【明報專訊】THE Cross-Harbour Tunnel (XHT) finally reopened in the early morning (November 27). It was closed for nearly two weeks owing to violent vandalism. One does not realise how valuable a thing is until one loses it. The XHT's closure made citizens' daily traffic and logistics very inconvenient. Its facilities were heavily damaged. Thanks to frontline workers' effort to carry out emergency repairs, its operation resumed earlier than expected.
In mid-November, some netizens called for "three strikes" (a walkout, a class boycott and a boycott by businesses). However, society gave little heed to their call. Some black-clad people then blocked roads by violent means so as to cripple traffic, and thereby to prevent others from going to work or school. Major blockades were set up at Tolo Highway and the XHT, and the CUHK and PolyU were turned into radicals' bridgeheads one after the other. Some black-clad people on the flyover adjacent to PolyU threw objects onto the road. They blocked the XHT's Kowloon entrance and exit, hurling petrol bombs multiple times at its facilities like toll booths. Road facilities nearby suffered serious damage. Control systems inside the administration building, which have to do with the XHT's fire control and ventilation, were wantonly destroyed. All this was too apalling to behold.
Of the three vehicular harbour crossings in the city, the XHT is the busiest. It has a daily traffic of about 114,000 vehicles, accounting for 40% of the total cross-harbour traffic. Hong Kong has limited road space but a large number of vehicles. True, traffic jams at the XHT were common, which occasions much grumbling. But the situation was much worse without the use of the tunnel. The breaking of the trinity of the three harbour crossings caused a domino effect on road traffic on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon. During peak hours, there was serious congestion in the Eastern Harbour Crossing. Tailbacks even stretched along the Kwun Tong Bypass to Lung Cheung Road in Wong Tai Sin, with their back flows reaching Tate's Cairn Tunnel, 7 km from the XHT. To disperse citizens affected by the closure, the authorities had to provide ad hoc free ferry services between Wan Chai and Hung Hom and between Wan Chai and Kowloon City. The routes were closed many years ago owing to low volumes of passengers, but they were "momentarily resurrected". That evidences how the city was forced to put the clock back.
Destroying transport infrastructure wantonly so as to paralyse society does not help achieve one's political demands. That only deprives others of their freedoms and rights and makes their daily life harder.
Over the past few days, Hong Kong's urban areas saw relative calm and peace. The tunnel's reopening is symbolic. It shows that violent rampage has subsided after it hit its peak in mid-November and that society's normal operations have gradually resumed. Is the peaceful situation just a flash in the pan like what happened in late August? We are afraid that this is a question that many citizens would hesitate a lot to answer.
It is easier to destroy than to construct. Although Hong Kong faces quite a lot of problems, there are many things that deserve to be cherished. Hongkongers have enjoyed a long period of ease. Many take for granted the conveniences they have and what is around them. Seldom do they consider what will become of them if they lose all those things. Let us hope that the impact of the two-week tunnel closure caused by violent vandalism will remind more people to cherish what they have at hand and not to talk rashly about "burning together".
behold : see
a flash in the pan : a sudden success that lasts only a short time and is not likely to be repeated
ease : the state of feeling relaxed or comfortable without worries, problems or pain