22 October 2016
Leung Chun-ying (inset) seems to think the Mong Kok clashes were just a law and order issue and there were no underlying social causes behind the unrest. Photo: HKEJ, TVB
Leung Chun-ying (inset) seems to think the Mong Kok clashes were just a law and order issue and there were no underlying social causes behind the unrest. Photo: HKEJ, TVB

Mong Kok unrest another wake-up call for Leung

Despite widespread calls for an independent inquiry into the underlying causes of the Mong Kok clashes, the Leung Chun-ying administration has insisted that there is no need for such a move. The arguments the government cited against opening an independent inquiry have been so flimsy, illogical and ridiculous that they hardly convince anybody with a clear mind.

However, what is most alarming to me is not the nonsensical and ridiculous arguments that officials have presented, but the mindset behind it and what that tells us — the government’s complacency and total ignorance of the fact that public grievances and discontent in our society have already reached the tipping point and that an even more severe crisis could be in the making.

It is apparent that the main reason why the administration continues to dismiss calls for conducting an inquiry into what caused the clashes is because it believes there is nothing to look into.

The violence on the night of Feb. 8 was just another riot mounted by some anti-social thugs to pick a fight with the police and cause trouble, and there are no underlying social causes behind it whatsoever, the government thinks. All that needs to be done is to catch the criminals and put them behind bars, it feels.

Such oversimplification of what happened that night and the simple-mindedness among our top officials could prove lethal in the end, for they fail to explain why basically the same bunch of young people who hadn’t thrown a single stone or set fire to anything during the Occupy Movement back in 2014 suddenly turned into violent and ruthless “rioters” this month.

What made them so different and so angry this time? What prompted them to escalate their action and degree of violence? Only an independent and in-depth inquiry can find out the answer to these fundamental questions.

Another reason why the government refuses to open an inquiry is that it has categorically denied any connection between the clashes and the regime’s governance record. Simply put, it believes there is nothing wrong with its governance and that the Feb. 8 “riot” was just a criminal act rather than a demonstration of intense public discontent with the way the city is run.

The fact that Leung is still turning a blind eye to the cast-iron fact that our citizens, especially the younger ones, are so unhappy with the government that the society is virtually on the verge of a full-scale social uprising sends a chill down my spine.

The chief executive’s handling of the Mong Kok clashes will only reinforce the worries that his administration is completely ignoring the deep-rooted conflicts in our society. Leung doesn’t seem to be aware that he is sitting on a giant powder keg. All that it takes is a single spark to ignite it.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 23.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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