Nothing can justify acts of vandalism and violence

October 22, 2019 17:43
Anti-government demonstrators set a barricade on fire during a protest in Hong Kong on Oct. 20. The violent tactics and vandalism of some frontline protesters will undermine the broader movement, observers warn. Photo: Reuters

On Sunday, a few days after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's 2019 Policy Address, Hong Kong witnessed another round of violent anti-government protests and street clashes.

Amid the chaos, radical protesters vandalized a number of MTR stations, public facilities, and shops owned by perceived pro-Beijing businesses, as well as offices of several pro-establishment council members.

The acts of fierce vandalism and arson have become so rampant and intense that they have crossed the limits of tolerance and undermine the righteous demands for democracy and freedom. Simply put, they were nothing more than sheer and gross violence.

As senior counsel Edwin Choy Wai-Bond, who recently resigned as a vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association in a show of discontent over the group's alleged soft stance on protester violence, has pointed out, no matter how noble the cause of the protesters might be, it doesn’t constitute any excuse for their extreme violence against property and people.

Choy has noted that public order “disintegrates rapidly” when a large number of people “refuse to respect the law”. And when this happens, there will be "significant disruptions” to the lives of a lot of “honest and hard-working citizens” in society, he said.

Rampant violence in society raises the risk of ultimately dealing a severe blow to "Hong Kong’s unique but increasingly precarious system of limited self-rule", he said.

What is worrisome is that some social elites have become so politicized that they are actually trying to defend or justify the extreme violence committed by some protesters and are putting the entire blame on the government and the police for causing the ongoing social unrest.

Amid escalating violence, Hong Kong is now at a critical juncture, and things could go either way.

The only way to prevent our society from sliding toward total chaos is for everyone, be they from “yellow” or “blue” camps, to condemn and say 'no' to violence.

The government, on its part, also has its work cut if we are to defuse the crisis.

Effort should be made to expedite the establishment of an effective dialogue platform and meet the reasonable and feasible demands of the public promptly.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 21

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal