GP Insights # 159, 5 October 2019
The police and protesters are in a faceoff after a policeman shot a teenager on 1 October. In a disturbing video posted online, the protester calls for help after a close encounter by the police during the demonstration. Shockingly, this is the first occurrence of gunfire since the starting of protests this year. Despite being hospitalized, the teenager was booked by authorities for rioting.
In yet another incident recently, the protests have erupted in much larger volumes in repose to the government's ban on wearing masks and evoking emergency conditions with support from Beijing. This has resulted in protesters torching police stations and authorities responding in the same tone.
What is the background?
The unending protests are transforming Hong Kong into a conflict zone, and protests have become a regular phenomenon. The protests began against the introduction of the Extradition Bill by Carrie Lam's government in June this year. The protestors have succeeded in pushing the government to withdraw the bill, but they did not stop there. They have continued their fight, further demanding democracy and justice in Honk Kong.
While Lam's government has encountered violent protests with non-lethal weapons and vice-versa all these days, the use of guns is relatively new. This incident indicates their aggression in their response to protests. The 2014 umbrella movement when compared to the recent protests did not witness escalating tensions and life-threating conditions. The turnout of events has been both shocking and surprising. It is shocking that the state has hardened its stance and surprising that the protesters have not budged despite repressive efforts by the administration.
What does it mean?
Hong Kong has not been successful in crushing the protests. This does not mean that the protestors have succeeded either.
The pressure mounted on the police may lead to further complications in the coming days. Chief Executive Lam called for severe measures and crackdowns despite ensuing district council elections in November. This could provoke the protestors further.
It is challenging to predict the future course of developments. Harsh actions by authorities will only provide leeway for Beijing to assert its might on Hong Kong. Attacks and counterattacks by both protesters and authorities may further precipitate the conditions.