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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

示威者佔領立法會告一段落,社會撕裂政治對立卻有增無減。數以十萬計市民參與七一遊行,反映民情依然沸騰,社交媒體上一些年輕人流露的絕望情緒,亦是真實存在,當局必須正視。正式撤回修例、獨立調查還原修例風暴全貌,是撫平傷口最佳方法,政府亦應盡快與反對者和年輕人對話。當前香港需要冷靜理智,讓緊張局勢降溫,為政治對話創造條件。政府須以實際行動,證明願意改變家長式心態與民溝通,各方亦應停止渲染「死士」、「死諫」等字眼,以免鼓吹極端自殘行為。

經歷「七一」一役,立法會大樓滿目瘡痍,預料未來兩周無法舉行會議。行政長官林鄭月娥和警方均譴責衝擊事件,表示會對違法行為追究到底,社會上亦有不少聲音譴責暴力。泛民和示威支持者則批評政府未撤回修例,林鄭是民怨爆發罪魁禍首,必須為立法會衝突負責。

政府漠視民意硬推修例,肯定大錯特錯,當局與其堅持「暫緩」修例,讓這個「殭屍議題」拖至明年立法會會期結束胎死腹中,不如現在就回應市民訴求,宣布正式撤回,讓修例議題徹底告一段落。然而,即使政府有錯在先,不代表可以把任何暴力抗爭行為「合理化」。示威者佔領立法會後,未有破壞圖書館文獻、放下錢才拿汽水等行為,的確顯示他們負責任和理性的一面,但同時暴力破壞立法會設施也是事實。

香港是法治社會,暴力是絕不能接受的。與此同時,政府亦要正視反對者尤其是年輕人的不滿情緒,了解為何有些人會支持訴諸暴力,否則很難釜底抽薪,解決問題。如果政府只是沿用以往模式,只靠青年事務委員會等諮詢機制,找來找去都是同聲同氣「自己人」,對於了解年輕人和改善施政,不會有太大幫助。

反修例風波發展至今,一些年輕人確有很強的政治無力感,覺得政府未有理會他們的訴求。部分年輕人認定現在就是Endgame終局之戰,打不贏這一場就將失去所有,甚至出現當「死士」的極端明志念頭,有教育心理學家呼籲,年輕人在社交平台分享新聞消息時,應避免把極端行為合理化。不過,絕望感在一些年輕人之間的確有擴散蔓延的迹象,必須正視。政府應採取實質行動,使年輕人看到希望。

■Glossary

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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