Victim between a rock and a hard place

Editorial | Mary Ma 19 Jul 2019

Sun Hung Kai Properties' New Town Plaza shopping center was obviously a victim, and it's grossly unfair to hold the owner responsible for the police crackdown on fleeing protesters that left dozens injured - some seriously - and scores arrested.

If you were one of the mall's staff members at the time, what could you have possibly done if police armed with shields and truncheons marched in to corner the protesters? Absolutely nothing.

Strictly speaking, the shopping center, its tenants and customers were all victims of the violence that broke out inside the Sha Tin mall on Sunday.

I found SHKP's subsequent responses strange - first offering an apology, then expressing regret over the situation. It's absolutely weird to hear a victim saying sorry for the wrongdoings of others. SHKP is caught between a rock and a hard place.

There's a lot of talk about the worsening business environment these days. What happened on Sunday evening and the week before were vivid examples of how commerce in Hong Kong has been changing for the worse.

Peaceful demonstrations against the extradition bill or for more democracy shouldn't muddle normal business activities. When it begins to create an enemy out of a victim, as in the case at New Town Plaza, it scares the business world. Will Pacific Place in Admiralty, or Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui be the next victims?

Supporters of the demonstrations against the extradition bill have to be able to discern between right and wrong. What's the point of crowding around New Town Plaza's customer service counter day after day to scare the employees who are already terrified, or warn SHKP and its business peers to take sides in the ongoing political conflicts?

If the netizens have to accuse someone, they should blame the police department for making a silly judgment to order its frontline officers to storm into a shopping center that was still full of customers to create such a panic.

However, they can't say the force didn't have the authority to do so, for it's given wide-ranging emergency powers.

Crowding to frighten the customer service staff was the most stupid act possible. As I've said before, a few agitators with an ulterior motive would be enough to create trouble, to undermine the peaceful cause and pave way for police crackdowns.

While the business community shouldn't be placed under pressure to take sides in the current conflicts, it's also necessary to stop spreading hatred, as the violence after each peaceful demonstration in recent weeks threatens to transform the protests into a hate campaign.

In the New Town Plaza drama, an officer lost a finger, but later had it reattached. What worries me most is, if violence intensifies, somebody - be it a protester or officer - may be killed, and the situation would escalate drastically with one side or the other being labelled the "murderer."

Violence, followed by police crackdown, or vice versa, would become extremely brutal.

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