Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters surrounded government headquarters late Sunday, causing a grave clash with local police. The flare-up marks the most violent moment since the "Occupy Central" movement was launched two months ago.
The movement is dying down, but this abrupt spasm of violence has added some uncertainties to the situation. Hong Kong boasts a highly free society, and the social ethos of Occupy Central will last for a long time. But meanwhile, Hong Kong's rule of law has been severely challenged by street politics, which continues to haunt Hong Kong society.
We stand by the Hong Kong police, which can use force to halt the ruinous and subversive course of street politics. But how much force should be used depends on the willingness of the majority of Hongkongers. The central government cannot make the decision for them.
The overwhelming objections of Hong Kong society are crucial to calling for an end to the Occupy Central movement
Now, Hong Kong police face a dilemma. Not only do they have to deal with protesters, but also respond to suspicions and criticisms over law enforcement laid by carping spectators. Hong Kong police reiterate that they will only use "the minimum level of force." Such an overcautious commitment does not adhere to the rule of law.
The root cause of Hong Kong's social problems lies in its political split. Some Hongkongers cherish an illusion for the city's future, making irrational demands. Hong Kong's system gives these people the floor to disturb the development of mainstream society, which, to some extent, can put a dent in the public discourse. How to manage these people still remains a puzzle.
It is probably time for Chinese mainland society to adjust its attitude toward Hong Kong. Hong Kong enjoys special autonomy under the jurisdiction of the central government, and mainland society backs up Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. But if Hong Kong's internal problems cannot be addressed, it must take on the responsibilities itself.
If violent street politics recur and become a normal state, and local police are not authorized to take a harsh stand, Hong Kong will probably be reduced to disorder. The power of the rule of law will diminish and administrative strength will also decline. Chaos and turbulence will likely replace prosperity and stability, an outcome resulting from Hong Kong's own choice.
The mainland shouldn't be tempted to quell the unrest with troops too easily. It can only bring temporary peace, but the deep-rooted cause will still linger.
Only when Hong Kong is determined to sever ties with violent street politics can the farce come to an end.
It's still too early to say the Occupy movement is coming to its end. The mainland should let Hong Kong take the lead in this. All we can do is stick with the Basic Law and let them know what our stance is. Hong Kong itself should take care of the rest.