Govt must shed its tunnel vision to resolve crisis

August 21, 2019 18:52
Demonstrators march in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay area during a mass-rally on Aug. 18. The city’s top officials should realize that even moderate and centrist citizens are getting increasingly disillusioned, an observer says. Photo: Bloomberg

More than two months into the anti-extradition bill movement, Hong Kong has reached a touch-and-go situation and faces a threat to its system and society unless a way out is found soon.

As the crisis continues to escalate, the threshold of the political courage and capability required to help the city weather the storm is getting higher and higher.

Theoretically speaking, the situation can definitely de-escalate if the government and the protesters are both willing to take a step back and calm down.

If so, what is the government waiting for?

In my opinion, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is reluctant to back down at this point because from her point of view, making any concessions to protesters would only open the floodgates to more demands from the public, taking a heavy toll on the administration in terms of governance credibility.

Some have even pointed out that making concessions to protesters is very likely to alienate pro-establishment voters and seriously undermine the election prospects of pro-Beijing candidates in the upcoming District Council and Legislative Council races.

In contrast, continuing to stand firm and cracking down on protesters with the help of the police can not only please the central authorities, it can also prevent the government from losing face, the argument goes.

Well, such a naive notion speaks volumes about the tunnel vision of our government leaders, under which they simply fail to notice the fact that even moderate and centrist citizens in the city are getting increasingly disillusioned with the administration.

Also, the government leaders have failed to notice the anger among the pro-establishment camp about their election prospects being ruined by the administration's incompetence, as well as Beijing’s intense displeasure on how the “one country, two systems” is being completely messed up as a result of the series of political mistakes or miscalculations by the current Hong Kong regime.

These consequences have become so deep-seated that the chief executive can hardly reverse them no matter how hard she tries and hangs in there.

Given the situation, I believe the only way out is for the government is to establish an independent commission of inquiry into the recent events and withdraw the extradition bill completely in exchange for a “cool-down period” in society.

This article, written by the author on Aug 15, appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 19

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Editor-in-Chief, Oxford Political Review