Govt must respect human dignity and mend fences

December 16, 2019 18:39
Demonstrators shine lights from their smartphones as they march in Admiralty during a protest on Dec. 8. With authorities yet to respond to the citizens’ demands, anger is mounting within society. Photo: Bloomberg

According to an opinion poll conducted in late November by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), the credibility of the SAR government is continuing to plummet.

Among the respondents, over 59 percent said they don’t trust the government, as compared to just 30 percent who expressed a similar opinion in a previous poll in May, while only 15 percent had faith in the administration (compared to nearly 25 percent back in May).

As far as Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is concerned, she only scored about 22 points on average in her overall performance, as compared to 48 points on average before the outbreak of the anti-extradition bill saga.

Meanwhile, a similar poll carried out in November by the Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey of the CUHK indicated that 51.5 percent of the respondents had absolutely no trust in the police (compared to 6.5 percent in early June).

The major contributing factors to the government’s collapsing credibility include its mishandling of the extradition bill push, its wrong approach to dealing with social resistance, excessive use of force by the law enforcement, arbitrary arrests of protesters, and the abusive use of tear gas by the police.

In particular, what bothers members of the local intelligentsia most (media workers, doctors, professionals, etc) is the toll on human dignity as authorities wield brutal state power to crack down on the protesters.

Seventy-one years ago, the United Nations announced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), under which freedom, equality, peace, the rule of law, democracy and human rights were adopted as universal values and the criteria to measure whether a society is civilized or savage.

On Dec. 8, the Human Rights Day, an estimated 800,000 citizens in Hong Kong took to the streets to once again voice their grievances in a peaceful way. The underlying theme of the march included holding those accountable for police brutality and defending human rights in the city.

It is beyond dispute that public resentment at the violation of human dignity by the authorities is running very deep in society.

The government should resolve the issue promptly before public fury reaches the tipping point.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 12

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist

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