Why Hong Kong is not London of 2011: protesters here have clear political aims and wide community support

First published: 03rd December 2019

This open letter was published in the South China Morning Post

Dear Carrie Lam,

I am very pleased to hear that you remain committed to a public dialogue. Perhaps you can organise meetings with each of the new district councillors(i) in the next few days; they have been very active in reaching out to all sectors of society recently, and they are unlikely to be fired for expressing a political opinion.

However, I’m worried by your comparison of our situation to the 2011 Tottenham riots, and your plan to set up an independent review committee. You do understand that a review is not an inquiry?

I lived in Wood Green before moving to Hong Kong; seeing the streets of my former home in chaos saddened me. The riots in the UK had very different characteristics to Hong Kong’s situation. Lasting only about six nights, and initially triggered by the police shooting a man dead, the disturbances devolved into looting and arson and spread to cities across the UK.

Firefighters were attacked by rioters. Theresa May, home secretary at the time, rejected the use of water cannon: “The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon. The way we police in Britain is through consent of communities.”

The rioters did not settle on a set of demands or manifesto; they were not a political force and were not supported by local communities. Police violence did not escalate. Every one of these is a contrast to our social unrest.

To find the causes of our social unrest, look at the protesters’ five demands, and dig into the concerns behind them. The peaceful mass protests at the beginning and the peaceful election landslide on November 24 clearly demonstrate strong support for the political aims throughout society.

Perhaps the most important lesson you could learn from looking at the Tottenham riots is the success of policing through consent of communities.

Allan Dyer
voter in the Hong Kong Island and IT Constituencies

(i): I wrote, "District Councils", SCMP edited that to "district councillors". I think it would be more reasonable for Carrie Lam to have 18 meetings, one with each Council, rather than 452 meetings, one with each councillor.

Updated: 10th December 2019

Legislative Councillor and former Secretary for Security Regina Ip has replied to my letter in the South China Morning Post.

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