As violence escalates, put public safety first

South China Morning Post 發布於 2019年11月12日16:11 • SCMP Editorial
  • With ever more clashes on the streets and traffic paralysis, the government should consider cancelling work and school, much as it would do during a natural disaster
Firefighters help an old person as train services are suspended, leaving dozens of stranded commuters to walk after trains are stopped by objects thrown on the tracks near Sha Tin MTR Station yesterday. Photo: Winson Wong

Hongkongers have braved renewed violence and traffic chaos to go to work and school, even as ongoing protests have escalated. The rising tension, prompted by what seems to be new tactics to wreak havoc during rush hours and lunch breaks on weekdays, has raised valid concerns over public safety. It would be prudent for the government to closely monitor the situation and take suitable action accordingly, including the possibility of cancelling work and school for safety reasons.

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Many commuters were still stranded in citywide traffic mayhem when Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor hit out at protesters for their selfish actions and praised people for being committed to their duties and not bowing to violence. She said protesters wanted the city to come to a standstill and the government would fall into such a trap if it made a rash decision to stop all activities. Regrettably, the public is being put at risk as neither side appears ready for a compromise.

The violence yesterday and on Monday was no doubt serious and to be condemned. But even though the situation was arguably not bad enough to warrant government intervention, there is a need to prepare for the worst. Such an assessment should be based on actual circumstances, in particular public safety, rather than political consideration.

If it is too dangerous, or simply impossible for commuters to move around, as in the case of the aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut last year, a day off for those engaged in non-essential activities would seem sensible. Various universities have suspended lectures. They cannot be faulted for being cautious. Traffic aside, there are genuine threats when students travel to and from school. Some schools have justifiably cancelled classes on their own. The public is seemingly more vulnerable as violence may erupt at anytime and anywhere.

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The government undertook a review last year after it came to light that it had no power to cancel work even when traffic had been paralysed following the onslaught of Mangkhut. The need for better preparedness extends to political crises. Be it a natural disaster or social unrest, public safety must come first.

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