Pro-China groups are now involved in the violence consuming Hong Kong. Hong Kong Free Press reported Saturday a large demonstration brawled with democracy protesters at a Kowloon Bay mall while also damaging pro-democracy placards set up across the island. RTHK confirmed the clashes between the two groups before police officers became involved.
The caveat is who it appeared HKPD targeted. RTHK reported officers were accused of being lenient towards pro-Beijing advocates while only arresting anti-extradition bill demonstrators. Stand News, which is pro-democracy, supported the report and noted officers pushed a photojournalist out of the way and into a wall.
A pro-China protester was also injured after police left the area. RTHK reported the attack happened because he was spotted taking pictures of anti-government protesters. There’s no defense of violence but it’s likely there was fear he was an undercover cop sent to blend in with those who are against the government. The anxiety is understandable given the fact protesters have been arrested by police at their homes. It doesn’t justify the violence but provides a bit of a lens into a possible motive.
Violence broke out again today as demonstrators clogged the streets near the Hong Kong government offices in support of International Democracy Day. The march was originally canceled by police but thousands showed up anyway.
“Even though the police rejected our march today we will still come out because it is our right to do it,” a registered nurse called ‘Ms. Chow’ by Hong Kong Free Press stated while holding a sign vowing protesters would not surrender to Hong Kong. “I think the majority of Hong Kong people are not afraid of coming out.”
The sentiment was shared by others taking part in the gathering.
“This is the first rally since the withdrawal of the extradition bill,” protester Terence Pang told South China Morning Post while he sat in a wheelchair. “That’s important because we need to let the government know that our other demands have not been met. I’m most concerned about having universal suffrage – that’s the root of all our problems.”
How the violence started is up for debate. South China Morning Post put the blame for the clashes on what they called “radical protesters” writing the group lobbed Molotov cocktails at police before they were struck with tear gas and rubber bullets. Hong Kong Free Press seemed to suggest the bombs and tear gas happened almost simultaneously. The truth may be somewhere in between.
What happened next isn’t debatable. Bricks and rubber bullets flew through the air as the pitched battle began between both sides. Police used water cannons and tear gas and HKFP reported some journalists ended up being struck by a tear gas canister. There are multiple reports one police water cannon truck was hit by a Molotov cocktail although no injuries were reported.
One curious thing is why pro-democracy demonstrators claim to be using petrol bombs. One person told RTHK they didn’t want to hurt officers but just keep them away from gatherings. “I don’t think they are trying to aim for the police or anyone, they just throw it in the stairs.” the 21-year-old claimed. “Give us some time to retreat or something.”
The night brought about more fights and arrests. Police took Democratic Party legislator Ted Hui into custody on claims he obstructed their operations. The crime? Telling officers to not abuse their power when they arrested a couple in black shirts walking in the streets. The female in the couple told officers she was just going home but police said she’d been yelling. Odd reasons for an arrest.
Journalists were also assaulted. SCMP reported two of their reporters were attacked by men wearing white. One female Apple Daily reporter suffered a hand injury when a white-clad man tried to take her phone. RTHK reported later the white-clad gang, for lack of a better term, went after anti-government demonstrators all while police watched and did nothing. A witness to a separate brawl claimed police broke up the fight but did not arrest any of the white-clad attackers.
The common refrain of observers of the Hong Kong situation is the island is headed towards destruction. George Will wrote in his syndicated column this weekend he believes China and the Hong Kong government made an error in judgment by not withdrawing the extradition bill immediately after the protests broke out. One Civic Party leader told Will some protesters carry their will in case the police kill them.
It would be too easy to blame the hardline protesters for not backing down with their demands. They seek five things: kill the extradition bill, drop all charges against protesters, classify the demonstrations as “protests,” not riots, look into possible police brutality, and universal suffrage. The extradition bill is dead, thankfully, while the other four demands aren’t necessarily untenable. Universal suffrage will take the longest to attain although it’s still a worthy goal for the future.
Hong Kong burns. It can still be saved if everyone is willing. However, that time may have already passed.