Editorial : Sense of hopelessness among the young must be addressed

【明報專訊】THOUGH the occupation of the Legislative Council by protesters has come to an end, the social divide and political confrontation are actually getting worse rather than better. The fact that hundreds of thousands of people joined the July 1 march shows that there is still a very strong public outcry. It is also a fact that some youngsters are showing the feeling of despair on the social media. All this must be faced squarely by the authorities. The best way to heal the wounds is to officially withdraw the fugitive law amendment proposal and uncover the full picture of the chaos through an independent investigation. The government should also start conversation with the objectors and the young as soon as possible. Hong Kong now needs calm and rationality to de-escalate the tense situation and create the conditions for political dialogues. The government must take concrete action to show that it is willing to change its paternalism and communicate with the people. All parties should also stop using expressions like "martyrs" or "remonstration by means of death" so as not to encourage extreme acts of self‑harm.

The Legco building was left with a scene of devastation after the conflict on July 1. Foreseeably no more council meetings can be held in the coming fortnight. On the one hand, both Chief Executive Lam Cheng Yuet‑ngor and the police condemned the storming and vowed to pursue the matter to the end regarding the unlawful acts. Many voices condemning the violence were also heard in society. On the other hand, the pan‑democratic camp and supporters of the protest criticised the government for not withdrawing the amendment proposal and attributed the public outcry to Lam, saying she was the root cause of all this trouble and should be held responsible for the conflict at Legco.

It was, without doubt, egregious for the government to push ahead with the amendment plan against public opinion. Rather than sticking to the present "suspension" of the amendment and waiting for this "zombie issue" to become abortive when the current Legco term ends next year, the government had better respond to people's concern right now and put a complete end to the issue by announcing an official withdrawal of the amendment. However, even if the government was wrong in the first place, that does not mean any violent acts of resistance can be "rationalised". Protesters who occupied the legislature did show their side of responsibility and rationality in acts like refraining from vandalising library documents and leaving money before taking the soda drinks. But at the same time, it is also a fact that they vandalised the facility through violent means.

Hong Kong is a society underpinned by the rule of law. In no way is violence acceptable. Nevertheless, the government must also face squarely the discontent among the objectors and, particularly, the youngsters. It must understand why some people support the use of violence. Otherwise, it will be difficult to solve the problem at its root. If the government just sticks to its old practice and relies only on consultation regimes like the Commission on Youth, then it can only find "people on its own side". That will not be of much help when the government tries to understand the young and improve its governance.

As the anti‑amendment row unfolds, it is true that some youngsters harbour a strong feeling of political helplessness. They feel that the government has paid no attention to their concerns. Some young people believe firmly that the whole situation has now come to an "endgame" scenario — they will lose everything they have if they do not win now. Some have even come up with the extreme determination of being a "martyr". Some educational psychologists are calling on the youngsters to avoid rationalising extreme acts when sharing news and information on social platforms. Even then, a sense of despair is indeed spreading among some youngsters. It is a phenomenon that the government must face up to. The government must take concrete action so that the young can see hope again.

明報社評2019.07.03:年輕人絕望感須處理 官民坦誠對話覓出路







martyr : a person who suffers very much or is killed because of their beliefs

remonstration : a protest or complaint

egregious : extremely bad

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