Benny Tai: Occupy Central Is to Not Occupy Central
He is a law scholar standing in the center of a civil disobedience movement. He is a professor supporting the student strike.
He proposed Occupy Central so that the Central “is not occupied." He is Benny Tai, a seemingly contradictory figure who opened an umbrella of peace and rational to fight a storm in Hong Kong.
Today, let’s take a look at Benny Tai and his contradictions and insistence.
Benny Tai: “Occupy Central has officially launched. Occupy Central is officially launched. Occupy Central is officially launched."
On the morning of Sept. 28, Benny Tai initiated Occupy Central in Hong Kong with love and peace. On the same day, the Government’s tough repression of unarmed citizens and students with pepper spray and tear gas has motivated more protesters.
They hold up umbrellas to protect themselves and to demonstrate to the Government and Beijing their determination to fight for true universal suffrage.
The 50-year-old Benny Tai is an associate professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong. After graduating from Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong, he has served as an assistant in legislator Martin Lee’s office, participating in the draft of Hong Kong Basic Law. He was one of the two student representatives in the Consultative Committee for the Basic Law. He received his master’s degree in law from London School of Economics and Political Science and specializes
in constitutional law, administrative law, law and governance, law and politics as well as law and religion.
In fact, as a law faculty member, Benny Tai is aware of the meaning of civil disobedience.
Last Jan. 16, Benny Tai published a stirring article in the Hong Kong Economic Journal entitled, “The Largest Mass Destruction Weapon of Civil Disobedience." He analyzed and listed the possible plan and consequences for Occupy Central, which included being held accountable. He stated, “Civil disobedience is illegal…after the movement, participants should surrender themselves to law enforcement."
However, perhaps his legal scholar identity has Benny Tai make the decisive move like what he had pointed out in the interview with EETV program, SpeakOut.
Benny Tai: “I have studied the rule of law for more than twenty years. In theory, the rule of law is not as simple as law-abiding; many people even think that way. But in fact, a higher level of understanding of the rule of law is that the law must meet the requirements of justicein the existing system itself.
When the current system itself is not consistent with justice, we can see in history that many people began civil disobedience movements."
As a faculty member, Benny Tai understands what the student strike means. He was present when students who were holding sit-ins in front of government headquarters were cleared by police.
Benny Tai: “Well, I think the message is very simple. We will stand with you (student protesters) together. And we will stay here till the last minute with you together."
Perhaps his teacher identity has given him hope that increasingly more Hong Kong people will join this street democracy.
As he and two other Occupy Central promoters have said in the official release on the Occupy Central, “Spread the universal values of democratic universal suffrage, fairness and justice to the people of Hong Kong, and hope that they are willing to pay the price to implement these values in the institution and community in Hong Kong."
Benny Tai: “We must, we must, state it very clearly to the whole world: this is not a color revolution. This is only a movement of Hong Kong people to strive for democracy to get their rights, equal rights, which should be enjoyed by the Hong Kong people."
Occupy Central has won global support, as well as waves of questions and pressure. Faced with these, Benny Tai is not indifferent.
To Hong Kong people, he repeatedly apologized, asking them to understand the inconvenience caused by the occupation. But to the Government, he is tit for tat.
Benny Tai: “We will continue, will continue. Again remember what has caused the people to come out. It’s not out of a call from the federation of students, Scholarism or Occupy Central. It’s because of the tear gas. It’s because of the government failing to respond to the demands of the people, for the universal suffrage and the people out there.
That’s the demands and that is something only the government can deliver."
Today, Occupy Central has become the biggest protest Beijing faces since reunification of Hong Kong in 1997. However, Benny Tai said his emphasis is not confrontation.
In an interview with Taiwan’s Common Wealth Magazine, he said, “Occupy Central is so as to not occupy the Central. It is to develop a tension through confrontation, and Occupy Central is the future tense so that we return to negotiating." He said the focus is democratic discussions in hopes of finding solutions to disputes.
However, since the Government unilaterally announced the shelving of dialogue, academia appeal to stick to the streets and Occupy Central will continue.
What Benny Tai would like to see and the democracy Hong Kong people are pursuing will continue to become the landscape in Hong Kong through each open umbrella in the streets.
Edit/ShangYan Post-production/Li An’an