Young must know China is not the enemy
An approach of deterrence and encouragement should be adopted by a cash-rich Hong Kong government to stop more youngsters going down an anarchic route
The Mong Kok riot in 2016 was open warfare on the police. And the disruptive oath-taking antics of localists that followed in the same year was a none-too-subtle declaration of intent to paralyse the legislature.
The city was on the verge of becoming ungovernable. Under pressure from Beijing, the government took a big gamble and pursued a hard line – to disqualify radical localists from becoming lawmakers and to go after the rioters.
You may like or despise the administration of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, but having a working government is far better than the anarchy to which the opposition was leading the city.
Nine rioters are the latest to be jailed from 28 to 51 months. A 10th was sent to a detention centre. Those are among the heaviest sentences handed out so far in the prosecution of more than 100 activists and protesters stemming from the Occupy protests of 2014 and the Mong Kok riot.
The opposition has steadfastly argued that the Mong Kok disturbance was no more than unrest. By charging participants with rioting, government prosecutors were being used to punish political dissent.
That’s a false narrative hard to sustain when dozens of police were injured by brick-throwing rioters, some seriously. In any case, the courts with their convictions clearly agree with the rioting charges.
The opposition has also claimed that by going after suspected rioters, many of them young, the government is not trying to help our youth, but to ruin their future.
Of course, it’s the same opposition that has been throwing our young to the barricades, from the anti-national education protests of 2012 to Occupy Central and Mong Kok.
Some fringe politicians have been exploiting emotionally charged but ultimately meaningless slogans such as mainlandisation, localism and Hong Kong independence. Some young people, now radicalised, have come to believe in a wholly destructive, chauvinistic and isolationist view of their city: Hong Kong is the victim, China is the enemy.
The government needs to pursue a two-pronged approach. A clear message of deterrence must be sent with the full force of the law to discourage more young people from going down the destructive anarchic route.
But programmes and resources need to be developed by our cash-rich government to enhance the welfare, career and education prospects of our youth. We must let them know our country – and theirs – is not the enemy.