The escalating violence in Hong Kong can be summarized in four words: the clueless encounter the leaderless.
The Government, being the clueless, has no notion of how to formulate a strategy, a coherent narrative, nor a vision of how the protests can be brought to an end.
The protesters, being leaderless, also lack a coherent narrative, apart from the five demands, about what they want. Bloomberg has recently quoted some of them as saying they are prepared to die for their cause. But there are no apparent leaders to define, lead and, ultimately, negotiate with the Government in pursuit of a cause that to date lacks definition.
The consequences of mutual incoherence are hugely damaging, socially, politically and economically.
There are a number of alleged villains in the midst of chaos. Chief among them are Carrie Lam, the creature of arch-villain Beijing, the police, of course, and all those who are perceived to be pro-establishment or supporters of Beijing. Triads are also in the mix.
From the other side, dark forces are alleged to be behind the riots, mostly interfering foreign powers.
The only things to be said with a degree of certitude is that there is a conspicuous lack of political talent in Hong Kong and that many of our problems are home grown.
The most conspicuous example of the latter was the defeat by the pan-democrats of the 2014 bill that would have allowed a universal vote for the role of Chief Executive. Yes, the candidates would have been Beijing approved but removing Carrie Lam from office would have required nothing more demanding than a stroll to a local polling booth.
It was a catastrophic strategic blunder by a posturing group of incompetents who grossly overestimated their influence and power.
And the reluctance, or inability, of successive Chief Executives to deal with Hong Kong’s challenges of an increasing wealth gap, unaffordable housing and other social ills cannot be entirely attributed to the influence of Beijing.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man, is a cliché at once sexist, irrational and, in the context of Hong Kong since 1997, manifestly wrong. There are no charismatic local political figures. And yet.
In the course of five years Joshua Wong has emerged as a highly talented and effective politician. To date he has operated as a protester, working against the Government, for which he has done jail time.
Recently, he has been quoted as saying he wishes to stand for a seat in Legco. If true this would be a major move to a constitutional avenue of political activity.
It appears to be driven by an insight that there are limits to what protests can achieve. There will be no revolution that ‘frees’ Hong Kong.
Trashing MTR stations and shopping malls will not change the reality that the HKSAR is part of China. Sticking pictures of Xi Jinping to the pavement so you can be photographed stamping on his face may satisfy your ego but nothing more.
Whether or not this is indeed what drives Joshua Wong, it is a plan that should be encouraged. He would bring new life to Legco, which it certainly needs, and encourage others to follow his example. It would help rejuvenate Hong Kong politics that after a mere 22 years look tired and ineffectual.
The failings of Legco are many but the approach of the pan-democrats is characterized buy eternal anger at the Government, almost zero interest in creative policy-making, and an ingrained habit of riding on the coattails of protesters.
The pro-establishment parties are merely politically inert until prodded into life by their establishment backers.
Someone of the caliber of Joshua Wong would bring to Legco political focus and creativity, plus a remarkable range of international contacts. It would provide him with a platform to be exploited in a serious way that has to date eluded the fruit and water glass throwing, poster waving occupants of the Legco chamber.
It is just a pity we have to wait until September next year. But if you get the chance, vote for Joshua. It’s an investment in Hong Kong’s future.