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Emergency law 'disastrous,' John Tsang warns


By John Tsang

With the rise in cultural populism and economic hegemony, the world is in a sad state, but the Extradition Bill saga in Hong Kong in the past few months has clearly been a good reminder of a once elitist public administration's complete lack of good sense and sensibility. 

We must admit that Hong Kong has fallen ill, seriously ill. So ill, in fact, that we get the chills and shivers when weekends come around. We would tremble with fear anticipating what if the worst were to descend upon us. 

Riot police arrest a protester during a pro-democracy protest in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. AP Photo

How did we get ourselves into this state of affair? How did we miss all the opportunities along the way to get out of this dilemma? How did we manage to polarise our society to such an extent that we may never recover? 

The situation in Hong Kong today is just like a messy knot. If we want to untie this knot, we cannot continue to use brute force, pulling on both ends, because the knot will only get tighter. We have to be patient and tolerant in carefully sorting out those intertwining sections. 

If we are serious about resolving the situation once and for all, both ends must let go at once and stop pulling. We need time to untie this dead knot. We have to give each other room before we can gradually see the truth and understand the context of this crisis in Hong Kong. 

We all have the right to know the truth and only the truth can put Hong Kong back on track. However, we also need to be prepared to face the truth because the naked truth can be sharp and pointy. It can sting and hurt. It can make us feel uncomfortable. We may even find the truth difficult or even impossible to accept. 

The journey for reconciliation will be a long and winding road, and it would be the ultimate test for us as Hong Kong people. We can continue to blame each other or we can put aside our hatred and re-engage in dialogue. We can push each other further into a dead-end with no way out, or we can all give a little more, forgive each other and then reconcile our differences. 

I understand the government has attempted to make an effort towards reconciliation by setting up a committee last week to discuss how we can bring our community closer to that goal. Once again, this will prove to be another missed opportunity. The set up is totally misconceived, and the composition of only loyal establishment figures with an average age well into the 60s is just the wrong remedy. We are not facing up to the reality in front of us. 

Protesters stand in front of fire during a pro-democracy protest in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. AP Photo

A few days ago, the Chief Executive and a number of her trusted officials and advisors started spinning the possibility of implementing the Emergency Regulations Ordinance (Chapter 241) to bring the current situation under control. This is another misconceived notion that will bring disastrous results to Hong Kong. 

The deployment of this ordinance requires only a decision of the Chief Executive in Council and will confer absolute powers in the Chief Executive in controlling every aspect of life here. 

If this action were intended to bring an end to all the protests, this is not the right tool. 

If this action were intended to help us recover from the unrest in the last couple of months, this is not the right tool. 

If this action were intended to rebuild harmony in our community, this is not the right tool. 

Once again, we are not facing up to reality. We need to return to ground zero, starting with the reasons why all these protests began. This initiative falls squarely with the government. 

We must recognise that we are not living in a situation of war. There are no mortal enemies here. We are all members of the same family. We may have come from different age groups, different occupations, different backgrounds and we may even hold onto different political beliefs, but we are all Hong Kong people, members of the same family living under the same roof. This is the common foundation that ties us. 

On the other hand, if we were to continue differentiating Hong Kong people by their clothing, whether they are black or white, or whether they wear a uniform or not, it would be tantamount to breaking a mirror, leaving the broken glass all over the place, where each piece is so sharp and pointy that people can easily get cut and bleed. 

Since we are members of the same family, we should be able to do the most difficult thing, and that is, to forgive and to reconcile. Pope Francis once said, “Forgiveness not only saves divided families, but also makes society less ruthless and cruel”. 

Forgiveness and reconciliation are not easy. They challenge the extent of our tolerance. They can be painful, but when the pain is gone, the wound begins to heal.

On the flip side, we can continue to live in a cruel and endless cycle of hatred. That may suit some people but we must choose. There are many examples around the world that we can study. Apart from black-and-white, can Hong Kong accept different colours? Is our city a wide spectrum rainbow, or is it just a single coloured rock. In the past few months, many terrible things have happened in Hong Kong that were hurtful and have certainly filled us with indignation. 

In moments like these, we can refer to the wise teachings of Mahatma Gandhi of India. He said that, “With an eye for an eye, the world will only become blind.” 

You may have seen the film “Gandhi”. The ending of the film in particular really moved me. Gandhi went on a hunger strike to the point of near death to protest against and to seek an end to the killings between Hindus and Muslims. Many of the people who were blinded by hatred were so deeply moved by his selfless act that they came to his bedside and dropped their weapons.

A bloody-eyed Hindu man brought Gandhi a piece of bread and asked him to stop the hunger strike, while crying out at the same time that hell should be left to him.

It turned out that the man had killed a Muslim child, hitting his head against a wall. Gandhi asked him why he had done that. He said that his own child was killed by Muslims, and he wanted revenge.

Gandhi kindly comforted him and told him that there was a way for him to avoid going to hell. Gandhi advised him to find a Muslim child whose parents were killed in the turmoil, take him into his home, treat him as his own son, raise him well and make sure he grew up as a Muslim. Forgiveness, reconciliation and love are all high- sounding, superb ideas, but to actually put them into practice is hugely difficult, requiring a great deal of courage.

However, the power of these seemingly trite concepts are so incredible that they are capable of revitalising our city, making this beloved home of ours an even greater place.

The million dollar question is "can we do it?" I truly believe so because this is Hong Kong, and we are Hong Kong people. 

This is the full speech given by John Tsang Chun-wah, former financial secretary and a HKU Adjunct Professor, at the University of Hong Kong’s Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) Programme Orientation Luncheon on August 31. Slight cuts have been made and headline added by CitizenNews.


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