Voices in the wilderness

December 16, 2019 10:45
Police officers detain a protester during a demonstration inside a mall in Hong Kong on Sunday. The city’s leader, Carrie Lam, is stubbornly rejecting calls for an independent inquiry into police conduct over the past six months. Photo: Reuters

Have you noticed how when some people are accused of criminal behavior they suddenly find God?

Often surrounded by their God-bothering friends, they hold pop-up prayer meetings just before entering the court room.

God’s name becomes inextricably entwined with prayers for justice to be done, so long as it leads to an acquittal of the now fervent devotee.

More often than not, the amount of religious fervor demonstrated is in a direct correlation to the weight of incriminating evidence.

From which, one might divine that those accused of wrongdoing hold frequent and incantatory conversations with their God, “their” God because the accused has assumed proprietary rights over the Almighty.

How, then, one wonders, or perhaps ‘who’ might be more apposite, initiates the dialogue?

Joan of Arc believed that her instructions emanated from God, unsolicited.

Psychiatrists, however, will diagnose those who hear voices from the ether as suffering from hallucinations and voices from lesser sources evidence of psychosis.

In many instances, those on the receiving end form a genuine belief that the voice is otherworldly and promptly conduct themselves according to their instructions.

Which brings me to the critical question: does Carrie Lam believe that she is under instruction from on high?

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that God has not suddenly assumed the voice and physical characteristics of Xi Jinping, what else can possibly explain Carrie’s intractable refusal to accept sound counseling from sane, level-headed members of Hong Kong’s society?

If the leader whom she has endowed with God-like faculties is indeed President Xi, why does she not shout it to the heavens, extolling his perfection and acknowledging that she is subject to his commands so that both his and her followers can join in a great Hallelujah of praise?

If, on the other hand, her conduct is dictated directly from Heaven, surely Sister Carrie should be out there with her tambourine, converting everyone with whom she comes into contact.

That she does neither, suggests that the only voice she hears and listens to is the one in her own head. Psychiatrists would possibly find this a fruitful ground for investigation.

What tends to complicate things is that not only does she not take positive steps to defuse the surging tide of discontent with her administration, but virtually every step she takes serves to exacerbate the situation.

On which basis one can only conclude that her “voices” cannot be those of a benign deity.

One possible solution that occurred to me was to ask the leaders of all religious denominations in Hong Kong, to bring the combined weight of their wide variety of beliefs to bear on her intransigence. But they probably would not agree amongst themselves.

Equally, it is impractical to imagine that a couple of suitably qualified clinicians would certify her and whisk her away to Castle Peak for some therapy.

Which, being the case, Hong Kong is stuck with a Chief Executive who, despite her behavior defying rational explanation, cannot be removed because she has Beijing’s seal of good housekeeping.

In the meantime, while Hong Kong fulminates, like Nero in burning Rome, Carrie fiddles.

Not one pro-Beijinger can explain why an Independent Commission of Inquiry headed by a leading Judge, with power to summon witnesses, command production of documents and take evidence under oath, assisted by Independent Counsel to the Commission, should not be established.

The Commission’s terms of reference – note Commission, not Committee - should be to inquire into the causes of the protest, the instructions from government to the police, the orders from the Commissioner to police officers on the front line, conduct of the police and the use of disproportionate force, the extent to which extremist protesters and their acts of gratuitous vandalism and violence were funded and by whom.

The nettle has to be grasped: the procedures and constitution of the IPCC are not designed for such an inquiry and given the level of public distrust of government, would never command the confidence necessary to satisfy the massive level of discontent.

Even the decent and honorable Anthony Neoh SC has fallen victim to the need to fudge, a classic syndrome exhibited by otherwise sensible people who accept appointments to Hong Kong’s administration.

The fact that any complaint of police misconduct to be considered by the IPCC has to pass through the vetting process of the Force’s own CAPO (The Complaints Against Police Office) is a powerful disincentive, even if CAPO had the necessary objectivity which, in the eyes of the public, it does not.

The rule of law requires a consensus by the majority of the population to accept and abide by the rules and conventions administered by those who govern. In a sentence, government must enjoy the confidence of the governed.

It is a singular sign of Hong Kong’s level of sophistication that despite having lost all confidence in its government, the vast majority conduct themselves within the law.

There is, let it not be overlooked, a small band of vicious vandals visiting their violent and criminal proclivities on both people and property.

But the picture has been subjected to so much distortion that sometimes it is not possible to determine whether those doing gratuitous violence are extremist members of the protest movement or agent provocateurs seeded into the protesters to bring the otherwise peaceful movement into disrepute.

Whoever they are, their malicious activities need to be stopped.

The level of violence exacted on both sides is wholly unacceptable and inimical both to the aims of those who seek a working future for Hong Kong and a respected Police Force.

That the Chief Executive has permitted the situation to deteriorate to this stage is a grave indictment, and evidences her lack of ability.

It truly is time for the wise men and women who have Carrie Lam’s ear to impress upon her the necessity for a genuinely independent judicial Commission of Inquiry into all aspects of the protest.

That is the basic prerequisite for a return to near normality, so what is she afraid of?

The second requirement is for a body of private and public individuals, drawn from all sectors of the population, to design how to achieve genuine representative governance as envisaged in the Basic Law so that the governed no longer feel totally disenfranchised from the society in which they live.

The siren voices to which Carrie Lam must now harken have to come, not from a burning bush but from reputable leading figures in the community who, whilst loving Hong Kong, also respect the genius inherent in the concept of one country two systems.

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