The former head of Hong Kong's civil service, Anson Chan, now heads a pressure group campaigning for universal suffrage in the former British colony. Beijing, in spite of last year's 79-day Occupy Central mass pro-democracy movement, is pressing ahead with electoral reform plans that give it ultimate control over the selection of electoral candidates for chief executive in the 2017 elections. Former chief secretary Chan, who still commands widespread popular support among Hong Kong people, told RFA that the city has become increasingly polarized by the debate:
Hong Kong used to be an open, inclusive society, and if people disagreed, they could always sit down and talk about it.
But now, the [Hong Kong] Special Administrative Region government and the central government lack sincerity when it comes to the electoral reform plans, and they refuse to make any concessions at all when discussing them with the pan-democratic camp.
There is a hostile, "us and them" attitude, and relations between the two camps are gradually getting worse and worse.
What is the root cause of this problem? The SAR government has lacked sincerity right from the start, and it hasn't been willing to lead the people of Hong Kong towards a consensus.
That is the only approach that will get us out of the impasse we are in today.
Of course we hope that the central government will try to resolve this impasse, because Hong Kong is going to get harder and harder to govern if the impasse isn't resolved.
Perhaps not everyone supports such radical methods when it comes to fighting their case, but I have great admiration for these young people's determination regarding their future.
I think that the Umbrella Movement changed political attitudes in Hong Kong, and that's a good thing. We might not agree with everything these young people said, but they had ideals.
These young people aren't to blame, because actually they were fighting for a fairer, more just society for the future, and for the protection of our core values and way of life.
All of this was promised to the people of Hong Kong in the Basic Law [the city's mini-constitution].
Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.