Date
21 October 2019
Protesters are sprayed with water cannon during a demonstration near the central government offices in Hong Kong on Sept. 15. Authorities are struggling to resolve the months-long unrest in the city. Photo: Reuters
Protesters are sprayed with water cannon during a demonstration near the central government offices in Hong Kong on Sept. 15. Authorities are struggling to resolve the months-long unrest in the city. Photo: Reuters

Iron-fist alone won’t quell the unrest

The unprecedented political storm that is ripping through Hong Kong in the wake of the extradition bill fiasco is showing no signs of abating.

Amid escalating violence from some protesters, the Junior Police Officers’ Association (JPOA) issued a statement on Monday in which it suggested that the police may have to step up their use of force in the face of growing threats to their personal safety.

“When a rioter raises a petrol bomb to prepare to throw it, police officers on scene may very likely see it as a deadly attack upon them or others, and use relevant force or a weapon to stop it,” JPOA chairman Lam Chi-wai said in the statement, adding that if the situation demands it, even the use of live ammunition should not be precluded.

The association urged its members to employ reasonable and appropriate force and weapons decisively to protect themselves or others when coming under imminent threats from protesters.

The police sure have their concerns, but when it comes to the controversial suggestion on firing live rounds we can only say that such course of action would definitely not help in the current situation.

Looking back at history, the government could draw some insights as to how to deal with intense social unrest from the way in which the former colonial administration dealt with the 1967 riots.

Back then, while the police cracked down on rioters with an iron fist, authorities at the same time sought to becalm society by carrying out sweeping reforms in the society on issues such as housing, healthcare, welfare, education, anti-corruption, and civil service system.

Although it is undeniable that the 1967 riots were by nature distinctly different from today’s political firestorm, we believe there may still be some useful ideas which the current administration can borrow from the colonial authorities when it comes to soothing the public’s emotions.

If Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is able to come up with some substantial and viable measures to improve people’s livelihood in her upcoming policy speech in October, we believe it can help lower the temperature in society and ease the tensions sparked by street protests.

That said, authorities should bear in mind that livelihood measures alone won’t be enough. At the end of the day, political issues will have to be resolved through political measures.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 17

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal