Is Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive in Name Only (CENO), intent on following the (much misquoted) words of an unidentified American commander in the Vietnam war who said that his troops needed to destroy a town in order to save it?

She gives every impression of sharing this chilling mindset as she moves closer and closer to an abyss, almost willing mayhem to do its worst while claiming herself as a saviour.

Carrie Lam. Photo:

The invoking of emergency powers to introduce a mask ban has, as even she admits, only succeeded in escalating the violence. Yet her conclusion is that it vindicates her decision to use these draconian powers and indeed go further.

We even know what kinds of things she has in mind for going further because the anti-democracy fanatics who urged her to introduce these powers in the first place are now pressing for more: extending detention without charge, imposing curfews, censoring the internet and cancelling next month’s district council elections, mainly because the fanatics are (rightly) convinced that they will be punished by the people.

Alerted to the authoritarian possibilities of unfettered powers, the people who never liked democracy in the first place are itching to use them.

This is how it works, once an unelected and unaccountable government trips down the path of authoritarian rule it can only go one way: further down the slope.

Protesters demand a dialogue with Chief Executive Carrie Lam in September. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Look what happened when bigger and better weapons in the shape of massive water cannon vehicles were introduced. Solemn assurances were given that this kind of force would only be used in exceptional circumstances. Yet from day one it turned out that these exceptional circumstances were to arise with predictable regularity.

Look what happened when the police started banning the right to assembly. The first ban was said to be because of exceptional circumstances but it now turns out that practically all assemblies are banned, except those organised by the democracy haters.

Meanwhile, look what’s happened over at the MTR Corporation since the People’s Daily accused it of being “an accomplice to rioters.” It started with shutting down all stations in the proximity of demonstrations, which was followed by wider shutdowns culminating in a total suspension of services and an effective curfew being imposed by virtue of evening service closures.

The response of the MTR bosses to the protests provides an almost textbook example of how not to handle customers, except that the MTR no longer regards its users as being customers, they are now treated as suspects.

Sham Shui Po MTR station on fire. Photo:

As criticism mounted over the way it responded to Mainland bullying, mild protest turned to vandalism. At this point, the MTR had the opportunity to say, “OK, we hear you and we promise, once repairs have been undertaken, to provide the service which we have the mandate to provide.”

Had they done that, the vandalism would have stopped, maybe not entirely because there are hotheads everywhere, but in the main the mass transit system would have been able to get back to doing what it’s supposed to do. However the MTR bosses clearly have no intention of doing their job, they have plastered stations with notices about “vandalism,” while declaring shutdowns at the drop of a hat.

Instead of siding with their customers, the people of Hong Kong, they quake in their boots with fear of another attack from the People’s Daily.

The CENO, and the bunch of hapless waxworks who she trundles out to provide a backdrop when making her announcements, do not merely quake, they actually believe that Mrs Lam is doing the right thing by giving her now trademark robotic response to the people of Hong Kong.

Photo: GovHK.

Her message is abundantly clear: you the people, have nothing useful to tell me so the time has come for you to tremble and obey. If you do not, rest assured I will put in you jail, allow the police to gas you, beat you and do whatever they want to do, your civil liberties will be curtailed, the economy can go to hell and your lives can made to be an utter misery. In other words – to save Hong Kong it must be destroyed.

Maybe, therefore, we have now discovered what Carrie Lam really meant when she used the slogan of “reigniting Hong Kong” in her so-called election campaign for the top job.

Stephen Vines

Stephen Vines is a journalist, writer and broadcaster and ran companies in the food sector. He left Hong Kong with great reluctance in July 2021 following the crackdown on freedom of expression. Prior to departure he had been the host of the RTHK television current affairs programme ‘The Pulse’, a columnist for ‘Apple Daily’ and a contributor to other outlets. He continues to be a columnist for ‘HKFP’. Vines was the founding editor of 'Eastern Express' and founding publisher of 'Spike'. In London he was an editor at The Observer and in Asia has worked for international publications including, the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, BBC, Asia Times and The Independent and, during Hong Kong’s 2019/20 protests, for the Sunday Times. Vines is the author of several books, the latest being Defying the Dragon – Hong Kong and Worlds’ Biggest Dictatorship