I never truly realised the extent of my emotional investment in Hong Kong and concern for its well-being until the public backlash against the government's ill-conceived, bull-in-a-China-shop campaign to change this city's extradition laws descended into shocking violence and anarchy over the past week.
How immensely saddening and distressing to see our beloved city torn apart by political acrimony and social strife, how demoralising and depressing to read international "oh my God, this is the death of Hong Kong" headlines, how alarming and disturbing to watch our youngsters fight pitched battles with police and our streets turn into smoking warzones all over again.
Those who cannot learn from the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them, and that's where we find ourselves now, back in the black hole, having learned absolutely nothing from the trauma and tragedy of the 2014 Occupy movement, when masses of mostly young protesters blocked roads for 79 straight days in the name of civil disobedience and fighting for greater democracy.
Nobody won back then, and yet here we are, rinse and repeat. We're getting really good at losing.
What's really worrying is the complete and utter breakdown of trust and respect between frontline police and the youth of this city. The us-versus-them mentality is so ingrained now, the relationship so broken, that we should all be deeply concerned.
There's a lot of rancorous debate over all the violence and whether protesters were dangerously out of control or police used excessive force.
Well, you don't have to listen to anyone, just make up your own mind by watching all the video footage on television and online. I mean all of it, not just isolated clips incriminating one side or another.
There is no doubt that many of those young men dressed to the nines in ninja gear who repeatedly attacked police lines with sharpened metal rods, bricks and makeshift weapons need to be arrested and jailed. They were out to cause maximum carnage, call them what you will - criminals, thugs, hooligans, agitators, or miscreants.
Having said that, the vast majority of youngsters out there who were exposed to tear gas, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds were nothing of that sort - they were our children, high school and university students, the future of this city, whether you like it or not.
I remember being just as emotional and idealistic and rebellious, if not more, when I was their age. Does that justify breaking the law? Of course not, but dismissing them as misguided and fringe individuals, and suppressing them with brute force is not the solution either, as it is plain to see.
These very young men and women are not afraid of batons or bullets. We'd better pray that someone doesn't end up getting killed at this rate, because what we are facing now will pale in comparison to the fallout that would precipitate. We can't afford it.
This extradition bill, which would allow the transfer of fugitives to mainland China, which has a justice system and human rights record that doesn't inspire much confidence on this side of the border, is the catalyst rather than root cause of all this.
Our youth are despondent, frustrated and angry about the lack of upward mobility in a city where the wealth gap is obscene, home prices are unaffordable and the rich and the powerful seem to get away with everything. They feel nobody is listening to them.
I daresay many of them don't actually care so much about a legal amendment to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, but the way the bill has been bulldozed forward feeds right into their perception that this government is more committed to keeping Beijing happy than protecting their interests.
Everyone, please, just stop. Take a step back. This is Hong Kong, not Palestine. We are better than this.
Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post
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