HONG KONG: The older generation in Hong Kong does not identify with the escalating actions of the young protesters and generally back the police’s handling of the disturbances that have gripped the city, according to those interviewed by CNA.
This came after an initially peaceful movement against an extradition Bill evolved into ugly clashes with the men in blue, with the protesters launching a series of night sieges on police stations.
“They (protesters) don’t know what they are doing … What they have done is excessive. If they want to stage a rally, go ahead. But what they have done has gone beyond this,” said Mr Wong Man Kit, 82.
The Wong Tai Sin resident added: “We elderly people are not simple-minded. We see things clearly. We don’t just listen to one side of the story and throw things at the police.”
He noted that the police have been “just” in handling the protests, and had only retaliated after the protesters threw objects at them.
Another Wong Tai Sin resident, who only wanted to be known as Ms Leung, also opined that the youngsters were in the wrong.
“They were born and bred in Hong Kong. By making things bad here, what do they have to gain?”
“Don’t they have food on the table? Don’t they have proper jobs? Of all things to do, why must they become protesters?” asked the 98-year old rhetorically.
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She added: “If they are unhappy, they should discuss slowly with the government. Let all sides work things out. They are civilised people. Do civilised people resort to violence?”
Tai Po resident Chong Hong Wing, 60, also hit out at the protesters for paralysing the city’s traffic.
“Why do they want to block the roads and make them impassable to vehicles?” he said.
“They (protesters) want freedom for themselves, but they are actually impeding on the freedom of other people."
On Sunday (Aug 18), the government said that about 180 police officers had been attacked and injured during the protests, with their families subjected to "intimidation and bullying".
The protesters also shot hard objects at the Legislative Council building using slingshots and aimed laser beams at police officers, after a massive peaceful rally in the afternoon.
“POLICE HAVE SHOWN A LOT OF RESTRAINT”
Those interviewed generally backed the police, who have drawn the protesters’ ire with their use of tear gas and rubber bullets.
In retaliation, the protesters have used rocks, Molotov cocktails and slingshots during street clashes. They also laid siege on several police stations, including those in Sha Tin, Sham Shui Po and Wong Tai Sin.
When asked to rate the police’s efforts in handling the protests, a Kowloon resident and retiree who only wanted to be known as Mr Tham, said: "I rate the police very highly."
The 63-year-old added: "The protesters are destroying Hong Kong’s livelihood. They held up the airport … In a democratic country, it is not a problem for them to express their views. But they cannot step over the line.
“There are limits to democracy … Young people should focus on their studies … By protesting and not going to classes, they are merely hurting themselves.”
Mr Law, 86, also a Wong Tai Sin resident, noted that compared with the security forces in other countries, Hong Kong’s police have been professional on the frontline.
“They (protesters) said the police beat them. They should look at how the police in other countries deal with riots … They won’t just stand by and let them continue,” he said.
“The protesters should count their blessings … The police have shown a lot of restraint.”
However, there were others who felt that the police could have done better.
Tai Po resident Mak Siu Sun, 70, noted that the police should not have aimed rubber bullets at the heads and bodies of the protesters.
“Just shoot them at the legs ... They (police) also fired from high vantage points. This will hurt people’s heads," he said.
“I can understand why they (the protesters) would besiege the police stations.”
Weeks of rallies and protests in Hong Kong have seen millions of people take to the streets in the biggest challenge to China's rule of the semi-autonomous city since its 1997 handover from Britain.
The movement was initially sparked by opposition to a planned law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
The government later announced it would “suspend” the Bill. To extend an olive branch to the protesters, the government also offered to meet them in a closed-door setting, but the protest representatives turned down the invitation.
The elderly had in the early stages of the movement thrown their weight behind the protesters, with an estimated 9,000 marchers taking to the streets on Jul 17.
The movement has evolved into a much broader campaign for democratic freedoms.
There are also increasingly violent battles with the police. Winning little compromise from the authorities, protesters last week took their civil disobedience campaign to the airport, a key global transport hub.
Activists argued that increased levels of police violence had forced them to up the ante, even if it meant disrupting travellers.
Almost 750 people have been arrested for the protests, with 115 being charged.
MIXED VIEWS OVER CARRIE LAM’S POLITICAL FUTURE
Those interviewed took aim at Chief Executive Carrie Lam for being too soft in her approach. However, there were mixed views on whether she should resign.
Kowloon Tong resident Ng Boon Hoe, 86, said that Ms Lam should have withdrawn the Bill, instead of suspending it.
“The whole issue would have finished. But she just said to suspend the Bill and the protesters used this to make trouble," he said.
Among those who supported calls for Ms Lam’s resignation was Tai Po resident Lai Bo Kin.
“Once she resigns, this episode will be over,” said the 68-year old.
“If she resigns, there are implications in terms of the concessions that can be given by the government. Only then will there be a possible dialogue with the protesters.”
On the other hand, others felt that Ms Lam should stay on.
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Mr Tham of Kowloon said: “If she resigns now, it would mean surrendering to the protesters. She has the backing of the central government, why would she surrender?”
Ms Leung of Wong Tai Sin lauded Ms Lam for doing a good job so far.
“If there are errors, learn from them and do a better job next time … She should serve out her term," she said.