By Alex Ho
As I watched Chief Executive Carrie Lam announce that the controversial extraction law bill was to be postponed, I was angry and disappointed.
The Chief Executive did not apologise for the complete chaos she has created. So many people in Hong Kong and abroad have had to expend such great efforts and time to fight her initial foolishness and then repeated stubbornness. A sincere apology would have been the least she could have offered.
Not only did the Chief Executive refuse to acknowledge that there was excessive and/or unprovoked use of force by the police on Wednesday when repeatedly asked about this, she (1) actually endorsed the police operation (including their brutality) (2) put the blame for all the police’s conduct on the protestors (when much reprehensible conduct was wholly unprovoked) and (3) said the characterisation of there having been an excessive use of force by the police was defamatory. For me, this was the most unacceptable part of her remarks.
Many of the matters she raises now in her explanation of what has happened were either wholly ignored or vehemently denied by her and her officials previously.
For example, Taiwan mentioned right from the start that it would not seek any extradition under the ill-fated bill, and opponents thereof therefore also said right from the start that there was, therefore, no urgency and greater consultation should be undertaken. This was roundly ignored by the government. It is therefore particularly shameless for her to now invoke this as a reason for suspending the bill, and to now say there should be a wholesale consultation.
Another example: the Hong Kong Bar Association and the Hong Kong Law Society previously gave a number of alternatives that would have dealt with the Taiwan murder case and not involved extraditing Hong Kong individuals to the mainland. These were slapped down repeatedly by her administration. It is deeply ironic that she now says these should be studied.
There was no explanation during the press conference as to why all these matters were now suddenly relevant in her eyes.
In effect, what the Chief Executive said was that the escalation on Wednesday leading to violence was what caused her to reconsider her position. This is, of course, is inconsistent with her insistence on Sunday night following the march of over a million people that the bill would continue to proceed. The message that therefore comes across is that peaceful protests (even if very large scale) can be wholly ignored, but violent ones actually give her pause. This only encourages violence, it is also is irresponsible, plus it makes her pledge at the press conference to listen to people who express their views peacefully wholly empty. Furthermore, it smacks of irony, given her simultaneous condemnation of the same violence.
The Chief Executive repeatedly thanked pro-establishment legislators and her allies for suggesting the bill’s suspension. What about the millions here and abroad that worked so hard to persuade her and her administration that the bill was a bad idea? Did their voices not matter? Why were they not acknowledged?
Again, this shows that the promise to listen to all on the bill is all words and nothing more.
Alex Ho is a barrister and a Member of the Progressive Lawyers Group.
Kong Tsung-gan‘s new collection of essays – narrative, journalistic, documentary, analytical, polemical, and philosophical – trace the fast-paced, often bewildering developments in Hong Kong since the 2014 Umbrella Movement. As Long As There Is Resistance, There Is Hope is available exclusively through HKFP with a min. HK$200 donation. Thanks to the kindness of the author, 100 per cent of your payment will go to HKFP’s critical 2019 #PressForFreedom Funding Drive.