By Chris Yeung —
Imbued with Beijing-refilled confidence, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has vowed to relaunch Hong Kong following months of socio-political turmoil, in which she has played an inglorious role, precipitated by an uproar over an extradition bill she put forward last year.
In the closing paragraph of her 2020 Policy Address delivered on November 25, she said: “the Government will double its efforts to put the epidemic under control, revive the economy, restore social order, rebuild Hong Kong’s international reputation and people’s confidence in the Government, with a view to relaunching Hong Kong.”
The Chinese version of the “wait-for-Beijing” speech carried an eight-word Chinese title, which can be literally translated as “Striving ahead with renewed perseverance; Hong Kong restarts.”
Few dispute with the to-do list of tasks laid down by Mrs Lam in her closing note. The question is how to get it done.
With no sign of an easing, not to mention an end, of the double crises, namely the social movement ignited by the anti-extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic, talk of a restart of Hong Kong is mere slogan.
Though an unfortunate coincidence, the swift worsening of the fourth epidemic attack at about the time after she delivered her speech makes a mockery of her vow of containing the outbreak.
Any talk of revitalising the economy is empty talk if the city and the world are under the threat of Covid-19.
The socio-political scene is relatively calm, but just on the face of it. Five months after the implementation of the Hong Kong national security law, the central government leaders and Mrs Lam have claimed early success in restoring social order, to an extent. Yes and no.
Yes, there is no denying the law has a chilling effect on the populace for obvious reasons. Together with the social distancing ban for gathering of people (now capped at two) in public places, public rallies and demonstrations have been virtually banned in the city.
But no, public anger over the handling of the protest by the Government and, more importantly, the Police, has not been properly dealt with by the Lam administration.
The anti-government feeling remains prevalent across different segments of the society. A spate of highly-provocative acts by the Government has added more oil to fire.
First, the 2020 Legislative Council election, originally scheduled for September 6, has been postponed to September 2021. No date has been fixed.
It was followed by the enactment of a law on declaration of oath by lawmakers by the National People Congress Standing Committee, which led to the ousting of four pro-democracy legislators and subsequently the resignation of the rest, except two, from the legislature.
For the first time since the provisional legislature, which was composed of Beijing appointees, was dissolved in 1998, the voice of the democratic camp vanished in Legco.
Mrs Lam is expected to enact a local legislation on the NPC Standing Committee decision on oath-taking. All signs are that the scope of it will be widened to cover district council members, perhaps among others.
The legislation on oath-taking has virtually become a lethal political weapon to kick out democrats even before they become a formal candidate in elections, raising serious questions about the meaning of joining the fray for seats in legislature and district councils.
Both the Democratic Party and the Civic Party have said they need a rethink of the fundamental question of running for elections.
It is simply unthinkable if the mainstream opposition force opts out of the legislature and fights for their cause in streets. Hopes for a return to peace and order in society will be mere pipe dreams if people can only take to the streets to vent out their dissenting voices.
Public trust in the Government will slip further. So will Hong Kong as a whole be on a slippery slope.
Admittedly, the public did not hold out high hopes, if any, towards Mrs Lam’s speech before it was announced.
If hopes have been further dashed, it is because of Mrs Lam’s self-proclaimed return to her “old self” after recovering from the trauma of her own making last year. She is adamant she has done nothing wrong in the extradition bill, nor any harm to the society.
And with an abundance of confidence, she has pledged to devote every minute to work for Hong Kong.
Her political restart could hardly be a source of hope, but a recipe for more damages to a lot of Hongkongers.
This article was first published in Apple Daily website on December 2.