GP Insights # 187, 16 November 2019
Stockpiled with petrol bombs and bows and arrows, the situation in Hong Kong has turned into a nightmare. The protesters are seen targeting the police.
Tolo highway was closed by the activists but was partially unblocked and then blocked again during the rush hour on Friday this week. The highway has been the key blockade of the protesters as it is a prominent location in the city. There are also splits among the protesters getting visible.
The President of Hong Kong's Chinese University threatened the non-students to leave, highlighting that he would call for 'assistance' if needed. The campus became the scene of violent clashes, where protesters were seen hurling petrol bombs at police and on a highway that links the rural territories. Beijing has made a statement saying Britain is responsible for fuelling the protests after masked demonstrators jostled a Hong Kong minister in London. A group of people who are supporters of the government marched in Hong Kong.
What is the background?
The protests began as a major challenge to the political influence of Beijing on the autonomous region. They are no longer what was initially imagined to be. The leadership within mainland China has worked tirelessly to curb such protests in the past. "The violence has far exceeded the call for democracy and the demonstrators are now the people's enemy," Hong Kong chief executive Lam stated in her television address. Protests in Hong Kong have almost been every day in the past weeks, however firing tear gases during the working hours in central was rare. Confrontations and shootings between the protesters and the police have been ongoing since late September and multiple videos show that the measures undertaken are that of retaliation; the police are breaking protocols and the protesters call the police and everyone that is 'well-paid,' as brutal.
What does it mean?
The image of Hong Kong protesters being rational and neat in their approach is waning. The choice of going leaderless has proven to be faulty in the sixth month. Actions from the side of the university administrations might benefit the government to reduce participation. Splits among the groups have grown stronger.
The international support to the protesters has significantly seen a fall. Within Hong Kong, although many continue to sympathise with the cause, the participation has reduced. The citizens are scared because no one knows where the protests are headed; deep divisions are visible within the groups. Many concerns are being raised in terms of the weakening economy, the extent of damage and the consequences of the violent turn of events.