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2019 Hong Kong protests

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2019 Hong Kong protests
(March–June, July, August, September)
Part of the 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill and Hong Kong–Mainland China conflict
June9protestTreefong01.jpg
Hundreds of thousands of protesters marching on 9 June 2019[1]
Date 9 June 2019 – ongoing[2]
(106 days)[note 1]
Location
Various districts of Hong Kong
Dozens of other cities abroad
Caused by
Goals
  • Full withdrawal of the extradition bill from the legislative process
  • Retraction of the characterisation of the protests as "riots"
  • Release and exoneration of arrested protesters
  • Establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into police behaviour
  • Universal suffrage for Legislative Council and Chief Executive elections
  • Resignation of Carrie Lam[8]
Methods Diverse (see tactics and methods)
Concessions
given
  • Bill suspended on 15 June, declared as "dead" on 9 July.[9]
  • Police partially retracted characterisation of protests on or before 12 June as "riots", except for 5 individuals in Admiralty on 12 June[10]
  • Lam announces on 4 September that the bill would be withdrawn in a future government session.[11]
Parties to the civil conflict

 Hong Kong Protesters
(no centralised authority)


Industry workers involved

  • Legal (6 June & 7 August)
  • Journalists (14 July)
  • Social workers (21 July, 30 August & 16 September)
  • Finance (1 August)
  • Healthcare (2, 12-14 August & 2 September)
  • Civil servants (2 August)
  • Teachers (17 August)
  • Accountants (23 August)
  • Aviation (28 August)
Lead figures
Protesters
(no centralised leadership)
Injuries and arrests
Death(s) 8 (all suicides)[15][16][17][18][19][20]
(as of September 2019)
Injuries 2,000+ (as of 15 August 2019)[14]
Arrested 1,453 (as of 16 September 2019)[21]

The 2019 Hong Kong protests, also known as the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill (ELAB) Movement, are an ongoing series of demonstrations in Hong Kong, China which began with the aim to oppose the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill proposed by the Hong Kong government.[22][23] If enacted, the bill will allow local authorities to detain and extradite criminal fugitives who are wanted in territories with which Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements, including Taiwan and mainland China.[24] People were concerned that the bill would subject Hong Kong citizens and visitors to the mainland Chinese jurisdiction, undermining the autonomy of the region and its civil liberties.[25][26][27][28] As the protests progressed, the protesters laid out five key demands, which include investigation into the alleged police misconduct and resumption of democratic reforms which have stagnated since the 2014 Umbrella Revolution.[22] The Chinese central government has described the protests as "the worst crisis in Hong Kong" since the handover in 1997.[29]

Demonstrations against the bill began in March and April and turned into regular mass movements in June.[30][31] Hundreds of thousands of people marched against the bill on 9 June.[32][33][34][35] On 12 June, the day on which the bill was scheduled for a second reading in the Legislative Council, the protests showed a sharp escalation in violence. Riot police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets, but protesters successfully stalled the functioning of the legislature.[36] On 16 June, one day after Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended the bill, a huge march took place. The organisers claimed that two million people participated, while the police reported that 338,000 people marched at its peak.[37][38][39][40]

On 1 July, the 22nd anniversary of the handover, hundreds of thousands of people participated in the annual July march.[41] A portion of these demonstrators split from the march and broke into the Legislative Council Complex, vandalising central government symbols.[42] Subsequently, the protests have continued throughout the summer, escalating into increasingly violent confrontations involving the police, activists on both sides, suspected triad gangs, rioters, and local residents in over 20 different neighbourhoods throughout the region.[43] 21 July marked the Yuen Long attack where organised triad members assaulted protesters and bystanders, which heightened the tension. Subsequent police operations and alleged misconduct prompted a general strike and a city-wide protests on 5 August. About 1.7 million people (organisers' estimate) also attended a rally condemning police brutality on 18 August.[44] Inspired by the Baltic Way, an estimated 210,000 people created "The Hong Kong Way", a human chain 50 kilometres long.[45] There were also pro-police rallies that attracted hundreds of thousands Hong Kong residents to attend.[46]

Lam suspended the extradition bill on 15 June and declared the bill "dead" on 9 July, but fell short of a full withdrawal until 4 September.[47][48][49] However, she refused to concede to any of the other four demands, namely an independent inquiry on police brutality, the release of arrested protesters, a complete retraction of the official characterisation of the protests as "riots", and universal suffrage of the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive, and her resignation.[50]

Background

Direct cause

The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 was first proposed by the government of Hong Kong on February 2019 in response to the 2018 murder of Poon Hiu-wing by her boyfriend Chan Tong-kai in Taiwan, where the two Hong Kong residents were visiting as tourists. As there is no extradition treaty with Taiwan (because the government of China does not recognise its sovereignty), the Hong Kong government proposed an amendment to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance (Cap. 503) and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance (Cap. 525) to establish a mechanism for case-by-case transfers of fugitives, on the order of the Chief Executive, to any jurisdiction with which the city lacks a formal extradition treaty.[28] One such jurisdiction would be mainland China.

