It’s too much to expect anything positive to come out of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s duty visit to Beijing this weekend, during which she will engage in talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as Premier Li Keqiang and Vice-Premier Han Zheng.
In a better world, the Chinese leadership would recognise that its blueprint for Hong Kong has been a consummate fiasco and send their obedient apparatchik back home to implement a fresh new approach. This move would begin the healing process for a city that has been tearing itself apart for the past six months as anti-government protesters raged in the streets while also seizing and trashing university campuses.
At the very least, Lam should establish a proper independent commission of inquiry into the prolonged unrest, including a probe into allegations of police brutality.
Now that a team of international experts who were invited to advise the Independent Police Complaints Council has dismissed the council for what it is – a toothless tiger – and unceremoniously packed up and gone home, that seems the appropriate next step to take.
Unfortunately, however, nothing like this is going to happen. More likely, Xi and Co. will publicly offer a stream of insincere praise for a Chief Executive whose calamitous decision-making has brought her city to its knees.
And then, behind closed doors, the Communist Collective will direct her to maintain – or perhaps even to ramp up – the no-compromise hard line that has only served to exacerbate the fury and violence which are now unmistakable late-night hallmarks of a movement whose peaceful demonstrators, in their millions, have been summarily ignored.
So, while basking in the relative peace of this past week, Hongkongers should gird themselves for more tear gas, more pepper spray, more rubber bullets, more crippled MTR stations and more petrol bombs to come.
Indeed, if Hong Kong’s police can be believed – which is an increasingly dodgy prospect these days – there are now other, more powerful and dangerous weapons in play.
Earlier this week, bomb disposal officers reportedly defused two potentially lethal homemade nail bombs that were discovered on the grounds of Wah Yan College in Wan Chai.
For the record, police do not suspect anyone attending or working at the college of hiding the bombs, which were found on a part of the campus that is accessible to the public.
According to senior bomb disposal officer Alick McWhirter, the two devices, designed to be triggered by a mobile phone, were loaded with 10 kilograms of high explosives.
“Both of these devices have only one function, to kill and to maim people,” McWhirter stated.
That’s scary. If detonated, these bombs would have represented a much bigger plunge into the abyss of mayhem and chaos than a previous, much-smaller IED explosion, which harmed no one and caused no damage during an October protest in Mong Kok.
Last Sunday, a day before the discovery of the nail bombs, police said raids on locations used by violent protesters for storing weapons resulted in 11 arrests and the seizure of a Glock semi-automatic pistol and more than 100 rounds of ammunition. Additionally, police said they snatched up daggers and knives.
All of these weapons, a police spokesman claimed, were intended to be used on officers policing an anti-government rally that took place later that day involving hundreds of thousands of people of all ages and walks of life.
And who knows? There may be more such weapons out there.
While Lam is hobnobbing with the Chinese Communist Party’s potentates in Beijing, Hongkongers may be preparing to go to war.
We should be well past the point where we choose to blame either protest violence or police brutality for our current deepening crisis.
It’s not black and white. Both have occurred and – among civilised, law-abiding people – the default response is for both to be roundly denounced and repudiated.
Let’s be reasonable, let’s talk. Mutually respectful dialogue is the answer – so say the well-heeled, civilised folk urging compromise and moderation as a way out of this nightmare.
From the protesters’ point of view, however, you can’t dialogue with a government that won’t genuinely engage, and you can’t compromise with an unyielding Chinese leadership that seeks to crush the soul of your city.
On the other hand, the Hong Kong police have been put in the impossible position of serving as a paramilitary force propping up a puppet government that has lost all credibility. They are widely perceived as corrupt and abusive gendarmes who are hated even more than the feckless administration they are ordered to defend.
No doubt many members of the force are seething with resentment about all this. But who do they resent more – the protesters they battle in the streets or Lam and her Ministry of Failure and Neglect? It’s hard to tell.
What is clear, however, is that, without a change in Beijing’s strategy, Hong Kong’s troubles could get a lot worse.