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Wednesday, July 17, 2019, 01:42
Boldness required from SAR's political leaders
By Zhou Bajun
Wednesday, July 17, 2019, 01:42 By Zhou Bajun

To some people, if the massive protest on June 9 and the riot on June 12 were due to the special administrative region government’s insistence on passing the amendments to the extradition laws before the Legislative Council’s summer recess, the opposition should have stopped their demonstrations when the government announced the bill would be indefinitely suspended on June 15. However, this concession could not meet the insatiable demands of the opposition camp, which unexpectedly escalated their aggression in ensuing protests.  

Admittedly, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor overestimated her political achievements in the past year and a half. Even though the separatist forces were severely battered in the previous year, the two opposing camps wield a similar degree of political strength. Caught up in such an irreconcilable political struggle, a serious misjudgment and misstep by the SAR government has tilted the balance toward the opposition camp.

Despite this, the current turbulence will eventually ease and life in Hong Kong will have to return to normal. To facilitate this, we must first stabilize the political situation as soon as possible. At the same time, we should do some soul searching and find out how we can keep the “one country, two systems” principle abreast of the times.When rioters stormed the LegCo Complex to commit vandalism on July 1, former editor-in-chief of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) Students’ Union journal Undergrad Brian Leung Kai-ping, who is also one of the editors of a pro-independence publication Hong Kong Nationalism, gave a speech at the riot site. On July 5, leader of Demosisto Joshua Wong Chi-fung, together with the former president of the HKU Students’ Union, Billy Fung Jing-en, wrote an article titled “Standing up for Hong Kong is standing up for human rights” for The Daily Telegraph. He cited Leung’s speech on July 1, which said there was no going back for Hong Kong’s current social movement. The opposition camp held another anti-extradition bill rally on July 7. It ended at the West Kowloon high-speed rail station, where the participants tried to encourage mainland visitors to subvert the political regime on the mainland. These movements have hurt the administration’s efforts to combat Hong Kong independence. Amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance are now in a difficult situation, bringing problems to whatever the government decides to do; and separatism has resurged. 

It is not possible for the incumbent SAR government to normalize the political landscape on its own; the chief executive must take the initiative and ask the central government for assistance

The opposition camp raised five demands during the June 16 demonstration, including the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-nor. But they replaced this demand with the implementation of “genuine” universal suffrage during the July 7 demonstration. This implies that the chief executive’s desire to end political disputes and redirect the focus on people’s livelihood has been dashed. The intention of the opposition camp is clear: to pressure Lam to step down if she fails to meet their five revised demands.

The opposition camp is deploying a strategy that combines use of peaceful protests with violent assaults. Peaceful protests provide a cover and protection for violent assaults, while the latter clears the path for the former. The two tactics are used alternatively or simultaneously. Their ultimate strategy is to stir up fears of, and hatred against, the Communist Party of China among the public while rallying the support of the United States and United Kingdom governments. 

The opposition camp is striving to overpower their pro-establishment counterparts in both the sixth-term District Council elections in November and the seventh-term Legislative Council elections in September next year, with the aim of forcing the central government to agree to restart political reform for the implementation of “genuine” universal suffrage in the near future. 

Anyone who has any common sense will realize that now is not a good time to relaunch political reform given the deep divisions in society. The SAR government hopes to start afresh, but the opposition camp has pushed the administration into a political cul-de-sac.

Therefore, the chief executive’s hope to stabilize the political situation through dialogue with the opposition camp is really like trying to get blood out of a stone. It is not possible for the incumbent SAR government to normalize the political landscape on its own; the chief executive must take the initiative and ask the central government for assistance.

On July 2, British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt tried to absolve the rioters who wreaked havoc on the LegCo Complex. He insisted that the Sino-British Joint Declaration gave the UK the right to monitor the implementation of “one country, two systems” in the HKSAR. He warned that China’s “failure” to comply with the declaration would have “serious consequences”. On July 5, the last governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, wrote in the Financial Times that Britain must honor its “obligations” to the people of Hong Kong, and should put more emphasis on honor, and less on “fear and greed” when dealing with China. He claimed that the UK has every right to discuss with China what is happening in Hong Kong. Astute UK politicians have realized the key to stabilizing Hong Kong’s political situation; they are therefore attempting to counteract Beijing’s constitutional power over the HKSAR.

The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.

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