Pan-democratic DC members must help uphold law and order

January 23, 2020 17:48
District Council members must set an example to the public by dissociating themselves from violence and reporting any act of violence committed by their colleagues or staffers to the authorities, says the author. Photo: HKEJ

As the new term of the District Councils has already started, the opposition camp, which managed to take 85 percent of the DC seats with a vote total of less than 60 percent, is expected to dominate district affairs in our city over the next four years, and is likely to figure more prominently when it comes to political issues.

Some of the opposition DC members are already trying to overturn certain infrastructure projects approved by their predecessors, although it is not clear how they are going to explain their decisions to companies that have already won the contracts.

In Yuen Long, some DC members have set up a working group to investigate the attacks against passengers and civilians by white-clad thugs at the MTR station on July 21 last year.

They have also pledged to subject the police force to oversight by demanding that it send officers to brief them on the latest state of law and order regularly.

As the saying goes, “there is a new sheriff in town”. These changes and different approaches adopted by the new DC members are understandable, and maintaining law and order in the community is of paramount concern.

However, in my view, these rookie DC members from the "yellow bloc" must not apply double standards when it comes to curbing violence: while they are eagerly condemning alleged police brutality, they should also denounce and prevent the violence committed by radical protesters with the same force.

Although large-scale violent incidents have subsided in recent weeks, some radical protesters are still continuing to target and inflict severe damage on stores and restaurants that have spoken up for the police, such as by throwing petrol bombs at them.

At the same time, rioters continue to vandalize stores owned by mainland companies during mass demonstrations, smash up shopping malls and intimidate customers who patronize "blue" stores.

Cases of tourists being bullied by protesters still occur.

So if law and order is really of great concern to the opposition DC members as they claim, then they should not just limit themselves to chanting slogans against "arbitrary arrests" by the police, or give priority to political stance over public security.

In my view, what is urgent is for them to look for ways to better protect innocent civilians against being beaten up, to avoid arson against stores, to prevent tourists from being bullied so that our tourism and related industries could be sustained, and to stop relentless road-blockings by protesters so that our taxi drivers, truck drivers and porters won’t lose their jobs.

So far at least 17 DC members have been arrested on charges involving rioting and a district councilor's assistant has been arrested for road-blocking. In my opinion, one case of criminal act committed by our popularly elected political representatives is one too many.

As such, DC members must set an example to the public by dissociating themselves from violence and reporting any act of violence committed by their colleagues or staffers to the authorities.

In particular, they must never stand in the way when police officers are carrying out their duties to enforce the law.

Currently, every district councillor is paid nearly HK$470,000 in salary and gratuity, as well as over HK$660,000 in the form of various allowances every year, all in taxpayers’ money. And since they are so well-paid, they’d better deliver.

Perhaps it’s time for these pro-democracy DC members to talk not only about freedom and human rights but also start contributing to efforts at curbing violence.

That's because no matter how impressive their political slogans might be, such words will be completely meaningless if the opposition DC members can’t even guarantee the personal safety of their constituents.

Upholding public security is one big demand in society at the moment, and all our popularly elected officials are duty-bound to address this demand.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 10

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal