Since it began operations in October 1979, rail operator MTR Corp has been serving the people of Hong Kong diligently every day, maintaining its service without interruption despite a surge in commuter numbers and regardless of weather conditions.
But earlier this month, on Oct. 5, the transport firm had to announce the shutdown of its entire network (except for the Airport Express) after anti-government protesters, reacting with fury in the wake of introduction of a new anti-mask law, inflicted severe damage upon many train stations.
A day without the MTR service got me thinking about the development history of Hong Kong: for decades, the city had remained on an upward trajectory, both socially and economically.
Of course, over the years, there were some ups and downs, but we could always weather the storm and move on.
As a result, the people have become so used to peace and social stability so much so that many citizens have lost the instinctive alert for danger and violence in everyday life.
Back in the 1970s, when street robbery, particularly against women at night time, was rife across the territory, many public housing estates set up their own Mutual Aid Committees (MACs), under which civic guard units were formed in order to take care of and protect the elderly, women and children, as well as to maintain night vigils.
However, as Hong Kong became increasingly prosperous and safe over the ensuing decades, the civic guard units have gradually disappeared.
In recent months, as an anti-government protest movement took root in the city, we have seen several incidents of “private score-settling” among people bearing different political opinions.
And suddenly, personal safety has once again become a very real and imminent issue for everyone.
Given the situation, I can’t help but think whether we should consider bringing back the civic guard units in order to keep our neighborhoods safe with strengthened security.
As the police already has its hands full in dealing with the street protests and violence, it is perhaps time for citizens to do their bit as well.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 12
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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