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Rival groups face off in HK over pro-democracy campaign

Rival groups are facing off in Hong Kong after pro-democracy group Occupy Central threatened a sit-in in Hong Kong's central business district, with the launch of an anti-Occupy Central signature campaign.

HONG KONG: Rival groups are facing off in Hong Kong after pro-democracy group Occupy Central threatened a sit-in in Hong Kong's central business district.

An anti-Occupy Central signature campaign has been launched, with organisers saying they expect to exceed the 790,000 who voted in an unofficial pro-democracy referendum last month.

The controversial issue of political reform in Hong Kong has been marred by mass protests and clashes with police. Some fear the rallies could escalate into more violence, especially after Occupy Central threatened to lay siege to the Central district with 10,000 people participating in an illegal sit-in protest.

Pro-establishment Alliance for Peace and Democracy has hit back, with a campaign giving what it calls the "silent majority" a voice.

Robert Chow, convenor of Silent Majority for Hong Kong,said: "The most important message that we want to give the people is that Beijing and the pan-democrats should sit down and talk. They should negotiate. No one is saying that the pan-democrats should not negotiate very hard for a better deal so let them talk. What we don't want is Occupy Central to bind and hold all the democrats hostage."

Over 400 stations have been set up across Hong Kong to collect signatures calling for a stop to the sit-in. Some 380,000 signatures have been collected so far, and the alliance hopes to get more than 800,000 in the month-long campaign.

Over the weekend, Chairman of the National People's Congress Zhang Dejiang met pro-establishment camps and Beijing loyalists in Shenzhen. Zhang ruled out the pro-democracy calls for civil nomination, saying it is unconstitutional.

But Chow is hopeful that there is still room for discussion.

He said: "This is early days yet, the important thing is that when China states clearly what it intends, then, let the real negotiation begin."

Meanwhile, pro-democracy activists have returned from the United Kingdom, where they expressed their concern over the increasing intervention in local affairs by Beijing to British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

They argued that the UK, as a co-signatory of the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 before the 1997 handover, has an obligation to Hong Kong to ensure the “one country, two systems” declaration is not violated.  

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