Dialogue best way to end HK imbroglio - GulfToday

Dialogue best way to end HK imbroglio

Carrie Lam

Carrie Lam

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has indicated that she had met with a group of young people about the pro-democracy protests gripping the city, and that’s indeed a positive development.

Lam’s attempt to explain the government’s position at the Monday meeting, though it was closed-door and unannounced, sends a signal that dialogue is possible to end the months-long turmoil in the city.

All the more so because a perception prevails that her government has been ignoring the protesters call for action and avoiding negotiations.

Lam had announced last week that she was creating a platform for dialogue and said it would include protesters. However, opposition lawmakers have questioned the sincerity of her initiative, dubbing it a delay tactic.

It is sad that Hong Kong has been wracked by months of protests over an attempt by the Beijing-backed government to pass an extradition bill which opponents see as a huge dent in the city’s autonomy.

It has since morphed into a wider call for greater democratic freedoms.

Beijing has reacted on expected lines by voicing strong dissatisfaction with a joint statement issued by the G7 leaders, who backed Hong Kong’s autonomy and called for calm after months of civil unrest.

An angry Beijing has accused foreign governments of interfering over Hong Kong, and foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang has stated that the G7 is meddling and “harbouring evil intentions”.

With more demonstrations being planned over coming days and weeks, protesters need to take extreme caution and avert any kind of violence. Demonstrators should express their views in a peaceful way.

Authorities have so far refused to meet any of the protesters’ five key demands: withdraw the extradition bill, set up an independent inquiry into the protests and perceived police brutality, stop describing the protests as “rioting”, waive charges against those arrested, and resume political reform.

Although the extradition bill was suspended in mid-June, the protesters want it officially withdrawn.

The government insists that the violence is pushing Hong Kong to the brink of great danger after weekend clashes that included the first gunshot and the arrest of several people, including the youngest at just 12.

The major economic hub was under British control until 1997, when it was handed back to China under the governing principle known as “one country, two systems”.

Adding to the concern is the fact that Hong Kong faces its first recession in a decade, with all its pillars of growth under significant stress. Rating agencies have raised long-term questions over the quality of its governance.

Some Hong Kong tycoons are said to have started to move personal wealth offshore while residents have begun to look for homes elsewhere.

Lam had earlier warned that the international financial hub is facing an economic crisis worse than either the 2003 SARS outbreak that paralysed Hong Kong or the 2008 financial crisis.

The situation this time is more severe, she had remarked, and the “economic recovery will take a very long time.”

Hong Kong’s crucial tourism industry is suffering as tourists are putting off their visits.

The retail sector has also been hit by the drop in arriving visitors hunting for bargains, shops often forced to shutter during the sometimes-daily protests.

Continuing turbulence is not good for Hong Kong. The only best way forward is for the authorities and the people of Hong Kong to engage in a sincere and inclusive dialogue to resolve all issues peacefully.

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