Hong Kong Violence Ensues

Owen Luo ‘23

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The Hong Kong protests have gone on since June for five months up to this point. Although Carrie Lam, chief executive of Hong Kong, already withdrew the Extradition Bill in September, many are still demonstrating and voicing the conditions that they think are important to Hong Kong at the moment.

 

These protesters have five conditions. They want the bill to be permanently withdrawn, the right to choose their leader (as it is currently appointed by Beijing), the release and vindication of protesters in jail, government recognition that the protest is not a riot, and an inspection of Hong Kong’s police brutality during the protests. The Hong Kong government has not met any of the demands of these protesters.

 

Recently, more and more of these protests have become violent clashes between counter-protesters, protesters, and the police. The first shooting of a protester by a police officer was on October 1, Chinese National’s Day, marking the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic. Protests escalated so much that, according to Ramy Inocencio of BBC, “for a time [that] day, the streets of Hong Kong resembled a war zone with pops of live ammunition.” The victim of that first shooting was 18-years-old.

 

More recently, on November 11, police stopped demonstrators trying to block a road outside an MRT subway station in Sai Wan Ho in eastern Hong Kong Island. During this, a police officer shot and critically injured a 21-year-old masked protester on a nearby crosswalk, who was rushed to the hospital afterwards. The Hong Kong police then released a statement that the police officer shot the man out of self-defense.

 

There are even more examples of violence from the police, sparking lots of outrage among the Hong Kong people. A newly circulated social media video showed a police motorbike in Kwai Fong swerving left and right around a group of protesters, purposely trying to hit them with his vehicle. Luckily, nobody was injured.

 

There was also violence coming from some demonstrators. Using molotov cocktails, they set buildings related to Mainland China on fire. They even set some people on fire. A pro-China man was set on fire by the protesters as a result of the shooting on November 11, and as a result he has 28% of his body covered with second degree burns. 

 

Moreover, a 70-year-old cleaner, Luo, was hit by a brick by an unknown protester and died at the scene. Police say he was killed by man in black with a mask. 

 

There is a difference in opinion on whether the violence should be blamed on the police officers or the protesters. A British man who had a confrontation with protesters, Alun Wessler, told Global Times, a state-run newspaper written by the Communist Party of China, states that, “bullying and beating only one particular national group, smashing up their shops…it’s fascism if you ask me.” On the other hand, one woman demonstrating about the Hong Kong protests in New York said that it is hard to control millions of protesters to make sure that nobody becomes violent but there is no excuse for trained police force to be just as violent.

 

Sharing such opinions can be quite dangerous in both Hong Kong and Mainland China, as pro-Hong Kong short videos have been shut down on the big Chinese social media giant WeChat. In Hong Kong, businesses and restaurants are sometimes labeled as either pro-China or pro-democracy, leaving room for possible attacks.

 

Over time, after protest after protest, the streets of Hong Kong have become a mess of barricades and bricks. Besides some citizens who have tried to clean up, the People’s Liberation Army of China suddenly intervened to help pick up the bricks, creating speculation over a possible military intervention.

 

For now, the violence does not seem like it will end. In fact, even the Hong Kong schools closed early for the winter holidays, anticipating a long protest ahead. As each side is polarizing to one side, not much dialogue is being made. As CNN writer Chandran Nair writes, “The current stalemate can only be addressed via dialogue.”