Pro-establishment camp also to blame for extradition bill saga

June 20, 2019 18:30
Chief Executive Carrie Lam failed to get sound advice from her team. Photo: Bloomberg

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor finally made a public appearance on Tuesday and apologized in person for the mayhem resulting from her poor handling of the proposed extradition law changes.

However, the five demands of the protesters – complete withdrawal of the extradition bill; release of the arrested protesters and dropping of the charges against them; scrapping of the categorization of the June 12 clashes as a “riot”; probe of the alleged abuse of power by the police; and the chief executive must step down – have not been met.

Lam declined to further comment on Police Commissioner Steven Lo Wai-chung’s remarks that police are not saying the entire incident was a riot, and that only five of the protesters were arrested for riot-related offenses.

This would inevitably create a public impression that she was trying to be equivocal over the issue.

In retrospect, it is undoubtedly hard for the chief executive to shirk her big responsibility for the raging crisis over her legislative push.

Nevertheless, the pro-establishment figures in her inner circle, as well as certain politically accountable officials, are also to blame for the upheavals because they have not done their duty of advising the chief executive against her bad decisions.

Lam still insisted on the legislative push regardless of the million-strong protest on June 9, before the clashes between the police and the protesters in Admiralty on June 12.

Then after the chief executive had announced the suspension of the extradition bill on June 15, all pro-establishment camp lawmakers as well as Executive Council members immediately did a 180-degree about-face on their support for the law revision.

Apart from the pro-establishment camp, a number of key officials on Lam’s cabinet should also be held accountable for this severe political crisis in the history of the SAR.

In particular, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah had ignored every piece of advice made by the local legal sectors throughout the entire episode, and did nothing but play yes-man, while members of the pro-Beijing camp were overwhelmingly dancing to the government’s tune, until public outrage finally boiled over.

Suffice it to say that Lam was like the captain of the Titanic who was steering the ship right towards an iceberg while none of her crew members warned her against doing that.

Now that what is done is done, and even if Lam can hang on to her job, she would inevitably become a lame duck leader in her remaining three years in office.

As such, we believe now is the time for members of the pro-establishment camp to pluck up their moral courage and start giving advice to the chief executive based on good sense as well as sound judgment, rather than blind loyalty.

Otherwise, just as one of the honorary chairs of the Liberal Party, James Tien Pei-chun, has warned, the pro-establishment camp is likely to be beaten hollow in the upcoming District Council and Legislative Council elections.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 19

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal