Date
20 January 2020
Carrie Lam needs to ask herself why young Hong Kong people have turned from peaceful to violent protests, the author says. Photo: Reuters
Carrie Lam needs to ask herself why young Hong Kong people have turned from peaceful to violent protests, the author says. Photo: Reuters

Say no to talks if our tone-deaf leader says no to five demands

Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country. The late American president John Kennedy said this at his 1961 inaugural speech. Now, almost 60 years later, we in Hong Kong can rephrase his famous quote this way: Ask not why young people turned to violence. Ask what made them do it.

There are many reasons why young people turned from peaceful to violent protests. But I can think of only one person who made them do it. We all know who she is. There’s no need to name her.

She was smilingly toasting leaders in Thailand on the day police entered the Polytechnic University – which they had blockaded for over a week – to search for evidence. Why bother when they had already labeled every single person inside a rioter?

The July 21 Yuen Long attack by white-shirted thugs certainly qualifies as a terror attack. Why didn’t the police label them all as terrorists? Just last Sunday, the police humiliated young people by making them line up for body searches in Whampoa, Mong Kok, and elsewhere, as if they were all criminals.

A week before that, when the resistance camp won a landslide victory in district council elections, our undemocratically-elected leader ignored the voice of the people by rejecting their demands, like she did when millions marched peacefully at the start of the resistance movement. So please don’t ask why people turned to violence. Ask why our unelected leader, who forced them into violence, is still our leader.

Two days ago, before an Executive Council meeting, she condemned the US for enacting the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, and asked: “Which aspect of Hong Kong residents’ freedom was being eroded?” If she really doesn’t know, I’ll enlighten her.

The group that organized mass marches at the start of the protest movement is now regularly denied a police permit for protests. Young people, such as Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Agnes Chow Ting, have lost the freedom to compete in elections. A foreign journalist was expelled for hosting a lunch talk by an independence advocate.

Hongkongers have lost the freedom to wear facemasks. Staff of Cathay Pacific and other big companies have lost the freedom to peacefully express views even when off-duty due to Beijing’s pressure. The education secretary has said even the freedom to enter university campuses should be restricted. Should I go on?

Let me explain freedom to our unelected leader. Freedom is when pro-China protesters can stomp on an American flag and pictures of Trump outside the US Consulate, as they did on Tuesday, and still be able to pass a complaint letter to a consulate worker. Try stomping on a Chinese flag and pictures of President Xi Jinping outside Beijing’s liaison office and see what happens.

The US Consulate made no big deal of the American flag being stepped on. That’s freedom. Our unelected leader condemned protesters who defaced the Chinese flag. That’s not freedom. Maybe that’s why so many young Hongkongers cherish American values and not the values of their own motherland.

On a humorous note, we have even lost the freedom to know where our justice secretary Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah is. Our unelected leader on Tuesday morning refused to enlighten us, saying only that Cheng is on sick leave. Sick leave? It’s been three weeks since she suffered a minor wrist injury in a fall when protesters mobbed her in London.

Then suddenly that same evening she turned up in Hong Kong. There are direct flights from London to Hong Kong but she chose to go to Beijing first for further treatment. Is she implying medical treatment on the mainland is superior to that of London and Hong Kong? Or was she in Beijing to be fired?

I wouldn’t be surprised if Beijing uses her wrist injury to say she needs to rest, and fires her. That would be a gift to Hong Kong. But she certainly didn’t look very sick a week after her fall when she smilingly spoke to the mainland media in London alongside Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming.

On an even more humorous note, Cheng said former Hong Kong British Consulate employee Simon Cheng, who claimed mainland security officials had tortured him, should complain to the mainland authorities, just like she had done with the British authorities over being mobbed.

Did her wrist injury somehow also affect her brain? How can a torture victim file a complaint report to his torturers, especially torturers in an authoritarian regime? Maybe Cheng should have remained indefinitely in London. Hongkongers will be much better served having Winnie the Pooh as our justice secretary.

Humor aside, what Cheng told mainland media in London should disqualify her from making prosecution decisions involving arrested protesters. She said the protests were plain violence. She even said protesters had an evil desire to use violence to achieve political aims.

How can she possibly be impartial in making prosecution decisions when she has already decided protesters are evil people bent on violence? If she has any moral integrity, she should recuse herself from prosecution decisions. US President Donald Trump’s former attorney general Jeff Sessions had the moral ethics to recuse himself from election investigations into Russian interference because he was involved in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Our unelected leader in the same breath on Tuesday condemned post-election violence but refused to discuss the demands of the electorate. And this is a leader who wants dialogue to end the political firestorm she started.

Doesn’t she know there can be no dialogue but only violence if she refuses to listen to the voice of the people expressed through the ballot box? The five demands, not one less, was the voice of the voters. Our unelected leader has neither the mandate nor the right not to listen. There can be no dialogue with a tone-deaf leader.

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RC

A Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London.