LONDON – Hong Kong’s democracy movement has gained admiration worldwide. The principles, decency, and behavior of its youthful vanguard inspire confidence in the qualities of the generation that one day will run the great city. That said, it is time to move on to a sensible endgame.
The longer the standoff between Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and the demonstrators continues, the more likely it is that individual citizens – and Hong Kong itself – will be hurt. The Hong Kong government should demonstrate some statesmanship, which the so-called “Umbrella Movement” – occupying the moral high ground and not wishing to risk losing public support – would surely reciprocate. A substantive and successful dialogue with the government would not require the protesters to call off their campaign for democracy; it would simply end the current phase of a campaign that eventually will succeed.
Despite their protestations to the contrary, Hong Kong Chief Executive C. Y. Leung and his government have considerable room for maneuver. As many Hong Kong citizens have argued, the Chinese government’s current position is based on a report, submitted by Leung’s officials, which purported to reflect accurately the outcome of local consultations on constitutional development.
But the report plainly understated the degree of public support for change. Given what has happened in the last few weeks, Leung could quite properly give a new report to the authorities in Beijing focusing on two issues not proscribed by Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.