Does Hong Kong have a way out of the jinx?

A COMMUNITY OF mice became terrified when they were told that, in future, a cat would be in charge of their group … to improve security! That is how many in Hong Kong think of the recent developments in the Special Administrative Region. Opinions in news media fear that the National People’s Congress’ endorsement of a new law that introduces national security regulations in Hong Kong could be “the beginning of the end of Hong Kong.” Do the new regulations mean the end of One country, Two systems? The Hong Kong government says it does not.  

The Basic Law, the mini-constitution that governs the city with a “high degree of autonomy,” will now include seven additional articles that would have provisions to punish offenses such as treason, secession, sedition, subversion and foreign interference. Residents worry that this would allow the central government to further encroach upon the territory’s civic freedoms.

A deeply divided Hong Kong society witnessed the most turbulent 12 months in its 23 years’ of history since its return to the motherland from the colonial powers in 1997. Protesters accuse the central government of breaching the promises made in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the safeguards enshrined in the Basic Law. Article 22 of the latter states that “no department of the central government may interfere in Hong Kong affairs.” But the government agencies view the accusations as instigated by external or foreign forces. 

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A city with an estimated 7.49 million residents took to the streets multiple times in protest of “infringement of the ‘high degree of autonomy’” by the central government and demanded democracy—spelled out in Article 45 of the Basic Law. The faceoff between the Hong Kong government and those fighting for democracy took tragic turns with law enforcement agencies using excessive force on agitating protesters while there were instances of protesters resorting to violence and arson. 

In large protest gatherings, even when they are called peaceful, there is something for everyone in the crowd—the majority could be peaceful protesters, but there may also be some who are opportunists looking to take advantage of the situation; people looking for violence and thwarting the noble goals of the protest. Some could even be just onlookers. Hence, not all violence can be attributed to the protestors. Violence is no solution to any conflict, instead it breeds further violence. 

In recent months, the streets have remained apparently peaceful thanks to the lockdown measures due to the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. But the government chose to break the silence by arresting 15 leaders of the democratic camp—the biggest roundup of prominent opposition figures in recent memory for their alleged involvement in the social unrest that raged in the city last year. 

The Catholic Church’s repeated call for restraint and negotiations failed to salvage normalcy. A negotiation is possible only when there is a willingness to give in to gain a greater goal. Let’s recall Jesus’ teachings on dealing with the rulers of this world: “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God” (Mark 12:17), without forgetting Psalm 24:1 which says: “God claims earth and everything in it, God claims world and all who live on it.” 

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Will the protesters be willing to compromise on the “demands” set before the SAR government? Will the government be willing to drop the charges against the protesters and not to label protests as riots? jose

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