- The chief executive ignored peacefully protesting masses months ago. Following a student’s death, she says the violence she forced some protesters into won’t get them anywhere. She and others like her just don’t get what students are fighting for
Despair, tears and anger " these are the emotions that consume me as I watch the city where I was born burn. I wish I could add hope to this list but that would be lying to myself.
How can there be hope when top state leaders tell us they have full confidence in Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as chief executive? It was surreal to watch them praise Hong Kong's most unpopular leader ever " the author of the tragedy that has befallen us.
But enough of Lam. The less I mention her, the less angry I get. Tears came when I first watched the video of the protest song Glory to Hong Kong. I watch it often now to find the hope that eludes me. Last Sunday, a neighbour's trumpet filled the air with the song as police tear gas wafted below my home.
It's hard to fight back tears brought on by something so tragic. But that's what I had to do on Friday at the car park where last Monday a 22-year-old university student fell to his death as police carried out a clearance operation nearby.
Chow Tsz-lok died last Friday morning after being in a coma since his fall. I went to the car park that evening as a journalist to observe thousands lining up to place flowers at a makeshift shrine near where Chow had landed. Some were black-clad. Many defied the mask ban.
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Terrorists? Rioters? If that's what you want to call the sad-looking preteen girl laying flowers, alongside fathers, mothers and young couples, so be it. I saw only Hongkongers mourning the tragic death of a student who lost his life fighting for what he believed in.
Chow's beliefs are shared by the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets peacefully at the start of the uprising five months ago " that Lam, rather than being a praiseworthy leader, is a proxy for Beijing to erode our promised high degree of autonomy.
On Monday evening, after the worst violence since the protests began, Lam told Hongkongers it was wishful thinking for them to believe that she would yield to their demands. That, too, was surreal " an undemocratically-elected leader who ignored the wishes of the peacefully protesting masses and now tells them the violence she forced some of them into won't get them anywhere either.
I have a full window view from my Tseung Kwan O flat of the car park where Chow fell. A banner that says "never forget, never forgive" still hangs outside it. I avoid looking out that window. The night he fell still haunts me. I had just returned from London but was kept awake by the popping sounds of tear gas and police sirens. When news reports the next day said Chow was comatose, I knew he wouldn't make it.
What angers me are people like Annie Wu Suk-ching, daughter of the founder of Maxim's catering chain, who told state media she would write off two generations of youngsters, and Lam, who said some young people "have no stake in society". Two generations span about 50 years. Who would fill the void? If young people have no stake in society, who does? The tycoons?
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What despairs me is how little state leaders and their proxy Lam understand why students are willing to sacrifice their futures, and brave tear gas, as they did on Tuesday while battling police at Chinese University.
If there is humour to be found in this tragedy, it came from the editor of the state-owned Global Times, who asked mainland students to boycott the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where a mainland student was attacked, and which Chow had attended. Doesn't he know many Hongkongers would like nothing more than mainlanders boycotting the city?
"Hope" was the campaign theme of former United States president Barack Obama. I wish I could.
Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong journalist and TV show host
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