Broken windows, broken Hong Kong

Editorial | Mary Ma 13 Nov 2019

Hong Kong has been dogged by scenes of protesters blocking roads, police firing tear-gas canisters - and more recently - live rounds, as well as onlookers jeering at the cops who retaliated by pepper-spraying the public.

After five months of protests, this vicious cycle has been repeating itself more frequently from a weekly basis to nearly every day.

Worse still, besides making feeble appeals for society to join her condemnation, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor doesn't have a clue about how to end a crisis that she started.

It's dreadful that the sickening cycle of violence keeps repeating itself with no solution in sight.

I felt a glimmer of hope yesterday after seeing a group of white-collar workers picking up bricks and rocks strewn on the road following a flash protest in the Central business district. It's plain dangerous to leave the rocks on the road - and perhaps the actions of this group shows the kind of conscience we have been waiting for on both sides of the conflict.

Since the anti-government protests erupted five months ago, violence by police and protesters has virtually become perpetual. Peaceful demonstrations became riots.

Ordinary life has changed drastically, with a gaping hole torn open in society.

In criminology, there is a hypothesis known as "broken window theory." It is based on the observation that, if a window in a building is broken and left unrepaired, it will be taken as a sign that nobody cares after the building and, therefore, it is okay for others to start breaking the rest of the windows. Very soon, they will all be broken.

The theory provides a partial explanation to some anti-social behavior and civil disorder.

If the situation is tolerated and allowed to persist, law and order will start breaking up.

Hong Kong is now smashing its own windows, yet the vast majority of citizens have chosen to tolerate the violence and shut their eyes and ears to the massive wrongdoings committed by radical protesters.

They are waiting for police to tighten discipline so that the force will once again behave like the one they once respected.

The recent incident of a traffic cop ramming his motorbike into a crowd of protesters was just as crazy as a masked man setting another on fire due to different political opinions. Neither act is acceptable.

For the damaged windows to be repaired, the traffic officer ramming into the crowd with his motorbike must be taken to court to face justice after the investigation.

The arsonist setting fire to a rival in Ma On Shan must also feel the full weight of the law.

Lam may continue to scream for condemnation. But she must know condemnation does not repair windows.

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