I am deeply disturbed by the events that unfolded on the 5th of August, and the progression of the protests in Hong Kong since the break-in at the LegCo building. As an American, I admit the bias towards the push for a democratic and independent Hong Kong, but I am upset at the growing string of violent behavior. The police’s excessive use of force has been inexcusable but matching that violence with more violence achieves nothing.
Protestors should not insult those who choose to work instead of protest, not all people have that luxury, nor should they have blocked roads, the MTR, and other modes of transportation. The behavior has endangered and upset the lives of many Hong Kongers, effectively alienating themselves, and sacrificing any possibility to achieve their goals of universal suffrage. This was in part aided by the lack of a centralized voice and vision that has split the protestors into various camps, each fit with their own ideologies and protesting methods.
The sparks of violence make it easier for the mainland to push the narrative that Hong Kongers are loutish, misguided, and spoiled—who are willing to sacrifice economic prosperity for more civil freedom. China is happy to make Hong Kong look bad; 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”. Additionally, the People’s Liberation Army on Weibo released a surreal three-minute video with English subtitles of the Hong Kong garrison unit practicing anti-riot drills. It is frustrating seeing the protestors play directly into the narrative the Chinese controlled media are weaving.
The police, by no means, are free of criticism, and I believe that their early jump to tear gas and excessive force has escalated tensions and encouraged violent pushback from the protestors. Trust was completely eroded after the police’s (lack of) response to the Yuen Long attacks; The 999 emergency hotline was unavailable that night, opening the police to extreme criticism issued through a joint statement from 24 pro-democracy lawmakers: “[it] would not connect for a long time and the police station was closed. There were even officers who pretended they didn’t see the actions of those in white shirts and red ribbons and turned around to leave.” The police at that point were indistinguishable from common thugs, and people felt betrayed. The protests demanding an independent commission inquiry into the police went nowhere, despite encouragement from Britain. This only upset people more.
I understand the frustration from the protestors, since the government still did not accede to the demands of the people after millions of people peacefully protested for weeks. The inaction built a mixture of irritation and desperation, leading to more dramatic physical actions from protestors.
After the 5th, I doubt that protestors will get what they want now. Carrie Lam’s pathetic responses throughout the protests did not ameliorate tensions. “Liberate Hong Kong; Revolution of our times” (光復香港, 時代革命) can only mean something once protestors know what they are fighting for and how they want to achieve it. Real change will come from within the government, not from anarchist-like demonstrations. Hong Kongers do not have a voice in their own city and allowing non-vetted legislators would certainly help that. Hong Kong will be China’s problem for many years, and the tension will certainly not diminish. This is not a black and white situation; Hong Kong is nothing but gray.
Note: The protestors are not just angry about the Extradition bill; you can read my essay on the disappearance of Hong Kong on Medium if you want clarification.