Prolonged unrest plunges Hong Kong into rift and pain


Photo taken on Sept. 8, 2019 shows fire at an exit of the Central station of the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) in Hong Kong, South China. (File photo: Xinhua)

HONG KONG, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Dragging his hand luggage, Marco Hung embarked on a flight to London at the Hong Kong International Airport with a heavy heart.

"I feel like I'm running away from Hong Kong," said Hung, who was heading to London for an MBA program. "I cannot bear to see it so torn apart."

Since June, Hong Kong has suffered from escalating violence that originated from demonstrations over proposed ordinance amendments concerning fugitive offenders. Prolonged unrest has hit the city's economy, and divided friends, colleagues and even families.

"I know friends who grew up together and played football in the same team. But as their views differ, one didn't show up at the other's wedding. It's unbelievable," Hung said.

Unprecedented scenes of violence played out in Hong Kong over the past months. Vandalism of metro stations, setting fires on streets and attacking police with petrol bombs and bricks have become common occurrences.

In popular shopping districts like Causeway Bay and Central, roadside railings were dismantled, pavement bricks dug out, street signs sawn down and traffic lights destroyed.

Whenever hearing ambulance sirens from the street, Ms. Law's heart beats faster. She is worried about her son who turned a deaf ear to her warnings and took part in the demonstrations.

As violence escalated in Hong Kong, the relationship between them worsened. Quarrels became inevitable whenever they met.

Ah Fai, Law's 18-year-old son, said his mom differed with him in supporting the now-withdrawn amendments and when she called demonstrators rioters he felt she was scolding him.

Discord also ripped apart colleagues. Miss Wong, who hails from the Chinese mainland, works in a local company where few employees were from the mainland.

Due to her background, Wong found herself an innocent target of jeers and verbal bullying in the office in recent days. Feeling uneasy, Wong said she puts on her headphones the moment she sits down at her desk to shield herself from taunts from colleagues.

Wong's colleague, Ms. Lee, often weeps silently in her office just because her husband is a police officer.

"She loves the company. She is indifferent to politics. It is unfair to treat her like that," Wong said, adding every day is tough for Lee now as she is in constant fear of whether her husband will be attacked by violent demonstrators, or her son will be bullied in kindergarten.

As demonstrations and violence roiled Hong Kong, passengers from the Chinese mainland and other parts of the world began to shun the once popular tourist destination, particularly after radical demonstrators paralyzed the Hong Kong International Airport in early August.

Hong Kong's railway operator, MTR Corp., has also become a major target of vandalism and obstruction.

On Sept. 7, rioters smashed windows, obstructed escalators and vandalized facilities at the MTR Central station before starting a fire at one of the exits, forcing the closure of the station. On Sept. 6, there were also attempts to interrupt the operation of Hong Kong International Airport by obstructing traffic to and around the airport.

Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam said both the airport and the railway system are the lifeblood of Hong Kong, closely related to the daily life of local residents.

Escalating violence will not solve social problems but exacerbate conflicts, rifts and hatred, she said.   

While Hong Kong was hit hard by prolonged unrest, a group of Hong Kong residents started to heal the wounds.

Ms. Kwok, who is in charge of a community wall painting project, saw a "horrible picture" was unfolding as the violence has not only visibly damaged society, but fueled a culture of confrontation.

Calling the current chaos "a catastrophe and a deplorable dilemma" for Hong Kong, Kwok said she is considering rebuilding social harmony through art.   

"Art consoles people's hearts and can help society mend rifts," she said, adding she would start wall paintings next month, with the theme of "love and harmony."

As part of the four actions to help Hong Kong to emerge from the current difficulty and move forward, the HKSAR government has reached out to the community to start a direct dialogue with all walks of society in response to calls to stop violence, end the chaos and restore order.

"The society has gone through a lot over the past months," said Kwok Chun-kit, acting assistant district commander of Hong Kong police's Central District. "The most disheartening is to see family members fall out and friends severe their ties."

 Kwok said he hoped residents could drop their prejudice and spend some time with their family and friends over the weekend.

"Taking this small step can help mend our relations with our family and friends," he said.