Over the past few days numerous images have defined the political dark age we are now in. The most shocking were the bloodied face of a female protester with a ruptured eye, apparently from a police bean bag, a protester bleeding profusely when police posing as protesters knocked out his tooth, protesters at the airport tying up two mainlanders they thought were spies, and a policeman pulling out his gun.
I won’t easily forget those images. Many Hongkongers won’t either. But another image also disturbed me. It was that of our leader smilingly speaking in Mandarin at a People’s Liberation Army camp for students last Sunday. To me, that was a “let them eat cake” moment. That quote is attributed to Queen Marie Antoinette leading up to the French Revolution who, when told the peasants had no bread, said they should eat brioche instead.
Hong Kong was burning that day, with protests across the city. Police fought running battles with protesters. Tear gas filled the air. Rubber bullets flew. Lam knew violence would break out. She had labeled the protests by young people fighting for their promised freedoms a revolution. Yet she smilingly attended a PLA party. If that’s not “let them eat cake”, what is?
It was her third attendance at a PLA function in the past few weeks as protests rocked the city. She comes out of hiding only for mainland events and to meet business leaders who have no choice but to outwardly support her. Whether they really do in their hearts I don’t know. Last Monday, a day after the worst violence seen so far, and on a day when protesters occupied and shut down the airport, Lam went to Macau for a Greater Bay Area event.
Her choice of where to go and who to meet is informative. It tells us she knows who she must serve first. It’s certainly not ordinary Hong Kong people. Forget about asking if she is still in charge of Hong Kong. We got the answer two days ago when she refused to clearly reply after a reporter repeatedly asked if she had the authority to withdraw the extradition bill without Beijing’s approval.
Lam claimed last Friday after meeting with business leaders that the unrest sparked by her now-abandoned extradition bill is causing an economic slump worse than the 2003 SARS. That, of course, is exaggerated scaremongering intended to sway public opinion in her favor. But if she truly believes it then I suggest she advise her Beijing bosses not to worsen the economy with threats and scare tactics.
Cathay Pacific is a pillar of Hong Kong’s economy but the central government dealt it a body blow last week by banning cabin crew supporting protests, peaceful or not, from Chinese airspace. That, in itself, is an attack on Hong Kong’s cherished free speech rights. Cathay must now provide personal details of all cabin crew entering Chinese air space. This, in effect, covers all Cathay flights since virtually all planes taking off here need to enter Chinese airspace.
State-controlled media added to the body blow by attacking Cathay. Stocks of Cathay and parent company Swire plunged. Past weeks have also seen veiled warnings by mainland officials that the PLA could be used if the unrest got out of hand, sending jitters through the local and international business community. What a great way to revive the economy.
Many people now believe not only is Hong Kong in a dark age, it has also become a police state. On the day Lam was all smiles at a PLA event, a female protester’s eye was ruptured, and another protester’s tooth was knocked out by police, the media also revealed the police had posed as protesters.
Senior police officials insisted they used decoys only to arrest hardcore radical protesters. But there is now widespread suspicion these decoys, dressed in black with protective gear exactly like those of the protesters, deliberately instigated violence to make the public turn against the protests.
Did these decoys hurl petrol bombs, bricks, and other missiles to sway public opinion? Top police officials have denied they would do anything illegal but there is so little public trust in the police nowadays that few are taking them at their word. Even the media is skeptical. Airport protesters tying up two mainlanders suspected of being spies was a direct consequence of police using decoys.
We are now at a stage where it’s not only the police versus the people and the press but also the people and the press versus Lam and her government.
This is apparent at every press conference Lam and the police hold. They face a barrage of hostile questions shouted at them. It is also apparent at peaceful protests against Lam organized by healthcare workers, parents, and the elderly.
How can people have trust in the police and Lam when arrested protesters are swiftly charged and brought to court but not a single white-shirted triad-linked thug who attacked commuters in Yuen Long on July 21 has been charged? It’s been nearly one month since the attack. Surely, the police have enough evidence to charge some, especially because none of the thugs wore masks.
What most disturbed me about Lam after she met with the business elite last Friday was that she said some Hongkongers did not have a stake in Hong Kong. That insensitive remark showed how unfit she is as a leader. But then, the central government has shown time and again how clueless it is about what Hongkongers want. Every chief executive it anointed since the handover has failed to serve a full ten-year term. We all know Lam won’t get a second term even if she miraculously survives her first term.
For the benefit of Lam, I would like to point out that every Hongkonger has a stake in Hong Kong. They are all Hong Kong people whether or not they support her. If she believes some do not have a stake in Hong Kong because they protest, it’s her fault, not theirs. She drove them to do what they are doing now. And they are doing it because they are fighting for their stake in Hong Kong. No scaremongering by her or Beijing will break their spirit.
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