The inclusion of mainland China in the amendment is of concern to different sectors of Hong Kong society. Pro-democracy advocates fear the removal of the separation of the region's jurisdiction from mainland Chinese laws administered by the Communist Party, thereby eroding the "one country, two systems" principle in practice since the 1997 handover. Opponents of the bill urged the Hong Kong government to explore other avenues, such as establishing an extradition arrangement solely with Taiwan, and to sunset the arrangement immediately after the surrender of the suspect.[28][51]

Underlying causes

2019 Hong Kong protests came four and a half years after the Umbrella Revolution in 2014, which began after the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) had issued a decision regarding proposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system, which was largely seen as restrictive. However, despite mass rallies, the government did not make any concession and the movement ended in failure.[52] Since then, there has been no progress in achieving genuine universal suffrage; only half of the seats in the Legislative Council remain directly elected, and the Chief Executive of Hong Kong continues to be voted by the small-circle Election Committee. Following the failed protests, the 2017 imprisonment of Hong Kong democracy activists further dashed the city's hope of advancing democractic development.[53] People began to fear the loss of the "high degree of autonomy" provided for in the Hong Kong Basic Law, as the government of the People's Republic of China appeared to be increasingly and overtly interfering with Hong Kong's affairs. Notably, the Hong Kong Legislative Council oath-taking controversy ended with the disqualification of six lawmakers following a ruling by courts in Mainland China; the Causeway Bay Books disappearances sparked concerns for state-sanctioned rendition and extrajudicial detention.[54]

The rise of localism and the pro-independence movement was marked by the campaign for the 2016 New Territories East by-election by activist Edward Leung[55] as fewer and fewer Hong Kong youths identify themselves as Chinese due to the legal, social and cultural differences between Hong Kong and mainland China. Pollsters at the University of Hong Kong found that the younger they were, the more distrustful they were towards the Central government.[54] Hong Kong youth had already faced political turmoil since the Moral and National Education controversy in 2012, and they were no longer confident in the systems which supposedly protected their rights. With the approach of 2047, when the Basic Law is set to expire, and along with it the constitutional guarantees enshrined within it, sentiments of an uncertain future drove youth to join the protests against the extradition bill.[52]

For some protesters, the Umbrella Revolution was an inspiration that brought about a political awakening for them.[52] Others felt that peaceful methods were not effective and resorted to using more radical methods to express their view.[7][56] Both CNN and The Guardian noted that unlike the 2014 protests, protesters in 2019 were driven by a sense of desperation rather than hope,[57][58][57] and that the aims of the protests have evolved from withdrawing the bill to fighting for greater freedom and liberties.[59]

Objectives

Protesters initially solely demanded the withdrawal of the extradition bill. Following an escalation in the severity of policing tactics against demonstrators on 12 June and the bill's suspension on 15 June, the objective of the protesters has been to achieve these five demands:[60]

  • Complete withdrawal of the extradition bill from the legislative process: Although Chief Executive announced indefinite suspension of the bill on 15 June, reading on it may be quickly resumed. The bill was "pending resumption of second reading" in the Legislative Council. On 4 September, Carrie Lam announced that the formal withdrawal of the bill will be processed by Secretary for Security John Lee in the Legislative Council later.
  • Retraction of the "riot" characterisation: The government originally characterised the 12 June protest as "riots". Later the description was amended to say there were "some" protesters who rioted. However, protesters contest the existence of acts of rioting during the 12 June protest.
  • Release and exoneration of arrested protesters: Protesters consider the arrests to be politically motivated; they also question the legitimacy of police arresting protesters at hospitals through access to their confidential medical data in breach of patient privacy.
  • Establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into police conduct and use of force during the protests: Civic groups felt that the level of violence used by the police on 12 June, specifically those against protesters who were not committing any offences when they were set upon, was unjustified; police performing stop-and-search to numerous passers-by near the protest site without probable cause was also considered abusive.[61] Some officers' failure to display or show their police identification number or warrant card despite being required to do so by the Police General Orders is seen to be a breakdown of accountability.[62] The existing watchdog lacks independence, and its functioning relies on police cooperation.
  • Resignation of Carrie Lam and the implementation of universal suffrage for Legislative Council and Chief Executive elections[63]: Currently, the Chief Executive is selected by a 1,200-member Election Committee, and 30 of the 70 Legislative Council seats are filled by limited electorates that represent different sectors of the economy, forming the majority of the so-called functional constituencies.

