Attack on lawmaker at Hong Kong airport a serious security breach, and a slur on the city’s name

Albert Cheng says the attack on Nathan Law by pro-China activists appeared organised, and the security forces must be held accountable for providing inadequate protection

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 4:24pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 7:29pm

Demosisto lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung was attacked openly on Sunday evening by a gang of pro-Beijing protesters at the Hong Kong International Airport upon his return from Taiwan. While top officials have apparently turned a blind eye to the incident, we must not.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok has so far remained silent, while Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who has just resigned from her position as chief secretary, is apparently more concerned about her campaign to be the next chief executive.

Pro-China protesters injured not only Law but also at least two journalists. Protesters hurled verbal abuse as well as an unidentified liquid at Law. The rabble should have been arrested for violating the Airport Authority Ordinance. The fact that the police failed to stop the liquid from being splashed on Law is particularly alarming. This was a serious security breach at the airport.

Watch: Lawmaker Nathan Law attacked at the Hong Kong airport

Assault on Nathan Law is an attack on us all

In August 2000, two people, including an immigration officer, were killed and dozens of others injured after right-of-abode seekers started a fire at Immigration Tower. A fireball tore through the 13th floor of the Wan Chai building after a number of the migrants splashed flammable liquid around the lobby entrance and set it ablaze.

Our law enforcement officers should have learned a painful lesson from this tragedy. All measures should have been taken to stop people hurling the liquid at Law. Ultimately, the Legislative Council should summon the commissioner of police and the secretary for security to account for the incident.

Law was accused of promoting independence for Hong Kong, a charge that has been denied by his group. Demosisto’s position is only that the people of Hong Kong are entitled to have their own say in shaping their political future.

Rowdy anti-independence protests have been going on under banners proclaiming “Love China, Love Hong Kong”. However, the drama staged at the airport went too far, undermining Hong Kong’s reputation as one of the safest aviation hubs in the world.

Since Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying took office, pro-China organisations have mushroomed. The groups collaborated during the Umbrella Revolution to bully the pro-democracy participants. They have been particularly aggressive in going after the young anti-government politicians, including Law and Joshua Wong Chi-fung. They even followed them to Macau, Thailand and Taiwan.

Watch: Joshua Wong under police protection in Taipei

If a similar disruption had occurred in other airports, a special police force would have been dispatched and subdued the perpetrators before they could do any damage. I came back from Bangkok at around the same time, and I witnessed the whole episode.

The group was well organised. They had been waiting to harass their target

The group was well organised. They had been waiting to harass their target. Throughout the incident, Law was only protected by airport security officers who have no law enforcement power. This was inadequate. Where was the airport special unit? What would have happened if a terrorist had mixed in with the group?

The Leung government has a track record of pursuing its own political agenda at the expense of public interest.

It was not an isolated incident and drew international attention and criticism about airport security in Hong Kong. Now, ruffians have connived to make a violent political statement at the airport. With such substandard security services, it is reasonable to question whether Hong Kong is sufficiently prepared to tackle more serious attempts to breach security.

The Leung government, with the backing of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, has stirred up anger and hatred among the people through the “Love” groups. The foundations of Hong Kong as a place that cherishes freedom of speech have been shaken.

Hong Kong and Taiwanese forum radicals accused of trying to ‘split country’

Our economy is going downhill, yet we still eclipse our competitors in terms of passenger and cargo flights. If the Hong Kong International Airport loses its claim to be the best, what other significant advantages does this city possess? Not many.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. taipan@albertcheng.hk