HONG KONG: WEEK 23


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Yesterday was one of the most violent days in the ongoing civil revolt that has paralyzed one of Asia’s busiest and most influential financial centers.

Protesters took to the streets during morning rush hour, spreading out across the city in small groups, blocking commercial thoroughfares, vandalizing buildings, and forcing a number of shops to close.

Calling for a citywide strike, tens of thousands also marched peacefully.

Chaos ensued as protesters threw bricks and other objects at police who responded by striking protesters with batons and spraying them with tear gas.

In one dramatic incident, a video clearly showed a policeman shooting an unarmed protester in the chest, which in turn escalated the protests.  

In another incident that went viral, a protester threw flammable liquid on a man who was arguing against the violence and then set him on fire.

The city university cancelled all classes. 

Over 30 subway stations were shut down.

The city’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, called a news conference, stating:

“If there is still any wishful thinking that by escalating violence the Hong Kong SAR government will yield to pressure to satisfy the so-called political demands, I’m making this statement clear and loud here: that will not happen.”

Protesters so far have shown no indication of backing down even as police use more aggressive tactics to stop them.

As one observer noted, “The police… have also clearly changed their strategy from crowd control to mass arrests.”

Yes, the Hong Kong police have clearly changed their strategy, and they will be clamping down harder to control the protesters and quash any semblance of an independence movement.

As reported last week in the Trends Journal, Carrie Lam was summoned to China for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to quell the ongoing protests. This was the first face-to-face meeting between the two since the massive street protests began.

President Xi “demanded” stronger efforts be taken by Lam. He stated, “Ending violence and chaos and restoring order remain the most important tasks for Hong Kong at present.“

Hong Kong’s economy is officially in recession, largely due to the continued protests, disruption of the city’s transportation system, and vandalism against businesses associated with China, as well as the blocking of streets and occupation of malls and the airport over the past several weeks.

Recent indexes show the most dramatic drop in business activity in over 20 years, while the IHS Markit Hong Kong PMI fell to its lowest since the Panic of ’08.

Free Hong Kong?

While the massive protests were instigated by an extradition law, which under pressure has been revoked, the main drive behind the demonstrations is political freedom from the “semi-autonomous” relation Hong Kong has with China.

For example, Hong Kong’s most senior official, its “Chief Executive,” is not elected but rather appointed by the Central People’s Government of China, and only about half of the legislative government is elected by the people democratically. 

Last Friday, violence in the city broke out again after Chow Tsz-lok, a college student, died from head injuries suffered after falling from a multi-level parking area earlier in the week, which was blamed on excessive police actions.  Police violence is one of the key issues. 

In fact, the president of the university Chow attended also blamed police for “blocking the paramedics walking to the scene, causing a delay of 20 minutes in the rescue operation of our student,” saying the delay came at “the most critical moments that might have saved a young life.”

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Since the protests broke out in October in Iraq, Ecuador, and Chile, some 320, 12, and 20 protestors have been killed respectively.  

We note this to show how just one person killed in Hong Kong, whose name is now well-known in media coverage, has created another flash point for protestors.

The names and faces, however, of those killed by police/military in the aforementioned nations, plus the thousands being killed in civil unrest in other nations of Africa and the Middle East, remain unknown. 

What will happen in Hong Kong if Chinese President Xi uses military power to quash the protests, as he has affirmed, and more people are killed? Will the protests escalate or be ended by military intervention?

Why is it that the killing of one person (whose cause of death has not been determined) gets major media coverage but there has been no reporting of the names of those killed in other countries? 

Most of the Hong Kong protest was peaceful, with vigils throughout the night to mourn the death of Chow.

Held at one of the city’s largest parks, tens of thousands of citizens rallied against the backdrop of a huge light display with the words: “Free Hong Kong.”  

Among other events that fueled demonstrations were Hong Kong lawmakers being charged with the crime of disrupting a legislative meeting last May in an attempt to stop the controversial extradition bill that instigated the first city-wide protests.

Violent clashes between police and protesters continued over the weekend.

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