Temperatures are rising continuously, tensions are boiling over, and the city’s leaders are feeling the heat of the worst political unrest since Britain handed back its colonial jewel to China more than 20 years ago. Now, it seems, is the summer season of Hong Kong’s discontent.
Since an estimated 2 million-plus people – more than a quarter of the city’s population – took to the streets last month to oppose a bill that would permit for extraditions to territories the city does not presently have agreements with, including – and most controversially – mainland China, the government’s efforts to cool fraying tempers have had precious little effect.
When Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-Ngor subsequently agreed to put the bill on ice, it was not enough for the young protesters who stormed the legislature on July 1, daubing it with graffiti in a sign of defiance that made waves across the world. And when the embattled leader went a step further this week, declaring the invoice. “dead,” most protesters remained unmoved, dismissing her comments as a public relations stunt. With no end in sight to the difficulty, it’s perhaps not surprising that most minds are concentrated on what the protesters will do next.
But some observers, former officials, and historians among them suggest the best way for Lam and company to find a method out of the current mess is to look to the past – at how former administrations dealt with the crises they faced. After all, when it comes to political disturbances, Hong Kong has an extended history.