Policy address gives Carrie Lam chance to act decisively in crisis

South China Morning Post 發布於 2019年10月14日16:10 • SCMP Editorial
  • As violence continues to escalate after months of city protests, restraint is needed on both sides and government must unveil measures to take heat out of the situation
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor attends an RTHK phone-in programme about her upcoming policy address. Photo: Jonathan Wong

The civil unrest that has wreaked havoc in Hong Kong for more than four months continues to escalate. Anti-government protesters went on the rampage again on Sunday, attacking police, vandalising shops, smashing MTR stations and firebombing banks. One of the most disturbing developments was a police officer being stabbed in the neck with a box cutter. Thankfully, the officer is recovering, but any attack of this kind is serious and carries obvious risks to life. A Now TV driver was also badly injured, allegedly by police.

The Post has been warning, since the violent clashes began in June, that Hong Kong is on a dangerous path. Each weekend that passes seems to bring a new level of violence. There is a desperate need for a political solution. Meanwhile, both sides must show restraint. Otherwise, the city will enter a new phase of brutal street battles and a further descent into lawlessness.

Carrie Lam's policy address set for October 16, followed by bill withdrawal

Beijing has been content to leave matters to the Hong Kong authorities. That approach is welcome. But the city was given a chilling reminder of China's hardline approach to separatism in the words of President Xi Jinping on Sunday. He said any attempt to split China would end in crushed bodies and shattered bones. Xi was not talking specifically about Hong Kong and not all protesters here support independence, but the continuing spread of anti-mainland sentiment is worrying. It is important that Hong Kong shows it can solve its own problems and return to peaceful ways.

The protesters have, at times, reflected on their actions when discussing the way forward. They need to do so again now. They should realise that violence and vandalism will cause them to lose public support, if it has not already. They need a different strategy.

Police are operating in an increasingly difficult and dangerous environment, but they have to resist the temptation to respond too aggressively. There is a need to ease tensions and not to do anything that will further inflame public sentiment.

The government's actions " or, more accurately, lack of action " give the impression it does not know what to do. Its only response to the clashes on Sunday was to issue another lame statement condemning violence. All it has done since the clashes started is to belatedly withdraw the controversial extradition bill, hold an unconvincing dialogue session and use emergency laws to impose an ineffective ban on face masks.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has refused to step down. She will deliver her policy address tomorrow. It is a chance she cannot afford to miss to tackle the crisis head-on and unveil measures to take the heat of out of the situation. Without a political resolution, it is difficult to see how and when the troubles plaguing Hong Kong will end.

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