Chief Executive Carrie Lam says she wants to heal the divisions in society and has reached out to the opposition to rebuild ties severed by the political reform debate.
However, Beijing loyalists appear to have a different agenda and are mobilizing their supporters to achieve their own political goals.
Three years ago, Robert Chow led a signature drive to oppose the Occupy Central campaign. Today, it’s legislator Junius Ho who is leading efforts to punish the leaders of that civil disobedience movement. He is calling for the ouster of law professor Benny Tai from the University of Hong Kong for his key role in the 2014 protests.
Ho and his cohorts are effectively defying Lam’s call for reconciliation, and pushing Hong Kong back to the dark era of former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, when political rancor and division reigned.
In a rally at Tamar Park in Admiralty on Sunday, Ho also blamed Professor Tai for growing calls for Hong Kong independence.
Other pro-Beijing personalities were present in the rally, including lawmaker Holden Chow, who warned that allowing Tai to continue teaching at HKU would have dire consequences for Hong Kong. Young people with malleable minds will be encouraged to use illegal means to achieve their goals, he said.
Of course, it is perfectly fine for Ho and Chow to express their views and tell everyone that they hate the Occupy Movement. But what evidence do they have to accuse Tai of advocating independence from China?
The pro-Beijing camp is linking leaders of the Occupy Movement, which was intended to protest Beijing’s move to stop the implementation of genuine universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election, to those who support Hong Kong’s breaking away from the mainland.
They are promoting a lie that will only add to the fresh wounds of enmity in society.
During the rally, speakers did not hesitate to condemn those who support Hong Kong independence. Rural leader Tsang Shu-wo said pro-independence activists should be “killed”. Ho shouted in response: “Without mercy!” Ho, still foaming in the mouth, later said that it was “no big deal to kill pigs or dogs”.
Many people, including those who don’t agree with independence advocates, were shocked at the kind of language that the pro-Beijing speakers used on stage. Their virulence has simply gone too far. They are putting political loyalty above everything else.
They are the ones who are advocating violence and lawlessness. They are the ones who are poisoning the minds of the youth by making it appear that it is acceptable to kill someone with a different political view.
However, our government appears to be a turning a blind eye to this scandalous behavior. Officials seem to be unwilling to denounce the pro-Beijing camp for their call for violence.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen, when asked to comment on the foul utterances at the Tamar Park rally, said whether Ho’s remarks were criminal depends on the overall meaning and background of the comments. Yuen said people can’t just focus on one or two words.
This is double standard. On social media, some netizens cited the recent Court of Appeal ruling, in which student leaders Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law were found to have had the intention to “seize” Civic Square, which the judges said manifested the violent purpose of the assembly.
Now we have Beijing loyalists calling for the killing of independence advocates, and the justice minister believes those were just words spoken in the heat of the moment?
Ho is spearheading a campaign to force the University of Hong Kong to fire Tai and could seek a judicial review against the university for Tai’s continued employment.
We could see that the pro-Beijing camp is serious about their fight against Tai. And Ho’s support for violence against independence advocates is not serious?
Meanwhile, the pro-democracy camp has called on the police to investigate Ho as he has apparently committed an offense by calling for the death of independence advocates.
In a joint statement, 22 pro-democracy lawmakers condemned Ho’s remarks, saying his “cold-blooded” words “encouraged direct violence” and may have violated the law.
They said Ho has exceeded the bottom line of free speech and morality by calling for the death of others in public, adding that he has violated the norms of professional conduct as a lawmaker and solicitor.
Citing the public order ordinance, the pro-democracy lawmakers said the Department of Justice and the police should treat Ho in the same manner they treat criminal suspects and take appropriate action.
Even senior counsel Ronny Tong Ka-wah said he believes Ho may have committed a crime by apparently calling for the death of anyone who seeks to separate Hong Kong from the mainland.
However, our Chief Executive refused to answer reporters’ questions about Ho’s utterances. She may not want to antagonize the pro-Beijing camp, but she should be able to draw the line when some of these people are calling for violence.
After all, how can there be healing in society if we allow Beijing loyalists to pursue their campaign of hate against pro-democracy leaders? How can we mend the rift if we allow such rancor to persist?
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