Carrie Lam’s first year paves the way for further trust and cooperation
The annual July 1 protest march may not have been as big as in previous years, but much still needs to be done and Hong Kong’s leader must continue to win over the public
Hong Kong marked the 21st anniversary of its reunification with China with the usual celebrations and protests on Sunday. What set them apart from those at previous events was that the levels of antagonism and hostility shown were relatively lower.
This is a positive change on which Beijing, the local government and public may strive to rebuild further trust and cooperation on an array of issues pivotal to the development of a city under Chinese rule.
Both the police and organiser of the July 1 protest are to be commended for keeping it peaceful and orderly. This is not easy against the backdrop of clashes in recent years, and disputes over arrangements in the run-up to the event. It is good to see that our fine tradition of exercising one’s right to protest within the law has been upheld.
If the annual turnout is a barometer of public grievances, the government may heave a sigh of relief this year. Attendance figures were among the lowest and ranged from the police estimate of 9,800 to that of 50,000 by the organiser.
The protest had the slogan “end one-party dictatorship, reject the fall of Hong Kong”, a theme described by the local government as disregarding constitutional order and not in line with the overall interests of the city; but there were those who took to the streets primarily for livelihood issues, such as the housing crunch and rights of ethnic minorities.
That said, the sizeable crowd must not be dismissed as just an annual ritual. The government response on Sunday has set the right tone to address people’s discontent with some long-standing woes, but, more importantly, it has to be followed by concrete solutions.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, to her credit, has stepped up efforts to address many deep-seated challenges. She admitted that the new housing measures announced by her government may not curb property prices. But she is determined to enhance housing supply, which hopefully, may make home ownership more affordable and the queuing time for subsidised housing shorter in the longer term.
The strategies include considering adjusting the proportion between public and housing output and opting for land reclamation. The latter is especially contentious, not only because of the relatively high cost, but also the impact on the environment. However, as the housing chief explained yesterday, there is no better way than to create new land to meet our needs.
The good start made by the government in its first year not only gives Lam a stronger footing to foster development and growth. It also lays a good foundation to rebuild trust and cooperation, without which greater success cannot be achieved.