Hong Kong people need to protect their city from three-fold challenges
Azhar Azam

Editor's note: Azhar Azam works in a private organization as a market & business analyst and writes about geopolitical issues and regional conflicts. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The much-awaited report released by the Hong Kong police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), into the force's handling of months of violent protests in the Chinese administrated region said that the city may be heading toward terrorism – comparing the "scale of lawlessness with a degree of violence and vandalism not seen in Hong Kong since the riots of 1967."

It noted that by labeling police action as "brutality", the protesters seem to disregard their own violence, vandalism and vigilantism. The Council commented the recent seizures of assault rifles, hand guns and ammunition and materials for bomb-making also indicated that the community was being dragged by the protesters into an "era of terrorism."

A Thematic Study of six public order events (POEs) from June 2010 to March 2020 identified that the protests continued to spread on a wider scale and with increasing ferocity of violence and even destruction by the mask-wearing black-clad protestors for almost throughout the period.

The IPCC findings lent a grim warning that Hong Kong, which has been a beacon of peace and prosperity for the world, has steadily been gripped by violence and moving on the way to terrorism. Under the bleak circumstances, it becomes a collective responsibility for the city's people to protect their megalopolis from the menace of sadism.

In my article for CGTN on November 14, 2019, I had cautioned that the violent protests were "inching toward terrorism" and urged the peaceful Hong Kong people to come to light and step up their efforts to denounce such elements that were trying to disrupt peace in their city. They need to make to the streets again before its gets too late.

While a small group is trying to return the city to violence, following a brief respite due to the coronavirus pandemic, the people should dissuade their malicious intents to challenge government authority, disturb social order, undermine the basic principle of "One Country, Two Systems" and push Hong Kong to the brink of chaos amid a thawing economy.

In a historic blow to already declining business activity, Hong Kong economy suffered deepest annual contraction in the first quarter of 2020 since records began in 1974. The city's GDP withered 8.9 percent as compared to last year, a third straight quarterly fall for the Asian financial hub whereas unemployment rose to 4.2 percent.

A woman sits next to a cross made with tape on a chair for practicing social distancing to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, April 15, 2020. /AP

A woman sits next to a cross made with tape on a chair for practicing social distancing to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, April 15, 2020. /AP

Tourism industry, one of the major pillars of economy of Hong Kong, which contributes roughly four percent to GDP and accounts for about seven percent of the total employment, is on the decline too. In April, the visitor arrivals dropped about 100 percent just as the figure was down by 85.3 percent for the first four months of 2020.

Several factors were responsible for this eye-watering and head-scratching regression – the continued social unrest, anti-government protests and open enticement for engagement in "lanchao" – a scorched-earth tactic – by the local violent forces also played a devastating role in botching the economy.

As the global economy started to take a real hit by around the end of March, the drop in the second quarter is more worrisome and can drive Hong Kong's economy into its worst recession. The weekend's plunge of 1.8 percent in the Hang Seng benchmark, to record its biggest fall in three weeks, signaled a tough economic road on the back of resurging riots.

After the coronavirus outbreak, it's a very much changed world. Nobody knows how long it will have to battle this contagion. With many of the top economies mashed by the COVID-19 in just a few months, the global governments will be forced to shred their geopolitical objectives to profoundly focus on their economic revival.

While all nations would be striving to regain its fortune alongside contending the coronavirus, the people of Hong Kong cannot remain unruffled about their city's economy that was crashed months before the health crisis due to violence. The radicals too shouldn't expect their foreign backers to aid them for uproar since the pandemic has turned the global economy upside down and everyone is looking to rebalance their national accounts.

Afghanistan is one of the leading examples where the chilly international response has obliged the warring parties to cooperate. As Taliban has partly "quarantined" their weapons and donned personal protective equipment to fight the disease, the insurgent group is also cooperating with Kabul administration to stem the spread of the disease in country.

The emergence of three locally transmitted cases last week, breaking the streak of 23 days without any infections serves as a warning to the health and life of Hongkongers as well. It raised concerns that the city has not been uncontaminated from the germ and there are potentially clusters in the communities.

In the tense economic and health environment regionally and globally, there is no room for violence and at the same time, the fears of losing Hong Kong opulence are much higher owing to its economic breakdown that started well before COVID-19 jolted world economy. Hongkongers can't be complacent this time and need to protect their city from the three-fold economic, health and violence challenges that can drive them back decades.

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