Posted by broussymark 16 days ago
Years of pent-up fury over the corrosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy, the rigging of the political system, and widening inequality, finally erupted. The extradition bill, which would allow the government to detain and transfer people to mainland China, sparked the eruption, but it was the last straw, not the root cause.

While there are fringe radicals who engaged in acts of violence confronting the police and disrupting the public, the millions and millions of protesters from all walks of life, young and old, different occupations and even civil servants who work in the government bureaucracy demonstrated and marched peacefully. Yet the Hong Kong government merely focuses on these fringe groups and denounces protesters as “radicals” and “rioters,” intellectually lazy labels that do nothing to fathom the desperation driving the vast majority of peaceful protesters. And Chief Executive Carrie Lam focuses myopically on crime and punishment without responding to the demands of the vast majority, reducing a political crisis into one of law enforcement. Her abject failure of leadership is forcing the police into the frontlines of a political conflict that needs a political resolution only Mrs Lam and her bosses in Beijing can provide.

Some of the protesters are students or recent graduates of local universities. They are likely to end up in jail, thus denigrated for recklessly ruining their future. But that is the crux of it:

Many young people feel they have no future. They see the economy controlled by a cartel of tycoons in collusion with the government. They have little hope of owning a home. The median monthly salary of the population aged 25-34 is HK$18,300 (US$2,346), barely enough to rent a 500 sq ft (46 sq meters ) apartment in the world’s costliest housing market, with nothing left over. So most young people remain in their cramped parental home or rent cubicles smaller than a parking space. The majority don’t have wealthy parents or ideological affinity with the motherland. They see the hypocrisy of the pro-Beijing establishment. Government officials urge them to go study and work on the mainland, while sending their own offspring to the West. Affluent owners of second passports and second homes in Western democracies tell them to be patriotic and accept creeping authoritarianism.

Worse, they see no chance of change for the better. With no universal suffrage, the chief executive is not accountable to the citizens of Hong Kong. She answers to the Chinese Communist Party leaders who anointed her; her constituents are the 1,200 hand-picked CCP loyalists who “elected” her. The legislature is structured in favour of special interests and parties subservient to Beijing, with only half the seats filled by direct elections. The government disqualified several directly elected young opposition legislators who could have represented the younger generation. Young dissenters, indeed dissenters of any age, are left with no avenue of political expression but the streets. The peaceful “Occupy Central” street sit-in of 2014, after Beijing reneged on a promise of political reform, yielded only jail terms for its leaders.

Meanwhile, the legislature rubber-stamps colossal and unnecessary infrastructure schemes like the HK$1 trillion (US$128 billion ) Lantau reclamation project, which will transfer Hong Kong’s fiscal reserves to mainland companies bound to secure most of the construction contracts. Youngsters understand opportunity cost: That money won’t be spent to improve housing and healthcare for Hong Kong people, who wait on average 5.5 years to be allocated public housing and two years to see a specialist at public hospitals (though not senior civil servants who are entitled to chauffeur-driven cars, housing benefits and priority at hospitals).

Far from hope for the better, they’ve seen only change for the worse: five local booksellers abducted to the mainland in 2016, Beijing’s jurisdiction extended to the express rail terminus last year, a Financial Times journalist expelled, a pro-independence party banned, foreigners critical of China denied entry, disrespect for the national anthem to be criminalised, and now protesters and bystanders beaten up while the police look away—things we once thought only happened across the border. They are dismayed to see the chief executive voice more concern over superficial damage to Beijing’s liaison office by protesters, than serious injuries to innocent people inflicted by thugs backed by a pro-Beijing legislator.

Other aspects of mainlandisation continue apace. Daily, up to 150 mainlanders immigrate to Hong Kong, burdening already-overstretched public services. The influx of 50 million Chinese tourists a year have turned residential neighbourhoods into raucous shopping hotspots, pushing out shops that had served residents’ needs.

These changes have impacted all Hongkongers to some extent. But it is our young people who have the courage of their convictions, risking their future to defend the values that define the Hong Kong they love, its cherished freedoms, unique identity and distinct culture.

With communist China expressing unwavering support of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam and its emphatic emphasis on using the police to forcefully maintain law and order, Hong Kong effectively ceases to have a government. She has been hiding from the public and is but an irrelevant figurehead leaving the police as the public face of the government. Her approval rating now sits at 23 per cent, with a disapproval rating of 67 per cent – it gives Lam a net approval rating of negative 44 per cent, representing a 20 per cent decline. Both her popularity rating and net popularity mark a new low compared with all former Chief Executives since the question was first asked about the Hong Kong governor in 1992.

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