Letters from leaders of Hong Kong's political parties and government departments.
I am most grateful for the Hong Kong friends in Adelaide coming out to show their support for the territory in opposition to the Fugitives (Amendment) Bill. Hong Kong people much appreciate this moral support; and I am all the more proud of Adelaide where I obtained my PhD degree in 1979.
Last Friday, tertiary students launched a campaign of non-cooperation against the Carrie Lam administration despite her public apology on June 18 and her indication that the controversial legislation would likely meet a natural disappearance at the end of the present legislative session in July 2020. But she refused to resign, and she also rejected other demands from the pro-democracy movement including formal withdrawal of the bill, retraction of labelling the June 12 confrontation as a riot, release of those arrested, and the initiation of an investigation into the related police violence.
The Chief Executive certainly failed to convince the young students that her apology embodied her utmost sincerity and humility; and the university student unions could not accept that their five demands had all been rejected. Their attempts to surround government buildings, including the police headquarters and calling the Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung to resign might easily lead to violent clashes with the police again and trigger another crisis which the establishment tries very hard to avoid. The pro-democracy movement understands that the Chief Executive‘s resignation is to be determined by Beijing which at least at this point has been lobbying the establishment’s support for her administration. But to defuse the crisis, significantly reduce the people’s anger and restore normalcy, the Carrie Lam administration has to do more. Otherwise, every serious delay in concessions will lead to a new round of escalation of conflict, and severer demands for compromises from the opposition. This is exactly what had happened in the past fortnight.
The Chief Executive should at least offer a clear-cut withdrawal of the Fugitives (Amendment) Bill, as pro-establishment leaders like Bernard Chan and Felix Chung already declared that this was the actual government position. This probably is a face issue now, but the denial of face for the young people can be costly, at least problematic.
Ann Chiang, legislator from the DAB, has not been helpful. She indicated last Friday that the government should work hard in the coming months to do a better explanatory job and attempt to re-introduce the controversial bill. Hence a lot of people now suspect that there is indeed a distinction between withdrawal and the temporary shelving of the bill.
An independent investigation is another essential measure. Obviously the morale of the police force has to be considered; and this is perhaps an important concern of Beijing and the local establishment. However, the investigation may cover the entire incident and not be directed specifically against alleged police violence. An independent investigation would allow the Carrie Lam administration to avoid taking a position on the issue of labelling the incident as a riot.
The community may simply wait for the investigating commission’s report.
Those who have been arrested by the police may also be released for the time being, and decisions on prosecuting them should be scheduled after the release of the report.
If the release of the report comes after the District Council elections in November, the establishment should be well satisfied. An independent investigation will help to tone down gestures made to condemn the police as well as support the police too.
The shelving of the Fugitives (Amendment) Bill may not be an adequate reward for the successful mobilisation of Hong Kong people. If the government genuinely intends to reduce the polarisation and confrontation in the community, face and so called "the authority of governance" should be lesser concerns. If campaigns against the Carrie Lam administration continue, where are face and authority? Sincerity and humility indeed are essential to restore gradually the legitimacy of the government. But few people can feel them yet. A dialogue with the student unions, accompanied by the offer of the above two concessions should be the initial steps.
Delays can be very costly. When it comes to the wisdom of Hong Kong’s political leadership, the community is not optimistic in recent years. I do hope to have good news for you and our friends in Adelaide; we all hope that we don’t have to face a very hot summer in the political sense.