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Monday, November 18, 2019, 00:31
High time HK declared state of emergency to end anarchy
By Wilson Lee Flores
Monday, November 18, 2019, 00:31 By Wilson Lee Flores

There are two ideal, realistic and expedient possible scenarios for Asia’s cosmopolitan “Pearl of the Orient”, the still important yet now temporarily troubled international financial hub of Hong Kong — peaceful dialogue for all sectors of society, and sweeping reforms. However, for dialogue and reforms to happen, there should first be a decisive cessation to the terroristic, nihilistic riots and violence now repeatedly bludgeoning the city.

One possible way to put a stop to the violent anarchy now upending Hong Kong and thus also threatening the dynamic socioeconomic progress of our Asia-Pacific region: I urge the Chinese central government to urgently consider invoking Article 18 of the Hong Kong Basic Law and declare a limited “state of emergency” across the whole city; and the Hong Kong government to consider prohibiting public demonstrations, even for just several months, in accordance with the Public Order Ordinance.

Since the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from British colonial rule to Chinese sovereignty as an autonomous region, a state of emergency has never been declared. However, these are extraordinary and perilous times, which I believe already call for urgent and extraordinary yet still legal and constitutional measures for the defense of society. In this proposed period under a state of emergency, I urge the government and civil society to quickly devote manpower and resources to rebuilding and reconstructing not only the numerous vandalized and damaged public utilities, subways, shops and structures, but also to revive public multisectoral dialogues and implement bold socioeconomic reforms. Start a positive momentum.

Isn’t what has been happening in Hong Kong in recent weeks already blatant acts of terrorism, with the destruction of subways and other public places, the harming of civilians, the burnings and other barbarous acts of unmitigated violence? Isn’t this already a state of emergency?

In Europe, that bastion of civil liberties, France, responded to the series of terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 by declaring an etat d’urgence (state of emergency) for the first time since the 2005 riots. This declaration was even extended five times before it ended in November 2017. 

Under this French state of emergency, among the measures were the banning of public demonstrations and allowing the police to carry out searches without a warrant; to put anyone under house arrest without trial; and to block websites that encouraged acts of terrorism. 

Isn’t what has been happening in Hong Kong in recent weeks already blatant acts of terrorism, with the destruction of subways and other public places, the harming of civilians, the burnings and other barbarous acts of unmitigated violence? Isn’t this already a state of emergency?

The United States has throughout its history invoked states of emergency measures to quell anarchy. For example, the US state of Maryland declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard of the United States on April 27, 2015, to stop riots and the spread of physical violence during protests in Baltimore, sparked by the death of a 25-year-old black man, Freddie Gray, while he was in police custody. 

Also, then-US president George H.W. Bush in 1992 invoked the Insurrection Act of 1807 to help stop the riots that erupted in Los Angeles after the verdict in the Rodney King case. In 2015, his son, then-president George W. Bush, also considered invoking this same law to help restore public order after Hurricane Katrina in the state of Louisiana.

In recent weeks, even foreign leaders and respected intellectuals of the West have also expressed public concerns about the violent chaos in Hong Kong. On Nov 6, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “We have repeatedly called on the parties involved to dialogue, to show restraint, to de-escalate. … (The) core of the issue (is) to stress the need for a de-escalation through dialogue.”

On Oct 6, United Nations human rights chief and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet said she was “troubled” by Hong Kong’s increasingly violent protests. She uttered these words the day after a night when radical protesters trashed dozens of subway stations, vandalized stores and stoked fires in the city. She said: “Freedom of peaceful assembly … should be enjoyed without restriction to the greatest extent possible. But on the other hand, we cannot accept people who use masks to provoke violence.”

On Oct 9, in an interview with US business-news channel CNBC, Yale University senior fellow, top economist and former Morgan Stanley Asia chairman Stephen S. Roach lamented that anti-government protests in Hong Kong are already out of control. He said: “Right now, we’re talking about a destructive anarchy.” He added: “It’s gotten totally out of hand. It’s aimed at tearing down anything and everything that stands for Hong Kong’s future. I don’t support that.”

I urge all sectors of Hong Kong — not just government and police — to unite and resolutely stop the tyranny of destructive anarchy and vicious cycle of violence.

The author is an analyst, a columnist with the English-language Philippine Star and Filipino-language Pilipino Star Ngayon, and the winner of a record 15 Catholic Mass Media Awards and three Palanca literary awards.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 


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