A new pro-establishment alliance led by former Hong Kong leaders hopes to educate young residents on the rule of law, but cannot fulfil the government’s role of addressing political issues that emerged from last year’s months of social unrest, one of its convenors said on Sunday.
The Hong Kong Coalition’s Leung Chun-ying, the city’s chief executive from 2012 to 2017, also said the body has been formulating plans to offer young graduates training and employment opportunities.
“I hope we can come up with some preliminary ideas after a month [of discussion] … We will help all young people, regardless of their political views. We are willing to help as long as they are willing to accept our assistance,” he told a TVB programme.
Leung and fellow ex-chief executive Tung Chee-hwa launched the 1,500-member coalition on May 5 with a stated mission of rescuing the coronavirus-ravaged economy and bringing an end to violence that has often accompanied anti-government protests.
The group has since enlisted the city’s five wealthiest tycoons, all but one of its university presidents and an ex-police chief to its cause.
Leung on Sunday said it was wrong for young people to believe that vandalism and breaking laws can be justified in certain circumstances.
“A lot of investors here, or investors planning to invest in Hong Kong, were scared by the claim that people do not need to obey unjust laws,” he said.
“Young people must not believe in the fallacy that they can set fire to shops [owned by people whose] political views are different from theirs.”
Triggered by the now-withdrawn extradition bill in June last year, what began as peaceful marches quickly morphed into violent protests that saw radicals set fire to businesses, block streets and hurl petrol bombs at police officers, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. About 8,000 people, including more than 3,000 students were arrested during the demonstrations.
Leung’s remarks came as Hong Kong’s No 2 official, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, wrote on his official blog on Sunday that the government would step up its employment assistance for young people, especially given the economic downturn created by the coronavirus pandemic and the fact some young people had been incited to commit violent crimes.
Asked if the coalition would address residents’ discontent with the government, Leung argued on Sunday that it was ultimately the responsibility of local authorities.
“The knots can only be untied one by one … But we cannot, and do not have the power to do the government’s job,” he said.
“Yet regardless of how the administration addresses protesters’ five demands, we need people to [defend] the rule of law, bring the society together and revive the economy.”
The five demands include an independent inquiry into police use of force on protesters, amnesty for all arrested demonstrators, and the relaunch of democratic reforms.
Leung was asked if the public’s impression of Hong Kong’s rule of law would improve if the government looked into allegations of law enforcement officers’ use of excessive force.
Declining to address the question, he instead argued it was more urgent to help young people to find jobs.
“In one or two months, tens of thousands of young people will be graduating from tertiary institutions and looking for jobs,” he answered.
Leung said he had been talking to students and business leaders alike about the kinds of jobs and internships that were needed and could be offered. Details would be announced later, he added.
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