Hong Kong’s labour and welfare minister, Law Chi-kwong, the only cabinet member with an opposition background, has revealed he considered resigning over the months-long social unrest sparked in June last year.
“Many people have asked me this question, and even urged me to quit. Why didn’t I do it?” Law said in a television interview broadcast on Friday night. “I had to consider how my individual act would affect the team and Hong Kong in the long term.”
Law resigned from the Democratic Party he co-founded and joined the cabinet of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in 2017. His party wrote to him in August last year, asking him to regain the aspiration of pursuing justice and democracy, and to quit the government.
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The former associate professor in social work at the University of Hong Kong also mentioned he knew Lam for decades, seeing how she rose through the ranks from department head to bureau chief, and then to the city’s top role.
“Power brings great negative impact on individuals, and I keep reminding myself and my friends about this,” he said, adding that with authority came the feeling that others would not dare argue back.
“People should be alarmed at this fact,” Law warned.
During the candid interview, Law also recalled the protests last year sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, which would have allowed fugitives to be extradited to previously off-limits jurisdictions, notably mainland China.
“Some believe the clashes at the Legislative Council complex, or the protests in which millions took part, had changed the government’s decision,” Law said. “This is just a belief, as the government makes decisions earlier most of the time.”
On June 9 last year, after a march where organisers said a million people flooded the streets in opposition to the hated bill, authorities issued a statement late at night saying the Legco debate on the bill would nonetheless proceed on June 12.
That day, people took to the streets again, with an intense confrontation between protesters and police erupting outside the legislature, forcing the meeting to be postponed. Carrie Lam announced the “suspension” of the bill three days later, but it was not formally withdrawn until September after months of protests.
Law on Friday, however, offered a controversial take on the timeline: “It was not the incident on June 12, but what happened on the 9th, that caused the announcement on the 15th … Many view the causality in an overly simple way.”
But he did not elaborate further.
Asked about his high IQ of more than 160, Law also confessed on the programme that it had led to problems communicating with others.
“Just like what I experienced in my teaching career – the biggest challenge is that I don’t understand why people don’t understand,” he said, adding that he always expressed matters in a rational way, though that could also work against him.
“When one lacks an emotional element in expression, some would think you are off the ground.”