HONG KONG-Do not trample on other people’s rights when exercising your own, or they will turn against you.
That is the message from civic leaders to protesters who have blocked traffic and run amok on several occasions in protests against the extradition law amendments, which were pronounced “dead” by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Tuesday.
Such socially disruptive actions are unfair to ordinary citizens unwillingly caught up in recent political disputes, said North District Council Chairman So Sai-chi.
Many residents and businesspeople in Sheung Shui, part of his district of responsibility, have told him their concerns over possible intrusions into their neighborhoods by protest organizers. Shop owners complained to So that business losses caused by demonstrations on Sundays, usually a very busy time, would be considerable.
The disruption to business by the mass demonstration on Sunday in Tsim Sha Tsui, a busy commercial and shopping district, is well-documented, noted So.
The operator of the high-speed railway had to suspend sales of tickets for the whole day at the West Kowloon station after it was besieged by protesters.
That evening, demonstrators blocked major roads of nearby Mong Kok, an entertainment district, and clashed with police. Five radical protesters were arrested for attacking or obstructing police officers.
So pleaded with protesters to spare his town and respect the wishes of Hong Kong people who want to lead normal, peaceful lives.
Lawmaker Peter Shiu Ka-fai, who represents the wholesale and retail sector, said frequent demonstrations would eventually harm the economy and have a negative impact on people’s lives.
He cited the demonstrations against tourists as an example, saying such protests will affect tourism, which will erode the income of salespeople who depend on commissions for a living.
Protest organizers said they have plans for more street demonstrations, this time in Sheung Shui and Shatin, both of which are densely populated satellite towns in the New Territories.
Persistent social disputes and protests in different districts have caused considerable losses to businesses and to the tourism, retail, wholesale, transportation, logistics and hotel sectors, which are among the city’s largest employers, said Shiu.
Retail sales in Hong Kong, which have been on decline since the fourth quarter of last year, fell most in the last two months, Shiu said.
For example, a clothing store in Causeway Bay, one of the city’s core shopping districts, told Shiu that its daily sales fell to only half the average level when there were large demonstrations in the area. Shiu therefore called on protesters to express their opinions peacefully and rationally.
Sociologist Lau Siu-kai — who is also vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, a prestigious Hong Kong affairs think tank — said demonstrators should not express their anger without sufficient restraint.
Hong Kong people are entitled to the right of protest by expressing their views in a peaceful and rational way, Lau said. “They must not harm other people’s rights.”
He warned that Hong Kong society would have to pay the price if the chaos continues. “People’s livelihoods will be affected. Law and order may be disrupted, but ultimately, they (the protesters) will be hoisted by their own petard.”
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