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Editorial : Leakage of Carrie Lam audio recording

【明報專訊】REUTERS has published a 24‑minute audio recording of Carrie Lam's closed‑door meeting with the business sector last week. Reuters stresses that the dialogue captured in the recording has been verified by three attendees of the meeting. The Office of the Chief Executive and Carrie Lam have not denied its authenticity, only saying that she met with the business sector earlier, and those who attended the meeting knew that they had to adhere to the "non‑disclosure" principle. Lam says she is "extremely disappointed" by the leakage of conversation made on a private occasion, saying that it was "unacceptable".

In the recording, Carrie Lam says that she has caused "unforgivable havoc", and that "if I have a choice, the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology, is to step down". She says that what has caused her the biggest sadness is that she has failed to bring about a political situation in order to relieve the tension. She says that the issue has been elevated "to a national level, to a sort of sovereignty and security level", and that "in the midst of this sort of unprecedented tension between the two big economies in the world", "political room for manoeuvring is very, very, very limited".

As antagonism and scepticism permeate Hong Kong society, all kinds of conspiracy theories have their respective followers. Conjectures abound as to the motives behind those who leaked the recording. Some have suggested that the leakage shows that there is a faction within the pro‑establishment camp that intends to "bring down Carrie Lam". Some have queried whether everything was a "play" arranged and performed by the government itself to defend itself by sending a message to the public that it is powerless to soften its stance. Carrie Lam has categorically denied that the government was behind the leakage. In all fairness, even if the leakage was an elaborate public relations exercise, the government knows very well that no matter what Carrie Lam has said, it will not achieve any public relations aims judging from the public sentiments. Likewise, even if the leakage was intended to drive a wedge between the central government and Carrie Lam, the scheme is unlikely to succeed given the fact that the central government, most concerned about "stopping violence and curbing disorder" at the moment, will definitely throw its weight behind Carrie Lam. Getting entangled in conspiracy theories and conjectures gets us nowhere. It is better to direct our effort to finding a way out.

Recently there has been a view circulating on the mainland that the ongoing turmoil in Hong Kong is a result of many people's acquiescence to violence. If this is the choice of Hong Kong society, the theory goes, then just let Hong Kong degenerate. After all, China can withstand the impact, and it is necessary for the central government to "stick to its guns". Such a view is not so much about waiting for Hong Kong to "rise from the ashes" as about letting Hong Kong languish until the turn of the tide of public opinion. If that happens in Hong Kong, it will be an out‑and‑out apocalypse for the city. While society has to say "no" to violence loud and clear, the central and SAR governments must also prevent Hong Kong from going down this path. The crisis in Hong Kong should be handled through the established mechanism and in the same way as such crises were handled in the past. The formal withdrawal of the amendment bill and an independent investigation are still the most feasible way to address public discontent. If violence persists after the SAR government has done so, the public will know who is right and who is wrong itself. The SAR government might think that the room for political manoeuvre is limited, but it should still try to persuade the central government into approving these two actions to solve the crisis.

明報社評2019.09.04:鬥爭思維逼死香港 林鄭錄音不改大局

路透社公開一段24分鐘錄音,內容涉及上周林鄭與商界一場閉門會晤。路透社強調對話內容獲3名與會者確認,特首辦和林鄭本人也沒有否認,只說早前林鄭曾跟商界會晤,與會者知道要奉行「不引述」原則,林鄭對有人泄露私人場合對話內容「非常失望」,認為「不能接受」。

錄音中,林鄭表示自己引起了「不可原諒的浩劫(havoc)」,「如可選擇,第一件事會辭職下台和深切道歉」,最令她失落沮喪的,是自己無力提供政治環境,解決當前緊張局勢,現時風波已提升至國家、主權和安全層面,尤其正值中美關係前所未有緊張,自己的政治迴旋空間十分有限。

現今香港充滿對立和猜疑,各種陰謀論都有市場,有關錄音外泄的動機揣測,可謂林林總總。有人揣測錄音外泄顯示建制內有人「倒林鄭」;有人質疑外泄是政府「自導自演」,試圖向公眾傳達「想放軟但無能為力」的信息自辯;林鄭則強烈否認是政府「放料」。平情而論,若說錄音外泄是一場精心計算公關騷,可是觀乎民情,相信政府也深知,現在林鄭說什麼也難有公關效果;若說錄音外泄是要離間中央對林鄭信任,可是當前中央最關心的是「止暴制亂」,必然力挺林鄭,不大可能受離間計影響。糾纏於陰謀揣測,到頭來也不會有什麼結論,還不如將精力放在找出路。

近期內地有一種觀點,認為現在香港動盪不息,是很多人默許暴力的結果,如果這就是香港社會的選擇,那就讓香港崩壞下去,國家承受得起,中央在這場鬥爭中必須「企硬」。這種觀點與其說是靜待香港「浴火重生」,不如說是任由香港沉淪,直至民情反彈為止。倘若香港出現這種局面,將是不折不扣的浩劫,社會必須清晰向暴力說「不」,中央和特區政府亦必須避免香港走上這樣的道路。香港的危機,應該根據香港既有機制,以一貫方式處理,正式撤回修例和獨立調查,仍是最有機會疏導民怨的方法,如果特區政府這樣做之後,暴力仍然無法止息,公眾自然會思考誰是誰非。即使特區政府認為現在政治迴旋空間有限,也應設法游說中央,爭取以上述兩招化解危機。

■Glossary

abound : to exist in great numbers or quantities

acquiescence : the fact of being willing to do what sb wants and to accept their opinions, even if you are not sure that they are right

apocalypse : a situation causing very serious damage and destruction

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