Hong Kong—Approximately 1,000 students are expected to join a week-long boycott at Hong Kong University against Beijing’s resolution on Hong Kong’s suffrage, said Yvonne Leung, President of the Hong Kong University Students’ Union.
On Aug. 31, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, ignoring popular pressure in Hong Kong for true universal suffrage, passed a resolution saying that no more than three candidates, selected by Beijing’s carefully vetted nominating committee, will be allowed to run for the chief executive’s post in 2017.
Three days after the resolution, the HKUSU announced a plan “to arouse public awareness on the democratic development of Hong Kong” by joining a city-wide student boycott of classes.
The Union president Leung said “having civil nomination” would be their first demand. Hong Kong residents want to nominate their own candidates for the chief executive in 2017, instead of voting for candidates who have already been selected by the pro-Beijing committee.
Subsequently, the following demand would be having “the abolition of the functional constituencies in the legislative council,” which can prevent businessmen, professionals or other interest groups from interfering the realization of true universal suffrage.
Besides, four principal officials responsible for the political reform consultation are expected “to step down” and citizens in Hong Kong deserve an apology from the NPC for its restrictive decision.
The boycott will start from next Monday with about1000 students at HKU, according to a previously launched online signing campaign made by the HKUSU. The number of students from other schools who plan to participate has not been clear yet.
When asked about different voices on the strike, Leung said some may be considering whether they should join or not, but nobody actually opposes it.
Anyone opposing the strike may simply tend to keep silent when they are not asked, However, Yao Yijun, a postgraduate studying Science, said, “I think I cannot do anything for politics by the boycott and I don’t think it is students who should be responsible for the political transformation”.
While the HKUSU is busy preparing for the strike, the president of HKU, Peter Mathieson reiterated that he is not encouraging or discouraging the strike, and that University executives remain neutral on the issue. Mathieson did say, however, that the University would take every possible action to help any person who has legal action against him or her because of the strike.
He also said in his open reply to the HKUSU, “I am determined to provide an environment at HKU where different opinions can flourish and be openly debated”.
The Nature of the Strike
So far, the HKUSU has not planned to change the strike into an action of civil disobedience.
“It doesn’t need to turn into a civil disobedience action,” Leung said this week, “because at this stage we announce to students that we’re having just a student strike, which will not bring them legal consequence. We do not wish to alter the nature of the movement”.
An uncertainty about the nature of the strike makes some students hesitated. Chan Wing Yau, a year two student in Arts, said, “I am still considering (whether to join the strike), because I still don’t know the nature of the activity and its impact on the society…but I think it (the boycott) can serve as a signal to Beijing to express our point of view and also to raise awareness from the society”.
Some are not sure about the rationale for the strike. With no intention to belittle the boycott, Alejandro Trinidad Reyes, a visiting associate professor in the department of Politics and Public Administration, said that he was not sure if he fully understood the value of it.
“Protest is meant to sort of inconvenience or irritate of people who are doing something wrong that you wish to change,” Reyes said. “I’m not sure students’ not attending classes will do that. In fact they only do that to inconvenience themselves…In my mind the boycott doesn’t necessarily actually affect the people who are making the policies.”
The Expected Result and The Next Step
Leung conceded that it would be “too idealistic, nearly impossible,” for the strike alone to bring about their demands. She said the students might also join the civil disobedience campaign planned by the Occupy Central movement if the Occupy Central actions begin soon. “Perhaps we will march together and have a huge way of civil disobedience,” she said. “But if the Occupy Central tends not (to be) happening soon, perhaps we’ll initiate our own (protests). Possibly something like… the sit-in movement.”
The Hong Kong Federation of Students also does not take the student strike as an end. “The university strike would be a starting point for a long-call citizen movement to engage students and the society as a whole, because when students launch a strike, it’s kind of a gesture to demonstrate that even the new generation is not satisfied with the current situation,” said Alex Chow, the Secretary General of the group.
Others also acknowledge that a student strike is not going to bring universal suffrage to Hong Kong. “We know it’s a contest between eggs and stones, but if we fail to do this, then we are even more powerless,” said Mei Yee, a graduate studying Social Work.