Hong Kong (AFP) – A disappointing turnout at Hong Kong’s first democracy rally since the end of mass street demonstrations shows the city is suffering from “protest fatigue” and new longer-term strategies are needed to drive reform, analysts say.
A procession of yellow umbrellas, the symbol of the democracy movement, edged slowly through the centre of the city on Sunday afternoon – the first time demonstrators had gathered after more than two months of street blockades ended in December when protest camps were cleared.
Organisers said that 13,000 people attended the march – with police estimating 8,800 – far below the 50,000 hoped for and a fraction of the 100,000 who took to the streets at the height of the rallies.
China has pledged that Hong Kong can choose its own leader for the first time in 2017, but says the candidates must be vetted by a loyalist committee, which campaigners dismiss as “fake democracy”.
In the face of their failure to achieve any concessions over political reform, some supporters are now questioning whether it’s worth taking to the streets.
“Beijing has played the game quite smartly. They have convinced most Hong Kong people that even if they were to replay Occupy Central, that would not be sufficient to sway Beijing,” says political analyst Willy Lam, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The city is now divided over whether to accept Beijing’s version of universal suffrage – which will go before Hong Kong lawmakers this year – and hope for improvements later, or to veto the plans, said Lam, who added that a “tangible roadmap” from the democracy camp could help galvanise public support.