Continuous unrest not good for Hong Kong - GulfToday

Continuous unrest not good for Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Students and young people have been at the forefront of the hundreds of thousands who have taken to the streets.

Even as Hong Kong continues to grapple with its worst political crisis, the first student death in months of demonstrations is a distressing development and all sides should see to it that the graduation day death does not trigger a fresh wave of violence.

The unfortunate death of Chow Tsz-lok, who studied at the University of Science and Technology and fell from the third to the second floor of a parking lot when protesters were being dispersed, may fuel anger at police, who are already under pressure over accusations of excessive force.

Students and young people have been at the forefront of the hundreds of thousands who have taken to the streets since June to seek greater democracy, among other demands, and rally against perceived Chinese meddling in the Asian financial hub.

There have been only few fatalities amid the unrest, with previous reports of deaths by suicide and a man who fell to his death while hanging pro-democracy banners on a building.

Last month, two teens were injured after police fired their guns in self-defence in separate incidents but both recovered.

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.

The protests, ignited by a now-scrapped extradition bill allowing people to be sent to mainland China for trial, have evolved into wider calls for democracy, posing one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took charge in 2012.

While prominent youth activist Joshua Wong says Chow’s death made protesters’ demands for an investigation into police conduct more crucial than ever, the government has expressed “great sorrow and regret” over Chow’s death despite undergoing surgery and treatment.

“The police have stated earlier that they attach great importance to the incident and the crime unit is now conducting a comprehensive investigation with a view to finding out what happened,” it said in a statement.

The city’s embattled leader Carrie Lam has refused to budge and provoked more anger last month by invoking emergency powers to ban the wearing of facial coverings at rallies.

More than 3,300 people have been arrested and Beijing has indicated it may tighten its grip to quell the unrest.

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.

China governs Hong Kong under a special “one country, two systems” framework that is meant to give the city more freedoms and liberties than on the mainland. But public anger has been building for years over a belief that Beijing is eroding those freedoms.

The unrest has already pushed Hong Kong’s economy into recession for the first time in a decade. Retail and tourism sectors have been hit particularly hard as tourists stay away.

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

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.