The fires of revolution will not stop burning in Hong Kong despite the best efforts of police. Another night of protests wracked the South China special administrative area with rail lines disrupted and at least four demonstrators beaten by heavy-armored officers.
Saturday was the fifth anniversary of China’s failed attempt to modify the way political leaders were elected. The framework was rejected by the Hong Kong government after complainants and protesters called it too restrictive. The government attempted to disrupt any insurgent activity on Saturday by a virtual lockdown of the Western District. Trains and buses were diverted in the early afternoon while officers blocked tunnels and other thoroughfares.
Christians started the day off with a walk which included prayers and a man dressed as Moses hurling blessings on the officers blocking the road. The group appeared to seek a path towards the home of Chief Executive Carrie Lam but their hopes were thwarted by officers. RTHK described the scene as protesters using a “be water” strategy of flooding streets in various districts naturally through legal means instead of permit-required marches.
Things took a turn for the violent in late afternoon when black-clad dissidents set up barricades and blockages around the Central Government Complex. It depends on the news outlet on who started the clash. Hong Kong Free Press appeared to report police started the battle by firing tear gas and a cannon full of blue-dyed water. RTHK and South China Morning Post put the onus on the civilians reporting they tossed Molotov cocktails and petrol bombs. Chaos reigned the streets of Hong Kong, no matter who lit the match.
The initial confrontation lasted 90 minutes. Demonstrators attempted to stave off officers by setting barricades ablaze and lobbing tear gas bombs back at police. Petrol bombs were also used by those against the government. Smoke filled the skies, per images from the scene.
Protesters decided to change tactics as day gave away to night and began moving throughout Hong Kong. What South China Morning Post called hardcore elements of the anti-extradition law movement started burning barricades while police pursued. One large temporary roadblock caught fire outside Police Headquarters. RTHK claimed no police were nearby but South China Morning Post has video of shield-bearing riot officers marching towards demonstrators. Lampost wires connected to surveillance cameras were destroyed to hinder police efforts.
Police slipped undercover officers into the mob to make arrests. At least one physical confrontation ended in gunfire in what may have been an attempt by rebels to stop arrests. The government promised they used minimal force to end the clash but did not comment on the one shell casing found by civilians not involved in what happened. South China Morning Post reported two shots were fired into the air while RTHK said it was only one round. Video on Facebook may show the confrontation but the details are yet to be confirmed.
What can be confirmed is what happened after protesters fled into the night. Raptor squads filled with highly-trained police officers swarmed the streets going after those who demonstrated against the government. Video of the squad showing no mercy to fleeing agitators is all across social media.
The worst conflict occurred at Prince Edward Station where police stormed a train. The station was site of an earlier fight between protesters and non-participants who would not let them on a train. The latter violence was no even contest. Not even close. Bloodied Hongkongers, some of whom more than likely did not participate in any of the day’s demonstrators, were brutally beaten on a carriage.
Perhaps police wanted blood after the stabbing of one of their own on Friday. No one knows. Hong Kong Democratic Party Vice Chair LO Kin-hei denounced the violence as a terrorist attack by the police. Many injuries were reported. Fellow Democrat Lam Cheuk-ting told SCMP police didn’t care who they were beating. A man who appeared to be a non-violent medic was not allowed into the station to assist the wounded. A white foreigner was led out in handcuffs screaming, “What charge is this?”
The conflict petered out early in the morning but what happens next is yet to be seen.
The battle lines are obvious. The Hong Kong government does not believe any democratic reform is responsible. RTHK reported administrators believe reform talks would destabilize whatever society in Hong Kong and want it done prudently. Is it even possible when teenagers are taken from their parents because they may have participated in a protest?
“Our city finds itself in an uncomfortable place: on the front line between freedom and autocracy,” Demosistō Secretary-General Joshua Wong wrote in an essay published by The Economist shortly after his arrest on August 30th. “But our backs are against the wall and if we are cowed by fear now, there won’t be another chance to speak out. Beyond the barricades we long to see a Hong Kong free from tyranny and a puppet government.”
He compared the tactics used by the government in Hong Kong and China to actions used by the old USSR. Others have likened the actions to Nazi Germany. Blood has been shed but the next question is whether the next bloodletting will be in a train car or on the streets. South China Morning News reported early this morning protesters plan to cause travel headaches around the airport by clogging roads. A permit for a rally in a park right next to the government center on Monday was approved by police.
More violence is probably on the horizon. The burning of Hong Kong will not stop any time soon.