Will the mindset of our authorities ever change?

June 28, 2019 17:44
Following the recent developments in relation to an extradition bill, Hong Kong’s top officials have faced fresh criticism about being insensitive to public concerns. Photo: Bloomberg

The Stanley Prison, where I am now serving an eight-month jail sentence on charges related to the 2014 Occupy pro-democracy protests, has been notorious for the unbearable heat and poor ventilation in its cells.

A fellow inmate who started to serve his jail term earlier than me remarked wryly that "there won’t be any improvement until one day someone dies because of the heat.”

Nelson Mandela, the late former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was once quoted as saying: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.”

I think Mandela was absolutely right. After I was put behind bars, I have found that there are striking parallels between the condition of the prison where I am serving time and the state of affairs of our city.

To say the least, Hong Kong can be deemed a gigantic prison.

Following the latest extradition bill disaster, when people are voicing five demands, all that the chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, has done is try to soothe her political allies behind closed doors, while avoiding members of the opposition.

Meanwhile, the police, which are playing the role as “prison guards”, have continued to turn a blind eye to what citizens saw during the June 12 clashes and are still trying to rationalize their brutality against protesters on that day, while stubbornly refusing to apologize.

How possibly can our society move on in the aftermath of the extradition bill crisis if lies are still running rife, social confrontations are continuing to escalate and justice being denied?

Worse still, not only did Lam and her governing team refuse to meet and communicate with the demonstrators, they are also continuing to smear the people who hold opposing views and label them as "troublemakers".

Now, we come to the question: is there any circumstance that could perhaps one day prompt the authorities to change their mindset?

Well, I am afraid this is something that not even my fellow prison inmate, whom I mentioned earlier, won't be able to give an answer.

The heat problem in Stanley Prison may have a chance of getting addressed if someone dies within those walls, but when it comes to a change in the mindset of our top officials it seems there's nothing that can happen that will ever move them.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 25

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Legislative Council member