25 January 2020
Members of the city's accounting profession stage a march last Friday to urge the government to respond positively to the people's demands. Photo: Now TV
Members of the city's accounting profession stage a march last Friday to urge the government to respond positively to the people's demands. Photo: Now TV

Why the dialogue platform is doomed to failure

Last Friday, over 5,000 accountants marched peacefully from Chater Garden in Central to the Central Government Complex in Admiralty to once again solemnly urge the government to positively respond to the people’s five demands.

It was probably the first time since the handover that members of the local accounting profession organized and participated in a mass rally on political issues.

I believe there were several factors that prompted so many of my fellow accountants to join forces and initiate an action as part of the ongoing anti-extradition bill movement.

First of all, the extradition bill, which, according to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, is “dead” but not withdrawn, is in fact a very real issue for many local accountants as a lot of them have frequent business dealings with mainland enterprises.

Unfortunately, while the issues surrounding the bill have continued to snowball, the management of quite a number of business institutions and accounting firms in the city have asked their employees not to participate in political rallies even outside their working hours.

Some people have even received warnings from their employers against joining the protests.

I believe this kind of interference in what employees can or cannot do when it comes to expressing their views in their private time constitutes an outright violation of their personal freedoms.

However, I think the most important factor that has mobilized so many of them to take to the streets is the fact that by far the government still has not given its clear and convincing response to the five demands.

Although not all Hong Kong citizens agree with radical acts of resistance, the reality is that they have become increasingly receptive to different means of resistance.

And the reason for this shift in public opinion just can’t be simpler: people have resorted to peaceful and rational means to try to make their voices heard, but the government just won’t listen.

It appears that, to the people in power, it doesn’t really matter whether one or even two million people are taking to the streets, because to them, these are just numbers and nothing more.

I believe most people would agree that the government itself lies at the root of the ongoing conflicts in society, and that the five demands have become a consensus among nearly all of those who have participated in the movement.

As such, it would be both wishful thinking and a serious miscalculation if the government thought it could swing public opinion to its side and regain the people’s sympathy by trying to marginalize protesters and label them as rioters.

And that also explains why the government came under fire for proposing to build a “platform for dialogue” last week in order to find a way out of the political deadlock.

People don’t buy into the government’s proposal because it raises too many questions.

For example, do the people participating in building this dialogue platform truly represent us? How are they actually going to gauge the public pulse and their demands?

Moreover, why did the chief executive, during her press briefing on Tuesday, still refuse to officially withdraw the extradition bill and establish an independent commission of inquiry when most of those who attended a preliminary meeting last Saturday at the Government House in preparation for building the dialogue platform had advised her to do so?

Besides, in the digital age, I just don’t see any necessity to build a new channel for communication when one can easily have access to different opinions through a wide variety of online platforms.

Last but not least, I just couldn’t see any sincerity on the part of the government in resolving the current crisis when, on the one hand, it is urging society to return to tranquility while, on the other, it is allowing the police to escalate the use of force against protesters, and has even colluded with the MTR in closing subway stations in an apparent attempt to prevent people from taking part in lawful protests.

All in all, there is only one way to truly resolve the ongoing social conflicts, which is, for the government to take concrete actions to show its sincerity.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 26

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Member of Legislative Council (Functional Constituency – Accountancy)