Clearing a path to greener pastures

Editorial | Mary Ma 21 Nov 2019

After the People's Liberation Army's soft stunt in picking up bricks and debris barricading roads, some public figures joined the pro-establishment camp's drive to clean streets littered with rubble in the runup to the District Council elections.

How far will the charm offensive swing Sunday's vote?

It is a big question surrounded by uncertainty. Nevertheless, it signals that the pendulum of sentiments may have started swinging back as anti-government protests stretch to the middle of the sixth month.

Discontent is growing in some sectors that used to be sympathetic to the protesters.

It's viral in well-heeled circles that a man lending a helping hand in the Central business district was tycoon Peter Woo Kwong-ching's son, Douglas. Few would have expected to see the second generation of Hong Kong's super-rich doing a cleaner's job.

Some may fondly recall a TV public affairs program from some years ago in which legislator Michael Tien Puk-sun, founder of fashion chain G2000, spent several days collecting rubbish. It was such a rare sight to see young tycoons getting their hands dirty.

It may be sarcastic to say, but even the super-rich are feeling the pressure of these turbulent days. They have to be spotted to be carrying out good causes.

Following the raging battle at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, life was largely returning to some sort of normality yesterday despite reports of minor disruptions to MTR services.

Meanwhile, there is no doubt the public has had enough of the toxic tear gas after more than 10,000 rounds have rained down on the city during the violent unrest.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee should address the public over whether or not their concerns are justified about possible health hazards due to toxic chemicals released by tear gas in densely populated districts like Mong Kok and Causeway Bay.

Better still, any verbal assurance on public health should be backed by evidence. And if Chan concludes otherwise, she must provide cures.

On a different note, it was stunning to learn that, of the 1,000-plus holed up at PolyU at the height of the violence, about a third were minors aged under 18.

As I commented yesterday, there is a growing consensus in society to treat them with mercy as compassion and forgiveness are essential to sustaining peace.

Electoral Affairs Commission chairman Barnabas Fung Wah said earlier that his commission was committed to conducting the District Council election on Sunday.

He added that, if the poll in a constituency has to be suspended in the middle of the vote, it will resume in the constituency the following Sunday.

How this will be done will depend on how the situation actually unfolds on November 24.

In a similar vein, Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Secretary Patrick Nip Tak-kuen has set three conditions under which the vote may be called off - violence, public transport disruption and attacks on polling stations.

It will be a very dangerous decision to cancel the vote and I hope it will not have to be made.

As the pendulum starts swinging back, the likeliness is that the situation will stabilize and, most importantly, the election will be held as planned.

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