Mass Protests, Low Crime
First published: 27th July 2019
Hong Kong's crime figures in the first half of 2019 is the lowest since 1977, according to the latest figures from the Government. The period from 1 January to 30 June includes the two largest protests, on 9 June of over 1 million people, and 16 June of almost 2 million people, in Hong Kong's history, and violent clashes between police and protestors on 12 June. Hong Kong is overwhelmingly a safe and civil society.
However, Hong Kong appears to be on a course for increasing violence. Police are accused of using excessive force and concealing their identity while doing so. A small number of protestors have taken to vandalism and attacking faceless authority. On 20 July, at a "Safeguard Hong Kong" rally organised to show support for the police, Arthur Shek Kang-chuen, associate publisher of the Hong Kong Economic Times, called for action against extradition bill protesters, likening it to disciplining children, "Do you have a cane at home? Get one, get a longer one. What if you don’t have one at home? Go to a metalware shop, buy a 20mm [diameter] water pipe, and teach your son a lesson." A day later, a mob of white-shirted men wielding canes, sticks and pipes attacked people at the Yuen Long MTR station, particularly targeting people returning from a protest in Central but also journalists and a pregnant women. The police were notably absent during the repeated attacks, and Arther Shek has not been arrested for incitement to violence.
What is needed now is a return to peaceful discourse. Only a full public inquiry, led by a senior judge, and with the power to call witnesses can address the concerns of the whole of society. I do not want to see a sharp upturn in the crime figures for the second half of 2019.