There is an old saying that you’d better be careful what you wish for, because your wishes may come true. That thought springs particularly to mind when we consider the longer-term effects of what the black-shirted protesting youngsters of Hong Kong are doing, as their repeated violent actions continue to take Hong Kong down.
Certainly, no one could doubt the energy, time and inventiveness they devote to their chosen causes, however misguided or unrealistic these may be. But how sad and troubling it is that they should seek to press for political reform by violently attacking their fellow citizens, including the Hong Kong police, and by repeatedly smashing up and burning public transport and other infrastructure. I wish they would instead devote similar amounts of effort to doing charity work and helping our most-needy citizens. Too often, the black-shirts’ actions hurt the neediest in our society. Many of those at the bottom end of the employment market, working under hourly-rate terms in hotels, shops, restaurants and so on, have been laid off work, as tourism dollars dry up, the violent street and shopping mall disruptive actions having strongly deterred many potential visitors, especially tourist visitors, from coming to Hong Kong.
Those frail and very elderly grannies, who, to Hong Kong’s everlasting shame, are obliged by their dire poverty in old age to earn a pittance by pushing around the streets trolley loads of discarded newsprint and cardboard boxes they have collected for recycling, have been mistreated by the selfish and blackhearted rioters. Their flammable materials, so painstakingly gathered, are put to the torch by black-shirts at street barricades, and their trolleys are also used to block roads or even as battering rams.
These days, anyone daring to photograph or disagree with the black-shirts, or simply speaking Mandarin, is liable to come under brutal mob attack. A few months has greatly changed the social and political atmosphere of a city once renowned for tolerance.So, if the black-shirts are worried about what will become of Hong Kong after 2047, they need not be. They have assured themselves a dismal future through their current irresponsible anti-social actions!
The unique “one country, two systems” framework, which covers Hong Kong’s governance for 50 years from the return of Hong Kong to China back in 1997, was intended to preserve all that was best about this previously supremely successful city over this buffer period.
Many observers wonder what will become of Hong Kong after the end of this transition period. That remains to be seen. But the actions of our roving mobs of violent and lawless protesters are clearly destroying much of what was once best about Hong Kong. This means that Hong Kong will no longer be such an attractive place, long before 2047 — and they will have only themselves to blame for this needless self-inflicted wound!
Hong Kong used to be an exceptionally safe place to visit or to reside. Our police foot patrols kept it that way — but no longer. Police foot patrols have been withdrawn since August, partly because so much police manpower has had to be deployed in dealing with the rampant riots and vandalism of the black-shirts, and partly because one or two police officers patrolling the streets on foot could all-too-easily become targets for attack by the protesters. This has allowed a crime wave to develop here.
Comparing the June to September crime figures for this year and last, we note that snatch thefts are up by 50 percent, and a similar percentage increase has been seen in burglaries, and robberies. At a minimum, these months of civil unrest, frequently involving physical assaults of residents and visitors who do not share the black-shirts’ agenda, have made Hong Kong a fearful place.
Running battles on Hong Kong’s city streets are readily and repeatedly broadcast by the electronic media around the world. This highlights how dangerous it is these days to walk our once safe streets. Many tourist shoppers have become unwittingly caught up in riot situations, which often occur in key tourist areas such as Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui. The very bad impression given of Hong Kong by seemingly endless turmoil, personal assaults, and oft-repeated acts of wanton vandalism by violent protesters will take a very long time to fade from the world’s collective memory. In short, the reputation of Hong Kong is now in tatters. What takes decades to build takes only a few moments to destroy.
Respect for the rule of law used to be one of our standout attributes that contributed to our success. Sadly, these days violent mob rule has become the norm instead. There have been many indiscriminate attacks on innocent residents and visitors. Our police officers have come under attack by protesters using knives, gasoline bombs, corrosive chemicals, bricks pried off pavements, metal bars and slingshots using steel ball bearings.
Hong Kong had long been an international finance and investment hub. But these days, big commercial ventures, such as brand-name luxury goods or global clothing stores, would no longer feel safe in opening a flagship store here. Some foreign firms have already decided to relocate elsewhere, usually to Singapore. Who would think of investing in Hong Kong?
Similarly, Hong Kong long held a bridging role, with international companies having their sights on developing business with the Chinese mainland basing themselves first in Hong Kong. But these days, they can go straight to Shanghai or Beijing, thereby avoiding the uncertainties of Hong Kong. And that’s another key special attribute of Hong Kong that has been lost.
Our public transport, especially our previously super-efficient and much-admired metro system, is being smashed up practically on a regular basis. Some station entrances have been put to the torch and their interior looks like war zones. Estimates of damage caused to MTR and other transport infrastructure have now reached HK$10 million (US$1.28 million). That’s another feather removed from Hong Kong’s previously many-feathered cap.
We were previously seen as a tolerant society. But these days, anyone daring to photograph or disagree with the black-shirts, or simply speaking Mandarin, is liable to come under brutal mob attack. A few months have greatly changed the social and political atmosphere of a city once renowned for tolerance.
So, if the black-shirts are worried about what will become of Hong Kong after 2047, they need not be. They have assured themselves a dismal future through their current irresponsible anti-social actions!
The author is a university lecturer and seasoned commentator on Hong Kong affairs.
HONG KONG NEWS