The Hong Kong government seems to want to whip through the unpopular law with police force. Politics with consideration for moods is not that.
Stubbornness of ill-advised government: policemen fire tear gas Photo: Reuters
The impressive protests in Hong Kong, where up to a million people – a seventh of the population – demonstrated largely peacefully for hours on Sunday against the controversial extradition law, continued on Wednesday. Surprisingly numerous now, too. But the character was more militant. Several tens of thousands of people, including very many only around 20 years old, have blocked the parliament of the special zone since the morning. It was supposed to discuss the law in its second reading in order to pass it on June 20, according to the government’s will.
Beijing’s supporters have a clear majority in Hong Kong’s non-democratically elected Legislative Council. The fact that the determined protesters were able to effectively blockade the parliament building despite a massive police presence and thus achieve an indefinite postponement of the reading is a success.
But this does not mean that anything has been decided. In the later violent clashes in the streets, the police seemed to be concerned with dispersing the demonstrators and preventing large-scale street blockades and occupations. These had occurred for weeks in 2014 with the Umbrella Movement. At that time, the government, authorities and police were well advised not to seek direct confrontation for the most part. Rather, they sat out the protest.
Now, however, the government seems to want to push through the unpopular law with all its might. It would undoubtedly have the power to do so. But a sensible government and policy that shows consideration for the population and its moods looks different. If the government remains stubborn now, it is already behaving as many fear it will in the future, should Beijing interfere even more in Hong Kong or take control there.
Protesters are fighting to keep Hong Kong’s legal, political and cultural differences with the People’s Republic. These differences account not only for Hong Kong’s identity, but also for its successes and attractiveness. It is also the fact that conflicts there have so far usually been resolved with compromises. This now threatens the stubbornness of the ill-advised government. If it now uses police force to get its way, many people are likely to leave the city. Last year, two Hong Kong activists were granted asylum in Germany for the first time. If Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam doesn’t find her way back to common sense soon, there are likely to be more refugees from Hong Kong here soon.