History

Early stage

The Civil Human Rights Front, a platform for 50 pro-democracy groups, launched a protest march against the bill on 31 March and another on 28 April. While police estimated 22,800 protesters, organisers claimed 130,000 participants. The latter figure was the highest since the estimated 510,000 that organisers claimed joined the annual 1 July protest in 2014.[30] The anti-extradition issue attracted more attention when pro-democratic Legislative Councilors launched a filibuster campaign against the bill. In response, the Secretary of Security John Lee announced that the government would resume the second reading of the bill in a full Legislative Council meeting on 12 June, bypassing the Bills Committee, whose role was scrutinising the bill.[64]

With the second reading of the bill scheduled for 12 June, the CHRF launched their third protest march from Victoria Park to the Legislative Council in Admiralty on 9 June. While Police estimated an ettendance of 270,000, the organisers claimed that 1.03 million people attended the rally.[1] Carrie Lam demanded the second reading debate on the bill be resumed on 12 June,[65] causing several student groups and the political party Demosistō to stage a sit-in outside the Legislative Council Complex. Police forced them to retreat to Wan Chai.[66]

The general strike called for 12 June was observed by over 100 employers.[67] Riot police dispersed protesters at the Legislative Council building by kettling protesters, allegedly assaulting journalists, firing tear gas, beanbag rounds and rubber bullets.[68] Police Commissioner Stephen Lo declared the clashes a "riot",[69] although the police itself were subsequently condemned for using excessive force, such as firing tear gas at a crowd who were peacefully protesting near CITIC Tower.[70][71] and the lack of identifying numbers on police officers.[72] The clashes that day provoked protesters to begin asking for an independent inquiry on police brutality and urging the government to retract the "riot" characterisation.

The 16 June march had 338,000 demonstrators at its peak according to police reports, whereas the organisers claimed 2 million attended.

On 15 June, Carrie Lam announced the suspension of the bill, though the pro-democratic camp had demanded a full withdrawal of the bill.[73] A 35-year-old man committed suicide in protest at Lam's decision.[74] CHRF claimed a record-breaking "almost 2 million plus 1 citizens" had participated in the 16 June protest, while the police estimated that there were 338,000 demonstrators at its peak.[40]

Protesters began to besiege the Police Headquarters on 21 and 24 June.[75][76] Protesters also began to call for international support by visiting the consulates of member states of the G20 expected at the Osaka summit; they assembled at Edinburgh Place at night.[77][78]

Protests "blossoming everywhere"

The Conference Room after the protesters stormed the Legislative Council Complex

The CHRF held the annual march on 1 July and claimed a record turnout of 550,000 while police placed the estimate around 190,000.[79][80] The protest was largely peaceful. At night, protesters stormed the Legislative Council Complex, but the police took little action to stop them. Protesters smashed furniture, defaced the Hong Kong emblem, and presented a new manifesto with ten points.[81][82] Some of the protesters who stormed the LegCo Complex were motivated by the desperation stemmed from several more cases of suicides since 15 June.[83] Carrie Lam condemned the protesters who stormed the council.[84][58]

Following the 1 July protest, protests began to "blossom everywhere",[85][86] with protests being held in different areas in Hong Kong,[87] both protesting against the extradition bill and local issues, including parallel traders from China in Sheung Shui.[88][89] Lennon Walls were also set up in different neighbourhoods and became a source of conflict between pro-Beijing citizens and supporters of the protests. The first anti-extradition protest in Kowloon was held on 7 July, where protesters marched from Tsim Sha Tsui to West Kowloon station.[90] Clashes occurred later in Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. The police's failure to display their warrant cards drew criticism.[91] The peaceful protest held on July 14 soon escalated into intense confrontations between the protesters and the police when the protesters were kettled inside New Town Plaza.[92][93] Sun Hung Kai Properties were then scrutinized for allowing the police to enter the plaza without proper permit.[94][95]

