Date
19 November 2019
The CHRF, which organized the massive public demonstrations in the past two weeks over the extradition bill, could be a viable option if the government seeks to open a dialogue with the protesters. Photo: Reuters
The CHRF, which organized the massive public demonstrations in the past two weeks over the extradition bill, could be a viable option if the government seeks to open a dialogue with the protesters. Photo: Reuters

Lack of clear protest leader shouldn’t come in way of dialogue

With the “perfect storm” over the extradition bill controversy still raging, some believe the key to resolving the crisis is for the government to open up dialogue with protesters.

There is also a view that the administration must reactivate constitutional reform in the long run.

It is understood that during the five-hour brainstorming session held at Government House last Saturday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and other top officials and bureau chiefs had an in-depth discussion on the topic of engaging more with the public and listening to the citizens’ opinions.

However, it is said that no conclusion was reached over the issue because the officials simply didn’t know where to start with.

In the meantime, some people have pessimistically pointed out that opening up dialogue isn’t going to work because protesters are overwhelmingly acting on their own initiative and that there is simply nobody who can truly represent them.

So is dialogue really not a viable option this time as these people have claimed?

Well, our answer to this question is: “not necessarily”.

It is because even though there isn’t a single leader who has been given an unanimous mandate by protesters across the city to represent them, there are at least some organizations which have a certain level of public opinion base.

As long as the government is willing to open up dialogue, whoever is recognized by the government as the one it talks to and invited to the talks would emerge as the leader of the anti-extradition bill movement.

For example, the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), which was the organizer of the June 9 and 16 mass demonstrations, has remained a champion of public dissent through peaceful, rational and non-violent means over the years.

That being said, we believe it would be a good idea for the government to consider inviting the CHRF to bilateral talks.

Although it is right to say that the CHRF may not necessarily be able to represent all protesters, inviting the organization to negotiation may serve as a viable starting point from which the government can then facilitate further dialogue with the protesters.

Rebuilding mutual trust between the government and the public will entail practical interaction between the two sides. To open a dialogue, the government will need someone on the other side.

What the government should do right now, we believe, is not to worry about whom to talk to, but focus instead on facing the reality and taking the initiative to build a platform for dialogue.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 24

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

JC/RC

Hong Kong Economic Journal