A rare American voice worth listening to

Editorial | Mary Ma 3 Oct 2019

Anti-government radicals must pause and ponder whether it's time to change their strategy now that a secondary five schoolboy was almost killed by police gunfire at point-blank range that missed his heart by a mere three inches.

It was down to pure luck that doctors were able to save his life after emergency surgery.

While Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung should have allowed the Independent Police Complaints Council to complete an investigation into whether the shooting was proper rather than leapt to the conclusion it was absolutely justified, one fears more shootings may be inevitable as the vicious circle of violence perpetuated by police crackdowns and protesters' responses gathers ever dizzying momentum.

The gunshot in the above case and warning shots fired in Tsuen Wan and elsewhere on Tuesday were isolated incidents. The force as a whole has shown a welcome reluctance to use its potentially deadly firepower, knowing the repercussions otherwise would be intolerable.

As violence escalated in the SAR on the 70th birthday of the People's Republic, former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Richard Bush, who was born and schooled in Hong Kong for the best part of his years as a teen, and made a point on the sidelines of a forum in Washington that radical protesters should do well to heed.

He said the best thing the radicals could have done was to declare victory and go home.

They should have done so after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor gave in to one of the protesters' five demands early last month - formally withdrawing the extremely unpopular fugitive amendment bill that was the initial impetus for their activism over the past four months.

Bush, now a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution, said the communist government in Beijing is very strong and has the power to intervene in Hong Kong's administration should it deem that necessary.

If a revolution were ever to be staged in the SAR that upset the balance of Beijing's power here, Bush said, he could not imagine such a scenario standing much of a chance of lasting.

About a week after Lam announced the decision to formally withdraw the bill from the Legislative Council, the former top American representative in Taiwan wrote a commentary that said radical protesters should consider Hong Kong's overall interests and show a willingness to compromise.

Clearly, the significance of his appeal was not adequately reported at the time. I fear that my appeal for peace at this time of high tensions will also be ignored. Nonetheless, it's important to let Bush's voice be heard - especially when the situation has gotten so dangerous, as Tuesday's events proved.

Bush expressed concern that the radicals did not understand the powers wielded by the Chinese government, while hardliners would like to turn the precarious situation in the SAR into a new round of power struggle in Beijing.

Bush is not only a long-time China watcher but has also been involved in formulating Washington's policy on China.

So, the opposition should heed his warning when he tells them not to pin too much hope on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act that is currently winding its way through the US Congress. It could be misguided to expect the bill to totally rewrite America's policy on China.

Step back and think. Stop risking your life.

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