kong after an announcement from Beijing stated that candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executive are to be nominated by a committee under Beijing’s control. In reaction, civilian members of Occupy Central participated in a silent march with a large black banner with the phrase “Civil Disobedience” through Hong Kong. The group is lead by two Hong Kong professors, Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man, and purports to create equality among the super-wealthy of China who control not only the means of production but the government itself.

​In order to understand this act of civil disobedience, one must look at the way China operates. Since the People’s Republic of China’s founding in 1949, its history has been defined by a multitude of problems facing the Chinese people and the solutions imposed by the government. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made their first priority the economy–and to this day, it still does. The focus on increased growth does not consider the livelihoods of its civilians, nor does the great divide that industry would impose on the “haves” and the “have-nots” throughout China. As in all cases of neoliberal reform, those who control the means of production exploit the labor of those who actually manufacture the goods and services.

​This held true as China “caught up” to the West through industrialization. Seven regions function under the idea of “One Country, Two Systems.” This system keeps all of China’s population (1.3 billion people) under the CCP’s firm control despite the various ethnic groups. The regions are allowed a certain degree of autonomy from the status quo of CCP’s rule. To this day, the model has proven to be successful, as no region has achieved independence from the CCP. Even Hong Kong, which was under British Colonial rule for 150 years, was returned to the CCP in 1997.

​It was while Hong Kong was under the control of the United Kingdom that this metropolis experienced incredible amounts of international trade, industrialization at a faster rate than mainland China, and most importantly, democracy. When Great Britain gave Hong Kong back to “mainland,” Hong Kong acknowledged it would have certain notions of independence from Big Brother, but in reality it was Beijing who retained the diplomatic stronghold to force Hong Kong under their control—for China is still a communist nation.

​Even with the act of civil disobedience brought about by Occupy Central, it is highly unlikely that enough Chinese citizens would become disgruntled enough to overturn the government or create a true democracy. Social unrest demonstrates a lack of stability and control within China. The CCP will stop at no end to ensure that Hong Kong remains under their control, for if there is an Arab Spring of China’s ethnic minority regions there would be grave consequences for the future of the CCP.

​How interesting would it be if everyone at the University began a campaign to systematically change the way the government operates? There is a clear divide between the wealthy and the poor in America; what if all 3,600 of us, along with the faculty members and staff, joined together to make a change? And to put our theoretical act of civil disobedience into perspective, how would the United States’ government react? After imagining it here, it becomes clear how significant the next couple of months will be for the future of China and Hong Kong.

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