Yet another government town hall session has been marred by disorderly protests. In their usual disruptive tactics, the radical activists hurled objects at Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying when he was about to address the crowd in North Point on Saturday. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who accompanied Leung on the stage, was hit on the head by an egg. The theatrics go beyond peaceful expression of opinion within the law and deserve public condemnation.
Like some politicians in the West, the finance chief laughed it off with a good sense of humour. He said his doctor had advised him not to eat too many eggs and that luckily he wasn't wearing a nice suit. Leung's response was more stern. He condemned the activists and vowed to pursue legal liability.
The tight security at another session the following day is to be expected. To avoid similar incidents, the police searched all attendants' belongings beforehand and took away suspicious objects. The buffer zone at the event, in Tai Kok Tsui, was also enlarged and more officers were deployed. While the measures saved officials from further attack, they could also be seen as a nuisance and barriers to closer contact with the people.
The meet-the-public session is the opportunity for officials to feel the public pulse. It is also a good occasion for people to air their views directly to the government. Regrettably, the sessions are often overshadowed by political stunts which serve no other purpose than to attract attention. Not only did it disrupt the forum, it also prompted heavier security, which is arguably not conducive to contact and dialogue.
It is good that the chief executive intends to continue reaching out to the public. The government should not be deterred from staging such meetings in the future.
This is not the first time radical protesters have expressed their discontent with rowdy behaviour. It is unacceptable that one lawmaker even warned that officials might face petrol bombs instead of eggs next time. There is a danger of the community getting used to such means of protest, so much so that they may gradually become acceptable. That will undermine our fine tradition of expressing one's opinions in a peaceful and rational manner. Violence and disruption have no place in a law-abiding society like Hong Kong. They will only disrupt fruitful exchanges and provoke public outrage. Freedom of expression must be exercised within the law.