Guest Post: Last week, adopting the language of the left, the pro-Beijing ‘Silent Majority’ group founded the ‘Alliance for Peace & Democracy’ in a response to the peaceful July 1st march. In this essay, Evan Fowler recalls his meeting last year with convenor Robert Chow, and says that the choice is not between radical protest and constructive engagement, but between believing Hong Kong people deserve a say in their future and believing they do not.
Last year I was at a gathering at which Robert Chow, founder of Silent Majority and the recently convened Alliance for Peace and Democracy, outlined his case against the Occupy Central Movement. He began by stressing that he agreed with the democrats wish for political reform, but that he believed that the threat of Occupy Central was confrontational and would only antagonise Beijing. However, from this point on he lost the plot.
First there were repeated attempts to misuse data. He claimed that Silent Majority represented 75% of Hong Kong people. He quoted this figure from a HKU poll that concluded only 25% of people at the time believed Occupy Central would “succeed”. From this, Robert read this as meaning 75% of Hong Kong people are not only against the movement, but support Silent Majority. These figures were challenged, including by members of the survey team. Yet Robert continues to publicly and deliberately misrepresent these figures.
Second, there was the fear-mongering. 10,000 people occupying Central, he claimed, would destroy the city. He claimed businesses would relocate and that we would see a mass flight of capital. Only then did he turn his eloquence to portraying the horrific social affects: a city brought to a standstill as roads are closed; our transport networks overloaded; rioting, looting and anarchy as our police and public services are overwhelmed. Images of pregnant mothers unable to be served at hospitals and children unable to attend school – all calculated to hit an emotional chord.
Tom Holland, the former SCMP economics columnist who was present at the gathering (and who has since left the Post), addressed the business case brilliantly when he pointed out that not only Central but the whole city completely shuts down during a typhoon, and yet, a point he stressed any economists will know, it has no effect on our economy as extra demand is generated immediately prior or immediately after such events. Capital, he reminded us, was drawn to a balance between opportunity and risk. Hong Kong’s advantages, from our Rule of Law to Freedom of Expression, are in fact what Occupy protesters are seeking to defend.
Robert Chow (right) with a member of the Silent Majority for Hong Kong.