Dialogue rather than violence is the solution to impasse

Updated: 2019-12-02 08:11

By Mark Pinkstone(HK Edition)

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The tragic death of student Alex Chow Tsz-lok and 70-year-old cleaner Uncle Luo is a solemn reminder of the inevitable tragic consequences of civil unrest when carried too far, with uncontrollable rioters taking to the streets, causing unwarranted mass destruction to both public and private property, and requiring an equally forceful police action to stop it.

The death of both was unnecessary. After five months of continual rioting, with a strained police force and fire services trying to contain arson and wanton vandalism, they have been the first two deaths. Fortunately, casualties so far appear low in spite of the ferocity and relentlessness of the misguided rioters. Giving credit where credit is due, it reflects on the extraordinary restraint of "Asia's Finest" - the Hong Kong Police Force.

The students, of course, were the first to call foul and blame the police for Chow's death. All allegations have been denied by the police and the ambulance services. Yet overseas websites, such as Hong Kong Watch, continue to push the rumors and false news in an attempt to add fuel to the riots. They also stoke up contempt for authority, and accuse the authorities of massive cover-ups, including numerous murders. Nothing could be further from the truth. How can this be when authorities are under severe scrutiny by aggressive omnipresent local and foreign journalists, legislators and the public? Common sense no longer prevails.

Dialogue rather than violence is the solution to impasse

Everyone is demanding answers. They are, naturally, upset that one of their colleagues has died under unusual circumstances. But they must be patient and not rush into blame mode. The secretary for justice, or any material person, may ask for a coroner's inquiry into the cause of Chow's death. Such an inquiry generally has a five-member jury that seeks and examines all evidence relating to the death. Evidence may be given by fellow students, police and ambulance officers, and any witnesses to the incident. At the end of the hearing, the jury or coroner will deliver a verdict into the cause of death. In other words, it is up to the Coroner's Court to decide on the cause of death. Nobody else has the right to do so. Anyone trying to explain the "cause" of Chow's death should be sure of their "facts" before they speak out. Otherwise, they may be subpoenaed to appear before the court to substantiate their claims.

Some radicals have tried to hold up Chow as a martyr for their cause. But Chow, with all due respect to his family, is not a martyr. He was merely running away from the tear gas as captured by some closed-circuit television cameras. Numerous video online footage shows the police at ground level when objects were being thrown at them from the parking garage. The police retaliated by firing tear gas to the mobs on the upper floors of the garage. What happened after that is for the courts to decide.

The tragic deaths of Chow and Luo highlight the terrible consequences as well as the intense turmoil those riots have reached. In October alone, there were 80 arson cases and 752 criminal-damage cases. The intensity of violence escalated till the week ahead of the Nov 24 District Council election. So far, during the past nearly six months, about 4,500 people have been arrested for protest- or rioting-related offenses. The question on everybody's lips is, "Will the riots stop for good?" And one of the answers comes from former High Court judge Henry Litton, who suggested on TVB's Straight Talk program that they will "when the money runs out." Litton believes the protesters were being "heavily paid," because otherwise, how could they sustain themselves?

As Litton noted, those rioters were not ordinary criminals who run away from their crime; those criminals confronted the police, they caused confrontation, and what they have done are criminal acts.

To the relief of Hong Kong people, violence stopped ahead of the sixth-term District Council elections, and the city has remained calm so far. It is hoped that a lull in violence over the past week will translate into permanent calm and peace for the sake of Hong Kong. After all, dialogue is the only solution to the city's current political impasse; continual violence would lead the city nowhere but into an abyss of chaos and destruction, as we have witnessed over the past six months.

(HK Edition 12/02/2019 page8)