China: How to quell the Hong Kong protests
Hong Kong is suffering from a “complete breakdown of law and order,” said Yonden Lhatoo in the Hong Kong–based South China Morning Post. Every week for the past two months, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest a bill that would let residents of our semi-autonomous city be extradited to face trial in mainland Chinese courts. The rallies started peacefully but now routinely end in violence. Sometimes the black-clad protesters are the victims, as when hundreds of white-shirted thugs and gangsters wielding iron bars attacked demonstrators at a train station last month. At least 45 people ended up in the hospital. More often, the protesters are at fault. “All hell broke loose” when an elderly man slapped at a protester’s placard at the airport last week. Video shows the mob screaming obscenities at the old man and pushing him. Some Hong Kongers wonder why the police aren’t doing more—either to defend or arrest protesters—but officers are pelted with rocks when they show up at demonstrations. The protesters have “systematically stripped our police force of its authority and credibility, demoralized frontline officers with constant abuse and bullying, and urinated all over the rule of law.”
Lack of leadership is leading to anarchy, said the Morning Post in an editorial. Protesters sprayed graffiti last week on Beijing’s liaison office in the city and splashed black paint on the national emblem. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam called that attack “a flagrant challenge to China’s sovereignty” and a “deliberate test” of the “one country, two systems” principle that the former British colony has followed since it returned to Chinese control in 1997. But Lam is at fault for failing to address protesters’ demands. While she declared the extradition bill “dead,” she hasn’t withdrawn it, and the protesters now want more, including an inquiry into police brutality. Lam can’t “stand by and expect others to solve a problem that is ultimately of her government’s making.” She should take a lesson from France, said the Hong Kong Economic Times. The Yellow Vest protest movement erupted there last year over a new fuel tax, and riots paralyzed Paris every weekend for months. The protests finally subsided after French President Emmanuel Macron “promised the people reforms.” Young Hong Kongers are furious about rocketing rents—many live in tiny, illegally divided apartments—and low wages. Address those complaints, and the people might leave the street.
The radicals are playing a dangerous game, said the Beijing-based Global Times. They want to topple Lam and “establish an opposition-dominated political structure manipulated by the U.S. and Western forces.” That will never happen. Beijing is not sending in the army, because Hong Kong is responsible for its internal order, and the Hong Kong people will eventually become “fed up with turbulence.” But these riots have provided mainlanders with a useful “negative example, demonstrating how fragile social solidarity is under the Western system.” ■