Hong Kong’s leaders have only one way out of the protest crisis – a broad, open and inclusive dialogue with the whole community
- Hongkongers delivered a clear message through the district council elections
- While all sides must renounce the use of violence, the government must undertake confidence-building measures such as an impartial investigation into allegations of excessive use of force by the police
My own experience as a head of state and as high commissioner for human rights demonstrates that the broadest possible dialogue is the only clear exit lane out of mass protest situations.
The people of Hong Kong delivered a loud and very clear demand to be heard. It is now time to tackle difficult issues – with renewed resolve, clarity and courage. There is not a moment to lose.
I urge the government to prioritise a long-overdue process of meaningful, inclusive dialogue, by making a concerted effort to bring to the table community leaders, student groups, business groups, trade unions, political leaders from various parties, civil society organisations, academics, legal professionals, minority groups and others.
It is now time to listen directly to people from all walks of life, to work together with sincere resolve to address their concerns and grievances. Young people, especially, need to be heard.
Such steps will take clarity and courage, and involve compromises, but they are crucial to restore trust, repair rifts and make it possible to find peaceful resolutions to untenable situations.
Global experience shows that if governments and security forces treat their people as enemies, enemies is what they may become. The use of force breaks trust – in institutions, in leaders, and in the rule of law that places like Hong Kong, and my own country Chile, hold so dear. This is the case in many parts of the world.
For these reasons, accountability is key – both in the case of allegations of excessive force by police and violence by individuals leading to death, serious injury or major damage.
On the contrary, it sends a message that this is a force that works hard to comply with the rule of law and guidelines on the use of force, and is open to an examination of its conduct, and that it values accountability where those rules were not strictly followed.
In Thailand and other countries, truth and reconciliation commissions have helped to defuse tensions and polarisation that had led to political violence.
My office stands ready to offer advice and guidelines based on our experience and work in human rights around the world – in carving a peaceful, sustainable path forward.
Michelle Bachelet is the UN high commissioner for human rights. She has also served two terms as the president of Chile, from 2006-2010 and 2014-2018