Continuing turmoil not good for Hong Kong - GulfToday

Continuing turmoil not good for Hong Kong


The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Chaotic scenes continue to prevail in Hong Kong as the Asian financial hub witnessed its 15th consecutive weekend of unrest on Sunday and this raises a key question on when will it all end.

With Hong Kong police firing water cannon and volleys of tear gas to disperse protesters throwing petrol bombs at government buildings, the demonstrations seem to show no sign of letting up.

The movement that began over opposition to a bill allowing extradition to mainland China has morphed into a broader bid to reverse a slide of democratic freedoms.

The controversial bill that sparked the unrest has been withdrawn, but protesters have now widened their demands to include direct elections for the city’s leaders and police accountability.

It is sad that the rally on Sunday descended into violence when small groups of hardcore activists — known within the movement as “braves” — attacked the city’s main government complex.

Whatever the backdrop of the agitation, the protesters should see to it that violence is not adopted as a means. The security officials need to exert maximum restraint.

The social turmoil is also having a deep impact on the economic front.

Hong Kong is facing its first recession in a decade, with all its pillars of growth under significant stress.

The continuing turbulence has battered Hong Kong’s economy, which is already reeling from the US-China trade war.

China denies meddling and insists the city is an internal Chinese issue. It has accused foreign powers, particularly the United States and Britain, of fomenting the unrest and wants them “to mind their own business.”

Britain argues it has a legal responsibility to ensure China abides by the 1984 declaration.

It may be recalled that Hong Kong island was granted to Britain “in perpetuity” in 1842 at the end of the First Opium War. Kowloon, a peninsula on the mainland opposite Hong Kong island, joined later, after the Second Opium War.

The colony was expanded to include the New Territories, to the north of Kowloon, on a 99-year lease, in 1898.

Shops in key protest areas had to once again shutter early as the demonstrations continued to take a toll on business.

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

The Airport Authority has stated that passenger numbers fell 12.4% year-on-year in August to six million.

Protesters had last month jammed the airport arrivals hall, leading to cancelled or delayed flights as they sought to draw world attention to their fight for democracy.

The endless turmoil means the economic recovery will take a very long time.

The pro-democracy movement has vowed to continue until key demands are met, including an inquiry into the police, an amnesty for those arrested, and universal suffrage. City leader Carrie Lam and Beijing have shown little appetite for making more concessions.

The fact that the movement is leaderless makes it difficult for Lam to know who to negotiate with.

Compounding the worries, online message boards have filled with plans for new rallies and strikes in the coming weeks, fuelled by two key anniversaries.

Sept.28 is the fifth anniversary of the start of the failed pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protests, while Oct.1 is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Continuing turbulence is not good for Hong Kong. A frank and inclusive dialogue to resolve all issues peacefully by all sides concerned is the best forward.

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