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It’s good to talk

HONG KONG — DEMOCRACY

How do you get people who hate each other into the same room? It’s a sign of Hong Kong’s seemingly endless divide that South African and Irish mediators have recently visited to share their experiences of bringing two warring sides together. “When a society feels divided, families and friends are arguing, and relationships have fallen apart, having some facilitators is useful,” says Christine Loh, a former government official. Loh is also a prominent member of the Forward Alliance, a group of independent individuals working to promote dialogue between Hong Kong’s pro-democracy and pro-establishment camps.
Chief executive Carrie Lam’s aborted attempt at community talks were notable for their lack of protestor representation (a charge that can also be levelled at the Forward Alliance’s first attempts at dialogue). But despite the scepticism, the biggest risk is doing nothing, says Paul Zimmerman, one of the Alliance’s leaders: “The greatest threat is people believing that the gap between the authoritarian system and the liberal system is unbreachable.”

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