“What do they really want?” is the question many of us asked ourselves when we watched television broadcasts of the wanton violent anti-social and destructive acts undertaken by the young rioters on our streets over the last 12 weeks.
Perhaps we can now draw some answers from the recent TVB interview program Straight Talk, when a Chinese University Student Union representative was asked about the current disturbances. It is at least a relief to note that she has an average command of English, unlike the president of the Baptist University Student Union, who struggled to understand straightforward questions in English at a recent press conference! The English standard of our university student leaders is concerning, but that’s another issue.
If she is indeed speaking on behalf of the young protesters, it just goes to show their extreme naivety, self-contradiction and illogically thinking. For example, she said the young people wanted to fight for freedom and the rule of law. She then cited the recent example of a Hong Kong resident, Simon Cheng, who was detained on the mainland for 15 days. But according to news reports, he is a locally employed employee of the British Consulate and was subject to administrative detention on conviction for offenses involving illegal prostitution in Shenzhen!
She said they wanted to protect the rule of law, but their violent campaign is putting exactly that in jeopardy! She said that the young rioters need to come out to voice their opinions, but when the chief executive invited them for an open dialogue, they spurned her offer and repeated their preconditions, which is that the chief executive must declare amnesty for all rioters, which is a blatant violation of the rule of law. Although the Basic Law clearly does not invest in the chief executive the power to grant amnesties, as prosecution is the independent exclusive authority of the secretary for justice, she insisted that she was told by “legal professionals and professors” that this is legally feasible. Now we know they are the black hands inciting these young rioters. When she was shown videos of the protesters’ violence, she said they were forced to use violence in response to police violence. But any fair-minded objective observers can see it was the other way around — which is, the violence having been initiated by the young rioters, forcing the riot police officers to suppress them.
With their shallow understanding of politics, their gullibility and their brainwashed state of mind, I suggest the adaption of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s successful three-pronged strategy: deterrence, prevention and education. This strategy must be preceded by a relentless deterrence policy. A clear message needs to be sent that involvement in any anti-social rioting is a high-risk crime, with lifelong negative implications if convicted
But the wake-up call was her statement that they do not believe in the “one country, two systems” principle, and that they consider Hong Kong independence an option! If the young people really want to preserve their “threatened” freedom (note how they freely demonstrated with violence and spray-painted the most abusive epithets against authoritative figures, including the chief executive and the police officers) and lifestyle, they should listen to the wise advice of Henry Litton, former deputy president of the Court of Final Appeal, who said they should support and make “one country, two systems” work so that the central government would be inclined to extend this unique governing concept beyond its original deadline of 2047. They should reflect on their gratuitous bellicosity toward Beijing and realize it will only make Beijing pause about continuing to give Hong Kong people a different governance system.
She tried to play up some young people’s mentality of martyrdom regarding their willingness to die for their cause. It’s truly sad to see them proclaiming they are willing to die fighting for something they already have! With their shallow understanding of politics, their gullibility and their brainwashed state of mind, I suggest the adaption of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s successful three-pronged strategy: deterrence, prevention and education. This strategy must be preceded by a relentless deterrence policy. A clear message needs to be sent that involvement in any anti-social rioting is a high-risk crime, with lifelong negative implications if convicted.
At the moment, there is no sign of any reduction of the violence. On the contrary, their trashing of airport facilities on Sunday and the MTR stations took their mindless nihilistic campaign to a new level. It will be a mistake if the government thinks it can repeat its strategy of letting “Occupy Central” run out of steam because there is clearly a much larger force now, including a foreign one, supporting the current unrest and backing the rioters’ anti-government campaign. The whole community must actively vocalize its support for the government in adopting a zero tolerance approach to the violence.
First, the government must use all resources at its disposal, including the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, although it may not yet be necessary to apply all its provisions such as deportation without trial. More immediately, an anti-mask law must be brought in so the rioters cannot hide behind the masks while carrying out their illegal activities. This is a common law-enforcement practice in many Western countries when dealing with public protests. It is certainly justified in our current situation.
Second, close down the main communication tools of the rioters — the Telegram app and LIHKG web forum.
Third, announce partial curfews. The way to do it is, when the rioters gather at a particular district, say the Central district, the government can immediately declare a partial curfew for that district alone from midnight onward. That would ensure a clear separation of rioters and bystanders to enable police to take strong enforcement action without worrying about causing accidental injuries to curious innocent citizens.
Fourth, set up a special detention center for the rioters and a special court so those arrested can be detained and subject to a speedy trial.
Just imagine if such a state of lawlessness had taken place during British rule. There is no doubt the colonial government would have used the full force of the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to suppress it. Therefore, what we need most is public support for firm government action to end the recurrent violence so the massive economic losses we have suffered can be reversed quickly and our good, long reputation as one of the safest cities in the world can be re-established. It must be said that some politicians’ knee-jerk objections to bringing back the Emergency Regulations Ordinance was just playing to the gallery. You simply cannot reason with these rioters into behaving themselves once they have tasted blood.
The author is an honorary fellow and adjunct professor of HKU Space, and a council member of the Chinese Society on Hong Kong and Macao Studies, and former deputy ICAC commissioner.
HONG KONG NEWS