Protesters inside the Hong Kong International Airport on 26 July

Attention shifted back to Hong Kong Island when the CHRF held another anti-extradition protest on 21 July. Protesters advanced past the police-mandated endpoint,[96] and some protesters surrounded the Hong Kong Liaison Office and defaced the Chinese national emblem, an act that was condemned by the government.[97] While a standoff between the protesters and the police occurred in Sheung Wan,[98] white-clad groups, suspected to be triad members allegedly supported by pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho,[99] appeared at Yuen Long station and indiscriminately attacked people inside the station. Yuen Long became a ghost town following the attack and the police's sluggish response to the incident sparked public's outrage.[100][101]

On 27 July, protesters marched to Yuen Long, despite opposition from rural groups and police's objection. The protest escalated into violent clashes inside Yuen Long station.[102] On the next day, protesters again defied the police ban and marched to Sai Wan and Causeway Bay.[103] To support the arrestees charged with rioting, protesters besieged the police stations in Kwai Chung and Tin Shui Wai, where protesters were attacked by fireworks launching out of a moving vehicle.[104][105]

Escalation

Protesters returned to Mong Kok on 3 August, though some protesters marched to block the Cross-Harbour Tunnel in Hung Hom, blocking vehicles.[106] The arrest of protesters in Wong Tai Sin angered the local residents, who clashed with police near the Disciplined Services quarters.[107]

5 August saw a call for a general strike which was answered by 350,000 people according to the Confederation of Trade Unions.[108] Over 200 flights were cancelled due to the strike.[109][110][111] Protests and sit-ins were held in seven districts in Hong Kong. To disperse the protesters, the police force used more than 800 canisters of tear gas, a record number for Hong Kong.[112] Protesters in North Point and Tsuen Wan were attacked by two groups of stick-wielding men, though some fought back the attackers.[113][114]

Protesters pointing their laser pointer to a newspaper

From 6–7 August, after the Hong Kong Baptist University Student Union president Fong Chung-yin was arrested in Sham Shui Po for possession of "offensive weapons", which were found to be laser pens.[115] Protesters then gathered outside Hong Kong Space Museum to shine laser pointers on the wall of the museum.[116]

Alleged police brutality on 11 August (including allegations that a Police bean bag rounds ruptured the eye of a medic, the use of tear gas indoors, the deployment of undercover police, and the firing of pepper ball rounds at protesters at a very close range) prompted protesters to stage a three-day sit-in at Hong Kong International Airport from 12 to 14 August, prompting the Airport Authority to cancel numerous flights for at least two days.[117][118][119] In separate incidents on 13 August, protesters at the Airport cornered and assaulted two men accused of being either undercover police or agents for the mainland, one of whom was later identified as a reporter for the Global Times.[120][118][121][122] A peaceful rally was held in Victoria Park by the CHRF on 18 August to condemn police brutality. The CHRF stated it attracted at least 1.7 million people, who, despite a police ban, marched to Central.[44] An additional estimated 300,000 protesters marched between Central and Causeway Bay, but could not enter the park due to overcrowding. The police put the attendance in Victoria Park football areas at 128,000 at the peak.

Protestors atop Lion Rock for The Hong Kong Way. 23 August 2019

On the evening of 23 August, an estimated 210,000 people participated in "The Hong Kong Way" campaign, in which participants formed a human chain to draw attention to the movement's five demands.[123][124] They joined hands to create a human chain 50 kilometres long, stretching across both sides of Hong Kong harbour and over the top of Lion Rock.[125] [126][127]

During the protests of 25 August in Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing Districts, hardline protesters threw bricks and gasoline bombs toward the police, who in turn responded by firing tear gas and deploying water cannon trucks.[128] After being chased and attacked by protesters, one officer fired a warning shot toward the sky – this marked the first time a live round had been used since the demonstrations broke out in June.[128][129] The police also kicked a kneeling man who was attempting to persuade the officers not to shoot.[129]

Ignoring a police ban[130] and the recent arrests of high-profile pro-democracy activists and lawmakers, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong Island on 31 August.[131][132] Amnesty International called for an investigation into the police conduct after the Special Tactical Squad stormed the Prince Edward station and beat and pepper-sprayed the commuters inside.[133]

On 1 September, the target of protesters was the Hong Kong International Airport.[134] Hundreds of protesters fled to the neighbouring Tung Chung district, and with transport suspended by MTR, some protesters walked a 15 km route on the highway to the urban area from Lantau Island.[135] The mass evacuation was dubbed by some media as "Hong Kong's Dunkirk".[136]

About 10,000 students attended a rally inside Chinese University of Hong Kong to support the class boycotts on 2 September.

