Hong Kong business affected to Occupy protests were ‘scared’ to seek compensation, claims alliance leader
Businesses affected by Occupy Central last year were deterred from making compensation claims against protesters for fear of being identified and further losing patronage, a leader of an anti-Occupy alliance says.
Irons Sze Wing-wai, a permanent honorary president of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association, told the South China Morning Post his association’s initiative to offer a free legal advisory service for businesses affected by the pro-democracy protests ended in vain.
About five restaurants in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay approached him at the start of the protests last year, but they gave up later. ”
They dared not pursue their claims because they were scared of being labelled by protesters as ‘blue ribbons’ and in turn losing more business,” Sze said, referring to the colour assigned to the anti-Occupy camp, as opposed to yellow for the pro-democracy movement.
“This incident was most terrifying to me because people could not exercise their rights to seek compensation.”
During the sit-ins, a minibus operator obtained a court injunction to stop protesters blocking major roads in Mong Kok. There were a few dozen claims from small businesses, drivers and individuals who sued Occupy leaders through the Small Claims Tribunal, but their cases remain unresolved since they were transferred to the High Court and some were withdrawn.
But Sze acknowledged the impact on businesses was short-term and companies had already recovered. Those who argue that the protests had little impact point to the 2.3 per cent growth in Hong Kong’s gross domestic product last year and the fact tourist arrivals did not fall during Occupy.
Sze – who is also a local deputy to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and a spokesman for the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, which collected a million signatures against the civil disobedience movement – said that to this day he “did not understand” why the protesters and pan-democrats were so reluctant to accept Beijing’s reform framework.
The Legislative Council rejected a Beijing-dictated electoral reform package in June, but Sze said voting it down would not make Beijing endorse a more liberal model in future.
He admitted none of his three children, all studying in secondary school or university, joined him in the anti-Occupy march last summer.
Asked if he felt helpless about a generation gap said to be dividing Occupy protesters and their opponents, Sze said: “I don’t feel that. Young people do have different sets of values and a different sense of identity. They have not undergone hardships. It takes time to educate them.”
Sze also said it would be hard for the business sector to take a more active role in pushing forward political reform again, because the Beijing framework would be there to stay for the foreseeable future even though pan-democrats did not accept it. ”
Hongkongers had the best chance to get ‘one person, one vote’, but Occupy pushed things to the extreme and strained relations [with Beijing]. Now reform is not passed. Life is as usual. We should first focus on economic development.”
But anti-business sentiments were strong in the society, he noted. “We are not professional politicians. What we care for is Hong Kong’s competitiveness. But what we say has never succeeded in moving people’s minds. This is my frustration.”