Policing the Occupy Central Movement in Hong Kong
The police reacted to the Occupy Central Movement (OCM) from September to December 2014 strategically, swiftly and adaptively, combining soft-line with hard-line measures. Objectively speaking, the police became a political sandwich between the OCM supporters and the anti-OCM activists, between the Hong Kong government and protestors and between Beijing and the pro-democracy Hongkongers. As long as none of the Hong Kong people died in the OCM, the police operation could be viewed as successful and peaceful. In anticipation of the occurrence of the OCM, the police training and preparation for the OCM turned out to be useful and significant. Although there were accusations of police-triads linkage, these claims had no evidence. The complexities among triads and the OCM meant that Hong Kong remained highly politically pluralistic but fragmented. Yet, the fragmentation among triad forces made it difficult for some members of the public to discern the important role of the police force, which acted as the defender of the law and order and which stood above all the vested interests in the society. On the other hand, the fragmentation among pro-democracy protestors facilitated the work of the police to maintain social order, for opinion and ideological differences within the pan-democratic camp meant that the OCM was destined to be short-lived, chaotically organized and subject to the changing public opinion. Public opinion was unfavorable to the police at the inception of the OCM, but the chaotic leadership in the OCM and the fragmented nature of pan-democrats later facilitated the transformation of public opinion in support of the police. Radical localists who attacked the Legislative Council building turned out to be the ones discrediting the entire OCM, which was at the early beginning hijacked by the relatively more hard-line student activists. Overall, the wait-out strategy adopted by the Hong Kong government in dealing with the OCM became very successful. The police adopted a wait-and-see attitude until the collapse of the OCM leadership, especially when the court injunctions were granted to the bailiffs in clearing the protest sites in Mongkok and Admiralty.