Why Carrie Lam's attempt to buy back 'normal' won't work

October 23, 2019 18:23
Chief Executive Carrie Lam apparently believes that she still has the power and capability to govern, despite all the evidence to the contrary, says the author. Photo: Reuters

On Oct. 16, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor gave her third policy address.

Due to disruptions mounted by pan-democratic lawmakers, she was unable to deliver the entire speech at the Legislative Council and had to do it through video.

The day before, the Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey of the Chinese University of Hong Kong released the results of an opinion poll commissioned by Ming Pao, which found that 73.3 percent of the respondents agreed that Lam should resign.

Why would the chief executive still think she has both the power and capability to govern our city when public opinion is overwhelmingly against her?

At the conclusion of her speech, Lam said: “So long as we have unwavering confidence, adhere to the 'One Country, Two Systems' principle, stop violence in accordance with the law and restore social order as early as possible, Hong Kong will soon be able to emerge from the storm and embrace the rainbow.”

The way she has put it offers us a glimpse into her true mindset: despite four months of anti-government protests, our chief executive apparently sticks to her notion that Hong Kong was very much “normal” before the outbreak of the protests, and what happened over the past summer is that our city has just deviated a bit from its “normal path”.

It seems she believes that as long as she continues to deny the institutional violence in society that has been exposed during the current unrest and refuses to acknowledge the political awakening of the people of Hong Kong, she will be able to govern our city as usual in the coming days.

This year's policy address had four major sections: housing, land supply, improving people’s livelihood and economic development. It did not touch on constitutional development, culture and the arts.

What Lam was apparently trying to do was to stir up public resentment at the ongoing protests by playing up the concept of “home” in her policy address.

However, the people of Hong Kong aren’t livestock. It is unlikely that the government can ever succeed in promoting a sense of belonging among the people just by feeding and providing them with housing.

What the people want is not only the right to life, but also political and cultural rights.

Public contempt for the ruling class will become the norm in the coming days if the principles of right and wrong are being turned upside down and our citizens are being denied access to our political institutions so much so that they can hardly seek justice through the existing system.

As far as Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung is concerned, he might just be trying to remove a piece of garbage in his political career when he urged the public to stop dwelling on the July 21 attacks in Yuen Long during a radio program on Oct. 17.

What he might have failed to grasp is that as far as the people are concerned, the July 21 incident was a real-life, first-hand experience of terror that marked the bankruptcy of public faith in the administration.

Although Lam stressed repeatedly in her policy address the importance of respecting human rights and ending violence, she didn’t mention a single word about the police throughout her speech.

And that raises the question: isn’t the management of our law enforcement also a crucial part of governance?

Having lost its credibility to govern and failing to secure cooperation from its citizens, this administration can only rely on the police force to deprive our citizens of their political rights, which explains why our government leaders are continuing to turn a blind eye to police brutality against civilians.

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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HKEJ contributor