October 6, 2014
Stephan: How the Hong Kong Protesters Can Win
Don't think that this will be over soon. This is fundamentally a war of patience and a test of our endurance," 17-year-old Joshua Wong, student leader of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, tweeted on Thursday. For the past several weeks, the protesters have been putting on a clinic in organized, disciplined civil resistance: Tens of thousands of activists continue to throng the downtown streets and thoroughfares, demanding the resignation of Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying and threatening to occupy government buildings. Occupy Central, student coalitions, and other opposition groups have called for mass strikes while insisting that they will not back down until their ultimate goal of universal suffrage is achieved. Still, as momentum has slowed, the lingering question is, what next?
Beijing probably expects to wage (and win) a war of attrition against this civilian uprising. The main challenge now for the Hong Kong democracy movement is to maintain pressure while withstanding inevitable repression and finding ways to erode Beijing's pillars of local support. It needs to find the right balance of disruption and engagement, to work inside and outside of traditional political and legal institutions, and to prepare for a multi-year struggle.