Editorial﹕Government should heed Andrew Li's advice

【明報專訊】AT the reception for the anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, chief executive Carrie Lam said that she would not only undertake a review of herself but also start afresh to continue serving the public. More than a week has passed, but we cannot see what strategy the government has formulated to reconnect with society. All we have seen is that protesters are launching even more campaigns on the strength of their success, with protests spilling over into all districts.

 The Honourable Andrew Li Kwok-nang, the first chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal, has always stayed away from politics. But in a break with his usual practice he has written for this newspaper. In the article Li, in a rare move, criticises the government for making "a serious error of political judgement". Talking about the protests, he says that "the commitment of Hong Kong people shown by their peaceful and orderly marches was impressive", but he also says that "unlawful and violent behaviour must be strongly condemned by all". He argues that "the scenes in the storming of the Legislative Council were ugly and shocking. Under the rule of law, this cannot be tolerated. The law was willfully disobeyed. Those responsible must be brought to justice. If convicted after a fair trial, the courts should consider deterrent sentences". No one would challenge Andrew Li's recognition of and insistence on the rule of law. His comments on the unlawful and violent behaviour associated with the protests against the amendment are succinct. They give food for thought to those overzealous protesters.

 Andrew Li does not just condemn unlawful and violent behaviour. In his article he makes suggestions more than he criticises. He expresses hopes that the chief executive, as a leader, will encourage more extensive debate within the government before making important decisions. He says that the CE is accountable to the central government and the HKSAR. He believes that the CE "must speak up more for Hong Kong people and should be seen to be doing so". He says that all holders of public office "must always remember that they are not exercising parental authority over citizens. They are servants of the people and should serve with humility. They are subject to scrutiny in the court of public opinion". These three observations are exactly right when it comes to what the government has done wrong in the controversy over the amendment. Li points out that the inner circle of the government has made a wrong decision, the CE must speak up more for Hong Kong people and holders of public office must put aside their paternalism. Apart from being critical, Li also projects positivity and expresses hopes that the administration of Carrie Lam can serve Hong Kong better.

 Li argues that the amendment bill should be withdrawn, saying that it is not necessary to wait for the bill to lapse when the term of the current Legco expires next year. He believes that the withdrawal of the bill would assist in the process of reconciliation. Looking at the issue from the perspective of political reality, the government's insistence on not withdrawing the bill has, in effect, been fueling the opposition. Protests have mushroomed in all districts by virtue of this insistence. Li says that the withdrawal of the bill would assist in the process of reconciliation, meaning that it has a deeper positive effect. We plead with the government to stop being stubborn or foolish. It should bury a zombie issue decisively by withdrawing the bill.

 Andrew Li suggests the withdrawal of the amendment bill and the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the incident, arguing that they will facilitate reconciliation. The government is in such a position that it does not seem to have any clues what to do to "reconnect" with society. Li's two suggestions might be the key to resolving the government's dilemma.

明報社評 2019.07.09﹕撤回修例獨立調查 政府破局兩把鑰匙







afresh﹕again, especially from the beginning or with new ideas

succinct﹕expressed clearly and in a few words

positivity﹕the practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude

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