Editorial : A platform for dialogue is worth a try

【明報專訊】THE GOVERNMENT has proposed the creation of a platform for dialogue in the hope of seeking a way out of the current situation with people from different social strata and with different political views. No problem can be solved by violence. In the last analysis, conflicts and disagreements have to be resolved through dialogue. Recently the heads of several universities and people with status have expressed support for the creation of a platform for dialogue and offered to act as go‑betweens. Though last night saw another confrontation between police and citizens at Yuen Long, the road of rational dialogue should not be given up easily.

Last Sunday hundreds of thousands of people took part in a rally organised by the Civil Human Rights Front. The rally was peaceful throughout; no violent clashes happened. Chief executive Carrie Lam expressed hope that that would be "the beginning of the restoration of calm and the renunciation of violence" in society, adding that the government would start building a platform for dialogue immediately. On Saturday Carrie Lam will meet with two dozen people who come from different sectors and "whose hearts are in the right place" in the first preparatory meeting on how to build the platform. Hong Kong's situation remains perilous. After several days of calm, a confrontation happened again between radical protesters and police last night at Yuen Long station on the West Rail Line. It remains to be seen whether the road of "peace, rationality and non‑violence" will re‑dominate the movement. Still there is now a golden opportunity to de‑escalate the situation, which should not be passed up easily.

Carrie Lam stresses that she is sincere about dialogue with different sectors of society. But protesters and the pan‑democrats are sceptical. The Civil Human Rights Front argues that the platform for dialogue will only be a "public relations exercise" and a "trap" and has refused to take part in it. Several pan‑democratic lawmakers have also expressed doubt that it is just the government's delaying tactics. Some protesters have reiterated that they do not want a platform but the government's fulfilment of "the five major demands".

Early this year French president Emmanuel Macron initiated a national debate. In his letter to the French people, he said something very meaningful, "We will not agree on everything, but at least we can prove that the French people will not shy away from frank expression of their minds and exchange of views. Maybe we will find that we can agree on many more things than we thought." Judging from the highly polarised atmosphere in society, it is unlikely that the government and pan‑democrats can sit down for talks at once. However, as soon as a platform comes into existence, more room for communication can be created gradually.

In the national debate initiated by Macron in France, nationals were asked to express their views on four major topics, including taxes, national agencies and public administration. To facilitate discussion, Macron included some specific questions in the open letter, asking the French people what were the taxes they thought should be lowered and how they could have a bigger say in the governance of the country. He also told the French people candidly that some unrealistic expectations, such as lowering taxes without reducing public expenditure, were not things the government could achieve. After three months' intense visits to districts and meetings with local legislators, workers, students, etc., Macron announced a series of tax‑reduction measures. Though not everyone was happy with such responses and the "Yellow Vest" movement did not come to an end completely, it was at least a result of deliberation with the public, and stability has returned to French society to a large extent. The SAR government can take note of the experience of France.

明報社評2019.08.22:盼民憤轉化成出路 對話平台再難也要試







stratum : a class in a society

go-between : a person who takes messages between one person or group and another

delaying tactics : actions that are intended to make something happen more slowly, in order to win an advantage

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