Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced on June 15 that the SAR government had halted the legislative process of the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019, but some radical groups went ahead with a premeditated siege of the Hong Kong Police Force headquarters and government offices in Wan Chai on Friday. They also blocked traffic in nearby streets and forced the SAR government complex to close down again; the Legislative Council (LegCo) remained paralyzed. Such illegal acts adversely affected, if not deprived, numerous Hong Kong residents of government services that day.
The opposition camp made five demands in the mass protest march on June 16: Withdraw the extradition law amendment bill; change the official assessment that some people rioted on June 12; release those arrested during the riot; set up an independent commission to look into accusations of excessive force by the police against protesters; and resignation of Carrie Lam. In an attempt to divide the special administrative region government, they only emphasized the first four demands and left Lam’s resignation out in the Friday siege. Anyone who knows anything about politics can see Lam’s resignation will certainly be brought up after the first four demands are met.
There is no doubt that the SAR government is currently faced with the gravest challenges we have ever seen since the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR. The question is whether and how it can bring the situation back to normal sooner rather than later. However, the opposition cannot and will not stop obstructing or sabotaging the SAR government’s administration, because they need the anti-government platform to win as many seats as they can in the District Council elections this November and LegCo elections in September next year. On the other hand, the patriotic parties and organizations may have to keep a respectable distance from the government in their own District Council and LegCo election campaigns. Carrie Lam will have a lot of tough battles to fight during the rest of her current term in office. That said, the SAR government should restore order soon to ease the difficult situation of administrating Hong Kong.
In order to continue implementing “one country, two systems” while advancing with the times, the SAR government and pro-establishment camp must find out exactly what the young protesters are most frustrated by and angry about
The second major challenge posed by the current political situation is how the pro-establishment camp should rebuild its unity and strength. It is no secret that the extradition law amendment bill’s early setback was due to objections by the business community’s representatives in LegCo. This resulted in the government revising the bill twice to ease the business community’s concerns and win their support for the bill. Unfortunately some of the political figures representing the business community had second thoughts again after the mass protest march on June 9. It is normal for the patriotic camp to have different opinions about the extradition law amendment bill, since it consists of parties and groups representing different sectors of Hong Kong society with specific needs in addition to common interests. That said, one can detect the influence of the United States’ changing China strategy on the business community in Hong Kong. China-US relations are apparently under threat, which in turn is reshaping the political landscape in Hong Kong. At the mass rally on June 9 most participants wore white clothes; whereas at the June 16 rally most were dressed in black. The organizers must have their reasons for not bringing back the yellow theme of the illegal “Occupy Central” protests in 2014. In response to the changing China strategy of the US government and consequent reshaping of Hong Kong’s political landscape, the patriotic camp needs to be more united — which is not an easy task.
The third daunting challenge facing the SAR government and pro-establishment camp is to continue implementing “one country, two systems” despite the setback brought about by the extradition law amendment legislation.
There is no denying the extradition law amendment bill’s debacle dealt a significant blow to the implementation of the “one country, two systems” principle in Hong Kong. Within the pro-establishment camp, many people could not help feeling frustrated by the sudden setback, resulting in some outbursts of disbelief and anger. Many local residents who love Hong Kong dearly but maintain a neutral stand on political issues are now seriously worried about the city’s future. The opposition camp may be ecstatic right now but its members are clueless as to where they are headed from now.
It must be noted that most of the young people who participated in the protests on June 9 and June 16 and/or the violent clashes with the police on June 12 and June 21 were more likely to have done so out of discontent with life than for serious political reasons.
In order to continue implementing “one country, two systems” while advancing with the times, the SAR government and pro-establishment camp must find out exactly what the young protesters are most frustrated by and angry about. Are they suspicious of the mainland judicial system because of personal experience or lies told by opposition parties and the US government? Are they against the central government, or the SAR government, or both? Does it concern their political stand or the state of the Hong Kong economy and people’s well-being? Only with a precise assessment of these questions can the SAR government and pro-establishment camp formulate effective strategies in the exercise of “one country, two systems”. Equally important is for the government to step up public education to eliminate people’s fears of the mainland. It needs to combat fear-mongering by the opposition camp with facts.
The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.
HONG KONG NEWS