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Sunday, Mar 07, 2021

Hong Kong leaders can no longer ignore elephant in the room

Hong Kong leaders can no longer ignore elephant in the room

Although the government has its hands full dealing with various pressing challenges at the moment, it must not delude itself that last year’s fury has dissipated.
Let us dial back to around one year ago, when the streets were filled with fire and the tear gas, the slogan “five demands, not one less” was repeatedly screamed by the protesters, and an atmosphere of panic permeated the whole polarised city. Until the pandemic hit, I couldn’t see any signs of the movement easing any time soon.

Now, the Hong Kong government has its hands full tackling the economic crisis, pandemic prevention work, and maintaining the city’s reputation as an international financial centre. However, the fact that public dissatisfaction with and anger towards the government has not dissipated is the elephant in the room.

Even if the government successfully handles the aforementioned issues to everyone’s satisfaction, I don’t think the relationship between the government and the people can be repaired, trust in the government and its machinery restored, and broken hearts consoled.

In light of the above, and given how polarised opinion is in Hong Kong, it is naive to expect rational discussion or negotiation. The leadership of Hong Kong and even that of China should consider a comprehensive plan in good faith to repair the relationship between the government and the people. In particular, the political root cause of the civil unrest and social dissatisfaction should be addressed politically.

Given the implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong, it is the right time for Beijing to take this sort approach by, for example, reintroducing political reform. Since the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China, it is obvious that the “one country, two systems” system as laid out in the Basic Law has not been functioning as well as originally expected.

I understand that maybe the timing is not yet right, and it would be more appropriate to take action after the US presidential election, but the government should bear in mind that the accumulated hate will not go away in time if nothing is done to win hearts and minds.

What is the cure for Hong Kong’s future? “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that”, as Dr Martin Luther King Jnr put it during the US civil rights movement.

It is clear that Hong Kong has suffered political upheaval and economic headwinds in recent months, and will take a long time to bounce back. It is also clear that both camps should engineer a progressive reconciliation with sincerity.

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