For over two months, Hong Kong has stood at an impasse through millions of citizens protesting the fugitive extradition to China law–but the future of the protests seems uncertain. “The police might’ve been the one who started the fire, but neither side have done anything to put it out–and both sides are being burned because of it,” a concerned Hong Kong resident told me. On all sides, the protests have brought anxiety and pessimism to Hong Kong’s future. The increased frustration is in part due to the lack of response from Chief Executive, Carrie Lam. In a press conference after the Yuen Long attacks, a Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) reporter, Nabela Qoser, pressed Carrie Lam for answers, but after failing to get a valid response she interjected with “were you able to sleep last night?” Although Carrie Lam later condemned the violence, she never responded to the police’s absence in Yuen Long.
On August 5th, the citywide protest will be as large and widespread as the first week of protests in June. Sha Tin, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, Wong Tai Sin, Tai Po, Mong Kok, and Admiralty are major districts involved in the protests. On August 1st, banners in the New Town Plaza in Sha Tin advertised the general strike. Given the size of the protest, people should be concerned about the government’s response. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Weibo released a three-minute video with English subtitles of the Hong Kong garrison unit practicing anti-riot drills. Anti-riot vehicles will hit the streets this week.
Protestors have set their sight on larger demands, such as an independent commission inquiry into police behavior and the immediate implementation of universal suffrage. Many fear, including my friends in Hong Kong, that the protestors, who have been lacking a central organizational voice, will become violent, encouraging the police to respond likewise. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), have used protest footage to control an anti-Hong Kong narrative in the Mainland. In the People’s Daily, the CCP’s mouthpiece mentioned that the Hong Kong police can no longer be “gentle nannies,” and called the protestors “Western anti-China forces”. The unrest pushes the mainland narrative that Hong Kongers are brutish, misguided, and spoiled–who are willing to sacrifice economic prosperity for more civil freedom.
Tear gas does not choose its target; The gas has inadvertently affected unprotected civilians and has lingered in the streets for longer from poor ventilation. One of my friends is concerned about going back home in Jordan due to riot police shooting copious amounts of tear gas nearby. A Hong Konger shared a photo with me of a protestor with his arms bandaged in Saran wrap– the cling wrap is often used in burn relief. The police have been a major focus, causing vicious confrontations. After Yuen Long, the police-centered protests have escalated tensions, and for a while, derailed the movement because of violence and misplaced anger. The protestors are now refocusing back on the government, which has stayed eerily silent for months. The regrouping and increased organizational capabilities will be detrimental to the Hong Kong government, making the protestors a truly formidable force, who wants their demands met – Now.