Personal ego versus public trauma

August 12, 2019 10:29
Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam, seen here at a news conference on August 5, has come under scathing criticism in the wake of extradition bill saga and the ensuing social unrest in the city. Photo: Reuters

Like most rational Hong Kong people, I earnestly wish that the current protests could be brought to a satisfactory and swift resolution.

Carrie Lam's suspension of the Extradition Bill constituted reluctant recognition of the legitimacy of the public's objection.

But her half-hearted and dilatory response and the initial disproportionate and indiscriminate violence by the police led to the demand for an Independent Commission of Inquiry into all aspects of the protest, headed by a reputed judicial figure to guarantee impartiality.

Lam's equivocation and refusal to heed the measured advice of outstanding members of the community led, almost inevitably, to the wilder fringe protesters resorting to physical violence, primarily against symbols of authority. Such behavior is both unlawful and counter-productive.

The response of the police has been singularly unimpressive. Poorly led and manifestly ill-trained, they have deployed their entire arsenal of non-lethal weaponry.

The perception that the police were complicit in triad thug attacks on innocent passengers on the MTR raised the level of polarity, driving people to ally themselves either with the protesters or the police.

Yet in essence this is not, nor should it be reduced to a conflict between vast swathes of the public and Hong Kong's Police Force. Neither side should regard the other as the enemy but this is what is happening.

This is a situation which calls for genuine leadership, a call that the Chief Executive chooses to ignore, despite the fact that the resolution is in her hands.

Inexorably, the responses on both sides have degenerated. People under the cloak of protest have thrown Molotov cocktails into a police station yard. Such acts are criminal and are disowned by the vast majority of protesters.

On the other hand, members of the Police Force have developed a victim mentality which predisposes them to behavior that wears all the characteristics of vindictiveness.

The arrest of a student for purchasing ten laser pointers on the questionable premise that they were offensive weapons is illustrative of this unhealthy attitude.

Anxious to make their point, the police held a press conference to demonstrate how such laser pointers - which they erroneously referred to as 'guns' - have injured police officers. No medical evidence was adduced in support of this proposition.

Irrespective of whether these laser pointers meet the legal definition of offensive weapon - aside from firearms and flick-knives the legal definition is essentially circumstantial - consider for a moment one of the Police Force's favorite weapons, the inoffensive sounding rubber bullet.

A report in the current edition of The Lancet by doctors involved in treating France's Gilets Jaunes protesters for injuries caused by rubber bullets, makes sobering reading.

The high velocity kinetic mechanism of these Non-Lethal Hand Held Weapons (NLHHW) "caused multifocal mandibular and dentoalveolar fractures, sometimes associated with transfixing wounds of the lip, and comminuted zygomatic fractures and orbital wall blow-out fractures, which were frequently associated with severe ocular traumatisms," the doctors said.

The injuries to the eye were extremely severe, resulting in initial visual acuity of less than 20/200 and an ocular trauma score of less than 2 in half the cases.

The surgeons observed "open globe structures resulting in blindness as well as severe closed-globe injuries such as choroidal detachment."

They noted that "Although rubber bullets from NLHHWs are designed to induce blunt injuries to incapacitate violent individuals without using firearms, they might induce death as well as severe trauma with irreversible functional consequences and long-term social implications."

It would be instructive to know whether Hong Kong's current police commissioner or the security secretary or Carrie Lam herself had ever acquainted themselves with the grave damage that these NLHHWs can inflict.

If they have not, they are in serious dereliction of their duty to the public. If they have, what does it tell us about the value that they put on the lives and well-being of Hong Kong's citizens and long-term implications on our society?

Of special importance, have the individual police officers wielding the weapons been made aware of their potential for harm?

Improbable though it may be, one can only hope that whoever in Lower Albert Road is monitoring media coverage of current affairs brings the current edition of The Lancet to the attention of the Chief Executive.

Lam trumpets her Catholic upbringing at every opportunity. Has she, perhaps, forgotten the Church's premium on humility, acknowledgement of making mistakes and the enormous redemptive value of penance? Appointing an Independent Judicial Commission of Inquiry would surely be no more than a few Hail Marys.

There again, it would have to be in the public confessional: Ah well, what are a few smashed jaws, orbital fractures and traumatic visual impairment against the bruised ego of this intractable public official?

What, in heaven's name, has to be done to permeate this self-deluding lady's brain?

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King's Counsel