Since the beginning of June, mass protests have been held in Hong Kong against the extradition bill. If passed, the law will allow Hong Kong residents to be extradited to China who are suspected of crimes in the PRC. For two and a half months, the holding of general elections, the creation of a commission to investigate the legitimacy of police actions and an amnesty for protesters were added to the list of protesters’ demands.
Hong Kongers are not afraid of the police and come up with new tactics of protest. Now the whole world is watching them, and there are several reasons for this.
Most of the population does not stop protesting for 2.5 months
The population of Hong Kong is about 7.5 million people. On June 9, a million of them took part in a peaceful demonstration, and this was the largest protest action ever held in the region.After 10 weeks, the number of protesters has not decreased, after a slight lull there was a new surge. On August 18, 1.7 million demonstrators participated in the rally . The most massive demonstration took place on June 16, more than 2 million people came to it.
Wherein protests not only in downtown Hong Kong. They flare up in several areas at the same time and during this time they managed to pass almost everywhere. On August 5, Hong Kong residents declared a general strike, paralyzing the operation of public transport, traffic on the streets and highways. This action became the largest in geography: it covered seven districts at once.
Protests affect the life of the whole city. After a third of air traffic controllers joined the strike, more than 200 flights were canceled at Hong Kong Airport . The situation hit tourism hard, the Chinese media portray protesters as vandals, destroying the city so that they are treated with apprehension.
Moving around Hong Kong is now even more difficult due to constantly blocked roads: most often, ballot boxes are scattered across the roadway. Demonstrators dismantle fences and build barricades from them, for this they also use road signs, abandoned bicycles and building fences. In the subway, protesters also block traffic, they stand in the doors of cars and prevent them from closing.
Different groups protest. People of different ages and professions participate in the promotions. Among them there are students, retirees, officials, office workers. In addition to the general processions, meetings of doctors, civil servants, and Catholics were held in Hong Kong.
Stocks have become more radical. Part of Hong Kong disillusioned with peaceful demonstrations
The protests in Hong Kong began as peaceful demonstrations, but in July there was an attack on the building of the representative office of the central authorities of the PRC. Separated from the peaceful procession, more radical youth threw eggs at the building, painted graffiti walls and painted the coat of arms of China with black paint. Police used rubber bullets and tear gas.
In August, protesters took hostage a reporter for the Global Times, who openly stated that he supported the actions of the police. He was tied up and beaten, for a long time preventing the doctors from providing assistance.
Demonstrators are not afraid to resist the police, clashes become fiercer. Over the summer , more than 700 protesters were arrested in Hong Kong over the summer ; many face up to 10 years in prison for a “riot”.
So far, the only result of the fight has been that the Hong Kong authorities decided tosuspend consideration of the extradition bill. But this does not mean that it will not be adopted, the goal is to achieve the final recall of the bill. The remaining demands of the protesters were also not satisfied. thereforesome Hong Kongers decided that peaceful protest might not be enough.
We held many peaceful actions that did not receive any response from the government. Now it is natural and necessary to step up our actions.
JC, a 27-year-old hairdresser from Hong Kong who quit her job in Julyquote by AP
At the end of July, people in white clothes appeared on the streets, beating demonstrators with wooden and metal sticks. They are called members of the triads – the Chinese mafia. They attack protesters not only during the rallies, but simply by meeting them on the street, in public transport. The appearance of aggressors from the mafia has further increased the degree of discontent.
Protesters learned from past failures. They are independent of leaders and carefully prepare for meetings with the police.
In 2014, mass protests, the Umbrella Revolution, were already held in Hong Kong. Thousands of demonstrations lasted 79 days, from September to December. Protesters demanded the resignation of the head of government and the cessation of PRC interference in local elections. Then it all ended after Joshua Wong, Nathan Lowe and Alex Chow were arrested , and then other leaders of the movement.There are no specific protest leaders in Hong Kong in 2019, therefore, authorities cannot exert pressure through one or more people.
Stocks go more spontaneously, groups appear in unexpected places where police orders have not yet been sent, and quickly disappear, moving to another point. Coordination of actions takes place on the Internet, mainly in Telegram chats, in some of which there are tens of thousands of participants. They are guided by the rule of Bruce Lee – to be like water, to be able to adapt to circumstances for a more effective fight.
Protesters walk in black clothes, although this makes it easier for police and triads to figure them out. Participants taught by experience have a whole set of equipment. On their heads they wear construction helmets, they hide their faces with masks and glasses. To hide from surveillance cameras, hide behind umbrellas. After the police started using traumatic bullets, some Hong Kong people began to wear homemade armor. They are protected from gas spray by a gas mask, a respirator or gauze bandage, and open parts of the body are wrapped with cling film.
Many people go with laser pointers: during one of the actions, the police detained the Hong Kong man, saying that his pointer was a weapon. After that, the protesters massively bought a laser and try to use it to blind the police and face recognition cameras. This method can really be effective. Laser-illuminated frames look like blurry light spots on a dark background.
Police stations are stoned and spray-painted.
Protesters are polite with the rest of the townspeople if they do not openly express their support for the police. The demonstrators take away the trash and apologize for the inconvenience, cross the road to a green light and instantly part with an ambulance.
The police are tough. In Beijing, what is called the “sprouts of terrorism”
Hong Kong authorities consider the protests “a challenge to national sovereignty.” The police harshly suppresses the action using batons, traumatic weapons, tear gas. A few rallies are held in the city in support of the extradition law and police actions. In order to intimidate, those arrested are transported to centers located on the border with the PRC, from which there is a risk of being secretly transported to China. But the opposition of the authorities only fuels the protest.
China saw in the actions of the protesters “sprouts of terrorism” and a threat to the lives of Hong Kongers. The commander of the garrison of the People’s Liberation Army of China in Hong Kong said the army was ready to “stand up for the sovereignty, security, stability and prosperity of Hong Kong.”
People’s armed police, which is equipped with armored vehicles, was pulled to the border of Hong Kong with the Chinese city of Shenzhen .
By law, the city government must maintain order in Hong Kong, but it can request assistance from the PRC to ensure public order or in the event of natural disasters. China itself is in no hurry to get into the suppression of the uprising, so as not to violate the principle of “one country – two systems”, according to which Hong Kong has its own economic and political system. This could lead to a crisis both domestically and in international relations.
Beijing is limited to threats, state propaganda and attacks on social networks. On August 19, Twitter announced that Chinese authorities were conducting an information campaign against protesters on Facebook and Twitter. According tomedia reports, China used technology copied from Russian “troll factories.”