A series of attacks on innocent residents in Hong Kong, including an arson attack on a senior citizen on Monday, has sparked public outrage at radical protesters who vented their anger on people not agreeing with their actions.
As of Tuesday noon, more than 1.14 million Hong Kong residents have taken a stand by signing an online petition to call for more rigorous law enforcement to curb the escalating violence.
The most shocking incident since the “Extradition Bill Incident” began in June saw a 57-year-old man being set ablaze by a black-clad man after a quarrel over political disputes.
I stayed silent when they blocked roads and damaged shops making me unable to even if to get to work on Monday. But when I saw ordinary people repeatedly targeted, I know we will soon be forced into silence forever if we keep silent
Chow, a 35-year-old businessman
Safeguard Hong Kong, a civic group consisting of lawyers, teachers, social workers and business people, has gathered tens of thousands of posts via the petition platform in support of the beleaguered police force.
“It’s a clear message from Hong Kong people – we’ve had enough of black violence,” said convener solicitor Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, convener of the alliance, two days after he submitted the petition to the chief executive’s office.
Channel for silent majority
“It is so ironic that those protesters, who claim to fight for democracy and freedom, are so intolerant of anyone with different views,” Wong told China Daily, citing Monday’s incident.
The online petition gives voice to Hong Kong’s silent majority worried about personal safety when speaking out against rioters who want to bring the city to its knees, said he.
A 35-year-old businessman, surnamed Chow, said it was not until the moment he saw the man burnt on the street of his neighborhood that he decided to comment on his social media page.
“I stayed silent when they blocked roads and damaged shops making me unable to even if to get to work on Monday,” he said. “But when I saw ordinary people repeatedly targeted, I know we will soon be forced into silence forever if we keep silent.”
The Hong Kong Police Force should be better empowered and protected by laws, especially when they are outnumbered, under considerably strain, and not much better equipped than those some of the protesters, said Wong.
Thousands of residents also petitioned the government to use all legal means other than “strongest condemnations”. This includes invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance again to quell the violence.
There have been more arrests and more prosecutions since the anti-mask law took effect. It gives the police one small advantage, even though rioters continue to defy the law, said Wong.
However, the shortage of law enforcers undermines the effectiveness of the law and injunction orders such as a ban on releasing personal details of police officers and their families, he noted.
Despite mounting calls for harsher punishments by the courts to deter radicals, Wong said, judicial independence remains one of Hong Kong’s core values. But the government should appeal the sentences as current punishments are regarded by many as “too light”.
Local elections at risk
In light of the “black terror” and the strained police force, he called for the upcoming Distrcit Council elections to be rescheduled, saying there can be no fair polls if voters and candidates are subject to threats and assaults.
Referring to the attempted murder of lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu who was stabbed in the chest during his campaign, Wong said nowhere in the world would go ahead with elections in what is effectively a state of emergency.
The government should postpone the very important political event until law and order is restored, he added.
Legal education indispensable
About two-thirds of the 287 arrested on Monday were students, according to police. Masked radicals vandalized public and private property at least five university campuses this week.
Describing the surging arrests and escalating violence as “very alarming”, Wong said deficiencies in legal education had contributed to the problem. The city’s fundamental principles of the rule of law had been overturned, he added.
Recalling his secondary school days in the United Kingdom where he had to sit law exams, he suggested youngsters be better educated about the penalties they could face if they break the law.
Reviewing education is one thing; on the other hand, you need to show them how a punishment will affect them, he argued.
HONG KONG NEWS