Fizzling feeling in the air

Editorial | Mary Ma 9 Aug 2019

It was ironic for a few hundred star watchers to choose Tsim Sha Tsui to gaze at the stars. With the sky flooded with neon lights, the district couldn't be an ideal location for the past-time.

The crowd was there to emphasize a point - that police were wrong to equate laser pointers to laser guns. They were protesting the arrest of a 20-year-old student leader, who was picked up by a few off-duty officers just for purchasing 10 such laser pointers in Sham Shui Po.

Nonetheless, it was an improvement from recent events, as the participants left peacefully after the gathering.

While police were present, their now famous "Raptor" squads weren't dispatched to chase the stargazers away with batons, tear gas and rubber bullets.

As for the laser pointers in dispute, it's all about the proper course of justice. If police are so convinced they made no mistake in the case, they should be allowed to take the matter to court for a proper hearing, for it's only fair to do so.

Meanwhile, if the opposition maintains a trust in the independence of our judiciary, they should do their utmost to help the Baptist University student clear his name in court, which is the proper venue for the case.

Bear in mind what Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li said during a senior counsel admission ceremony in June. His speech was about the legal profession's commitment to an independent judiciary of laws that respect human dignity.

Yesterday, it was no less encouraging to learn anti-government demonstrators called off a "visit" to Harbour City shopping center in Tsim Sha Tsui, although the cancellation was said in the pretext the mall landlord had put up a public notice telling police to stay away.

The chaotic scenes in July at New Town Plaza in Sha Tin were just brutal warnings of what could occur if protesters and police were to clash inside Harbour City, the SAR's largest shopping mall.

Netizens might have called off the plan because the landlord had posted a notice asking police not to enter the place. Yet, it's equally probable they spared the mall because there would be too little to incite following its snub of Hong Kong's finest. These were some of the observations I came across on social media. But I suspect there may be other probable reasons.

After two months of protests and riots, the appeal of the movement may have started to wane, with the energy therein showing signs of fizzling. While it's still too early to say for certain, that's a possibility.

Of course, it can't be ruled out either that the increased level of force used by the police, and ongoing round-ups of protesters in large numbers may also have something to do with the development.

However, what I can say for sure is that some Beijing supporters did Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor a terrible disservice yesterday, as they called for the extradition bill to be resurrected and passed by the Legislative Council - at a time when the government is struggling to put out the fire ignited by the bill in the first place.

Are the flames receding or will they be rekindled? We should have a better idea after this weekend, during which protesters will be greeting arrivals at the airport.

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