Don’t let violence become an uncontrollable monster

October 21, 2019 16:20
Protesters set fire to debris as they block a street in Wan Chai on Oct. 1. All sides must end violence immediately. Photo: AFP

Over the years, anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong have been known for their peaceful fashion with those who are not involved spared any harm.

However, it appears the anti-extradition bill movement, which is now in its fifth month, has broken this praiseworthy tradition, with the peaceful, rational and non-violent demonstrators having aligned themselves firmly with the “valorous faction”, pledging that they will never dissociate themselves from the radical protesters no matter what.

We believe there are three reasons for that changing sentiment. First, the way the police handled the attacks against civilians in Yuen Long on July 21 has triggered widespread resentment among the public, and hence their increasing receptiveness to the idea of “using force against violence”.

Second, that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor succumbed to pressure and suspended the extradition bill three days after serious clashes between police and protesters outside the Legislative Council on June 12 has given rise to a notion among many protesters that they could always get their own way as long as they are numerous and ferocious enough.

And third, the pan-democrats simply dare not dissociate themselves from the radical protesters for fear that doing so might substantially cost them their votes in upcoming elections.

Together, all these factors have contributed to the increasingly violent approach adopted by the “valorous faction”.

However, if this worrisome trend continues, violence may gradually take on a life of its own, and eventually become an uncontrollable monster, thereby taking an irreversible toll on both the normal life of ordinary citizens and our city’s economy in the long run.

US Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican who is one of the co-sponsors of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and who has visited our city recently, has called on protesters to resist the urge to respond to police brutality with their own violence because violent street scenes may cause the protest movement to lose international support.

We believe it has already become a consensus in society that all sides must halt their violence immediately.

While there is still public sympathy for radical protesters, both the central authorities and the SAR government are continuing to endorse the iron-fist approach of law enforcement adopted by the police.

At this stage, we simply can’t see any way out of the crisis if the violence continues.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 18

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal