Rear Window | Back to basics

Severo Portela

Two million Hong Kong residents felt obliged to go down to Admiralty to fight against a fishy extradition bill, deemed an “evil law” by the freshly released Occupy Central local hero, Joshua Wong. Calling upon a SAR population tally of over 7 million people, one can say that HKSAR civil society went on to defy Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s proposal to allow suspects to be commended to Chinese courts. To put it mildly, the timing (30 years after Tiananmen) and content (a thorough legal train to a different judiciary reality) came to be a catalyst to an striking, put it mildly, number of Hongkongers, or Hong Kong people, as they would rather call themselves, or even the defensively used Asian or global citizens (thus Hong Kong) than Chinese.

Indignant civil society comes out on the streets, and naturally some havoc happens, again to put it mildly, when the police force meets an organic ad hoc coalition of civic denominations protesting against much more than the “evil law”… about eroding the autonomy granted by the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the ensuing Basic Law. The government was forced into a tactical retreat.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam went public to offer a double apology, a tearful pledge to improve her performance on issues that matter to the City – you guessed it, housing, transportation and overall living conditions – committing to not asking for “another chance” to fulfill her 3-year term she anticipates as “very difficult”.

In what appeared to be an exercise in humility, she offered to shelve and not revive the extradition bill without general acceptance. That is to say, the “evil law” was to be shelved, put to sleep, instead of scrapping it for good, as protesters were demanding out there in the open.

Seasoned activist Joshua Wong did not fall into the trap of that exercise in what he called fake humility. Carrie Lam’s apology seemed to be a kind of public humiliation for having failed to carry out a mission, to comply with an order. On no occasion did the Chief Executive question the order to carry on with the extradition bill that she failed to formally retract… she is only withdrawing it until a more convenient opportunity. Neither does she give credit to the proposals of the civil society, nor will she consider quitting the top job. That is the lingo of resolved despotism indifferent to those who are envisioning alternative futures and willing to embrace a risk in order to make it happen. Make no mistake, they do so in accordance with the Basic Law.

However, something happened that can make us wonder about the public demonstrations against the “evil law” and the scuffles with the police authority. Allegedly, the Chief Executive hinted that henceforth the assessment of the designation of a civil/social/political demonstration as a riot would be executed by the City´s police commissioner. Could this be escalated further to siege or some other exception?

If we are excused of the loose analogy, across the PRD, the truth is, freedom of assembly and protest were handled here previously by the municipal institution, now replaced by the police authority, better known by its Portuguese acronym PSP.

Our closing notes go to the apparent front-runner to become the third Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng – grace under scrutiny. Ho stated he was “pleased” to know that three grassroots residents are also interested in the election.

Ho called a press conference to make his formal announcement. He did not shy away (up to a point) from issues – his statement needs further reading – and he did not escape from another cross Pearl River Delta analogy with Carrie Lam’s commitments: he did not provide details but if his position is confirmed he will solve problems of housing, transportation and the overall living conditions.

Categories Opinion