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Saturday, Mar 02, 2024

Xia says social unrest a permanent scar for Hong Kong; protests aren’t the only way to express demands

Xia says social unrest a permanent scar for Hong Kong; protests aren’t the only way to express demands

The anti-extradition bill movement in 2019 is a permanent scar that will never wade away in Hong Kong’s history, said top Beijing official Xia Baolong on Saturday – the third day of his visit to the SAR as well as the National Security Education Day.
“It is impossible for anyone to try and erase this painful memory engraved in our mind,” said Xia, the director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, as he delivered a speech at the opening ceremony to kick-start the National Security Education Day.

“It [the movement] also is an alarm that could be rung at any moment and serves as a constant warning.

“Can we allow Hong Kong to be twirled by chaos again? Can we allow such tragic scenes to take place again? And can we allow the District Councils to be manipulated by anti-China and ‘destabilizing’ forces? Never.”

Xia also pointed out that there are many ways for citizens to express their demands, as he noted that demonstrations and protests are not the only available channels.

Xia added that safeguarding national security and expressing demands and public opinions do not contradict one another.

He referred to past experiences that public demands on the environment and livelihood could be easily hijacked and even twisted into political conflicts, resulting in a torn-apart society opposing each other.

“I hope Hong Kong can host exhibitions, develop innovation and technology, strive for economic development, have horse races, dances, stock activities, and earn some money every day,” he said.

Xia also said no one is an outsider when it comes to safeguarding national security, and everyone should take an active role in the issue.

He stressed that the SAR must not be torn apart by riots and opposition, for without safety and order as the laying foundation there would never be any development.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and was promised it could keep its Western-style civil liberties intact for 50 years after the handover.

But after the enactment of a Beijing-imposed national security law following the 2019 protests, many activists were jailed or silenced amid a crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement. Major protests were also rare under the strict Covid-19 rules.

In late March, Hong Kong saw its first authorized protest against a government policy since the lifting of major pandemic restrictions under unprecedentedly strict rules, with demonstrators made to wear numbered badges around their necks. That sparked a debate over the erosion of freedom of assembly.
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