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Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 09:10

‘Occupy’ causes deep divisions

By Luis Liu in Hong Kong

The “Occupy Central” campaign has caused “severe” social divisions in Hong Kong, especially among family members, according to a local family-care center on Monday.

After analyzing 289 people who have requested help in relation to the illegal “Occupy” movement, the Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre (CFCSC) found 84 of them had conflict with their family, accounting for 30 percent of the total. The percentage was “very high” compared with previous research and “deserves special attention” from the public, said Paulina Kwok Chi-ying, supervisor at CFCSC.

“It demonstrates a deeply divided society never seen before in Hong Kong,” Kwok said.

In one extreme case, family members splashed hot tea on each other’s faces and committed acts of domestic violence after arguing over the “Occupy” campaign, according to Au Ka-shing, a crisis care worker responsible for the project.

Also, more than 30 percent of those requesting help have been in conflict with friends and colleagues. “This situation is more serious than any of the social issues which occurred,” Kwok said.

Most of them had admitted arguing in their daily lives as well as on social media, and falling out with numerous friends.

This is first time since its establishment in 2001 that the CFCSC has ever received calls for help over political issues.

Kwok said the “Occupy” crisis was far more “destructive and complicated” than previous crises such as SARS, the Manila hostage crisis and the Lamma ferry disaster. People’s opinions are now extremely divided.

Of those seeking help, 41.4 percent are opponents of the “Occupy” movement while 24.3 percent are supporters and 34.3 percent were neutral.

The inconvenience caused and conduct of the protesters had caused anger and anxiety for those who oppose the protests. “One of those affected had even planned to use sharp weapons and firebombs to attack the occupiers, before being mollified by crisis care workers,” said Au.

“People think being neutral is the best way to protect oneself, but this time it is different,” said Au. “Both sides want the neutrals to take a clear-cut position, which is also a major reason for conflict.”

Demographically, those aged 36-40 are most proactive in seeking help from the CFCSC, comprising up to 22.4 percent of the total, as their children, mainly primary and secondary school students, were either involved or affected by the movement, according to the report.

Among the 23 seeking assistance that had participated in the movement, about 10 had changed their minds as the protests dragged on, revealed Kwok after the CFCSC had processed follow-up calls.

The CFCSC normally receives over 3,000 calls a month, which is relatively stable, according to Au. Last month the figure had risen by 10 percent.

The Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre is the first local social service agency of its kind in Hong Kong. It provides a package of integrated services to assist individuals or families in crisis.
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