The protesters who stormed and trashed Hong Kong's Legislative Council building on Monday - the 22nd anniversary of the territory's handover to China - damaged not only the complex itself, but also their own cause. Up to that point, the million-plus Hong Kongers who came out on the streets to protest against a proposed extradition law could claim, with some credibility, that their actions were mostly peaceful expressions of grievance by concerned citizens. But the conduct and outcome of Monday's violence suggest that the leaderless movement has been hijacked by agitators and vandals, discrediting the movement itself, diminishing the chances of dialogue and raising fresh concerns about Hong Kong's future.
Looking back, the attempt by the territory's Chief Executive Carrie Lam to push through the controversial extradition Bill - which would open the possibility of extraditing criminal suspects from Hong Kong to mainland China - has now led to several uncertainties. While the Bill itself has been shelved and is unlikely to be brought back to the legislature, the problem of plugging the loopholes in Hong Kong's legal and extradition systems will remain. There is also a question mark over how long Beijing's patience on this issue and with developments in the territory will hold. Moreover, the episode has seriously weakened Mrs Lam's stature and legitimacy in the eyes of Hong Kongers. While she has pledged to adopt a more consultative approach in the three remaining years of her term, her intentions will be viewed with suspicion by sections of the population until she can re-establish trust. Meanwhile, Hong Kong will suffer from a leadership vacuum. This is another issue that may worry Beijing. It is standing by Mrs Lam for now, and will hope it can count on her to effectively govern Hong Kong and rebuild trust, both with its people, and between them and Beijing. Hong Kong's business community, as well as investors in the territory, will also be concerned following the disturbing events of the past month. Besides the fact that they, too, are wary of the proposed extradition law, which could potentially target them as well, a stand-off between a damaged government and its citizens would not be conducive to business confidence.