Friday, January 22, 2021 | ePaper

Politics of dialogue could be best for Hong Kong

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Hong Kong's political crisis - has entered its sixth month - continues to become more violent. Observers are worried fearing that it will escalate in the coming days. More than 3,000 people have been arrested since the protests began in June, initially triggered by a bill that would have allowed the extradition of suspects in Hong Kong to mainland China.

Presently, Hong Kong's political crisis has entered a new phase since the death of a demonstrator on Friday who fell from a parking lot. It was the first death linked to police action. On Monday, there were clashes across Hong Kong between protesters and police, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters. At one stage, tear gas was fired in the central business district - a rare occurrence during working hours on a weekday.

Against this backdrop, editor of the state-owned People's Daily, Hu Xijin, warned: "You (police) have the backing of not only the Hong Kong and Chinese people, but also Chinese soldiers and the People's Liberation Army in Hong Kong. They can go into Hong Kong to provide support at any time."

Massive police action first took place during protests on 1 October when China was celebrating 70 years of communist rule. In the second action, a teenage boy was shot in the leg on 4 October. The protests started in June have morphed into wider demonstrations. 

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong police have accused protesters of bringing the city to the "brink of total collapse" and urged residents not to support them as demonstrations paralysed the city. At Hong Kong University, academics    
pleaded with student demonstrators to rethink their methods.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong's leader, Carrie Lam, called the protesters "extremely selfish" for paralysing the city. Earlier on Monday, she said they were enemies of the people and slammed "any wishful thinking" that their escalating tactics would push the government to accede to their demands.

On the other hand, protesters said the government has refused to listen to the public, which has largely supported the protesters, who are demanding an independent inquiry into police behaviour as well as the implementation of universal suffrage.

Observers fear recent violence will push both sides to dig in further. In a press conference, police said that almost 50 areas across the city had been affected by protests. The police blamed protesters for pushing Hong Kong to the "brink of total collapse".

The scenario is that -- the police come, there is a fight and people get arrested. Then tomorrow it starts all over again … There's not an end.

The United States expressed "grave concern" on Tuesday over the situation and called for restraint by both the police and government and the protesters. But Beijing, which has authority over Hong Kong as part of the "one country, two systems" framework established when the former British colony was handed over to Chinese control, is showing apparently no interest to deal with the matter through discussion.

Not only that the state-run Global Times on its Tuesday's issue described the protesters in Hong Kong as "no different from terrorists like Islamic State". Addressing the Hong Kong police, the editorial stressed the readiness of the People's Liberation Army and Chinese police to reinforce Hong Kong's security forces when needed.

It's crystal clear that China's central government hasn't taken Hong Kong issue lightly. But what is frustrating is that there is no process of dialogue. Even the China government didn't take any initiative to ask Hong Kong authority to sit in a discussion with the protesters. Depending on gun power, they are trying to get a solution of it.

Hong Kong no doubt is facing a serious political crisis and calling protesters, however wrong they are, enemies of the country is not the right approach. Some protesters were already killed and many others injured. Depending on gun power cannot be the way of getting solution when a huge number of young and old people are engaged in street protests.

The idea that the government knows best what is good for the people and the people are wrong is not the way of running administration in modern days. The people of Hong Kong are not used to regimented system of government where rights of the people are unimportant. It is alright that the people do not deny the sovereign control of China over Hong Kong.

But they do not want to give up distinct separate democratic way of their lives. The mainland China has been showing a lot of restraint in treating the protesters. That is to be appreciated.

In our view starting dialogue with the protesters will make them feel that they are accepted as legitimate citizens and their right to be heard by the government of Hong Kong is recognised. Give the people of Hong Kong the sense of dignity they deserve.

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