On 2 and 3 September, thousands of school and university students boycotted classes on the first two days of the new term to join the protests.[137][138][139] Rallies were held on Hong Kong Island for people who participated in the general strike. Protesters besieged the Mong Kok police station to condemn the police brutality on 31 August and to demand the MTR Corporation to release the CCTV footage of that night.[140]

Decision to withdraw the bill

On 4 September, Carrie Lam announced that she would formally withdraw the extradition bill in October and that she would introduce additional measures to help calm the situation. Her concession was criticised by protestors as "too little, too late".[141][142] Protests continued after the withdrawal of the bill. On 9 September, students wearing uniforms and masks formed a human chain to support the protests that occurred over the weekend.[143]

On 10 September, protesters defied the Chinese law by booing China's national anthem before a football World Cup qualifier and sang the protest anthem "Glory to Hong Kong" instead.[144] On the night of September 11, thousands of protesters gathered in many shopping malls all over Hong Kong, chanting and singing "Glory to Hong Kong".[145]

Tactics and methods

A tunnel near the Tai Po Market MTR station, dubbed as the "Lennon Tunnel."
Black Bauhinia flag, a variation on the Flag of Hong Kong.

The 2019 Hong Kong protests have been largely described as "leaderless".[146] No group or political party has claimed leadership over the movement. They mainly played a supportive role, such as applying for Letters of No Objection from the police or mediating conflicts between protesters and police officers.[147] Protesters commonly used LIHKG, an online forum similar to Reddit, and Telegram, an optionally end-to-end encrypted messaging service similar to Whatsapp, to communicate and brainstorm ideas for protests and make collective decisions.[148]

Protesters also upheld several praxis. The first one was "be water", which originated from Bruce Lee's philosophy. Protesters often moved in a mobile and agile fashion so that the police found it more difficult to respond.[149] Protesters often retreated when the police arrived, though they would reemerge somewhere else.[150] Unlike previous protests, the 2019 protests were diversified to over 20 different neighbourhoods throughout Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories witnessing protests.[151] In addition, protesters adopted the black bloc method. They wore mostly black face masks to protect their identities. Furthermore, protesters used a range of methods to counter the police force. They used laser pointers to distract police officers, sprayed paint on surveillance cameras, and unfurled umbrellas to protect and conceal the identities of the group in action.[152]

There are mainly two groups of protesters, namely the "peaceful, rational and non-violent" (Chinese: 和理非) protesters and the "fighters" group (Chinese: 勇武).[153] The "peaceful group" participated chanted slogans and sang songs such as "Glory to Hong Kong". Some of them volunteered as medic,[154] started hunger strikes,[155] formed human chains,[124] started petition campaigns,[156] organised general strikes, obstructed public transport services,[157] launched boycotts against pro-Beijing shops and organisations,[158] create derivative works mocking the police and the government,[159] and set up Lennon Walls in various districts and neighbourhoods in Hong Kong.[160] On the other hand, the more radical protesters confronted the police, besieged police stations,[161] set up roadblocks,[106] and sometimes committed vandalism[162][163] defacing symbols representing China,[164] and committing arson.[165][166] Some protesters also doxxed and cyberbullied police officers and their families and uploaded their personal information online.[167] Nonetheless, despite difference in methods, both groups have refrained from denouncing or criticising the other. The principle was the "Do Not Split" praxis, which was aimed to promote mutual respect for different views within the same protest movement.[168]

To raise awareness of their demands, some protesters have also raised funds to place advertisement in major international newspapers,[169] and waved the U.S. flag and the Union Jack.[170] They also organised press conferences to "broadcast under-represented voices" and their own perspectives to the public to counter the police's and the government's conferences.[171] Protesters also attempted to inform tourists about the protests of Hong Kong by staging sit-ins at Hong Kong International Airport and using Apple devices' AirDrop feature to broadcast anti-extradition bill information to the public and mainland tourists.[172] Pepe the Frog has been widely used as a symbol of liberty and resistance,[173] and the #Eye4HK campaign, which showed solidarity for a female whose eye was allegedly ruptured with a beanbag shot by the police, gained international momentum around the world.[174]

Suicides

A memorial for Leung that was erected near Pacific Place.

There were eight[175] suicide cases that linked to the anti-extradition bill protests. Five suicide cases were caused by the extradition bill, and three can be attributed to events that follow the extradition bill.[176] Some of the deceased had left a suicide note that deplored the unelected and unresponsive government and the insistence by officials to force through the extradition bill; most of the individuals expressed despondency whilst urging Hongkongers to continue their fight.[177][178][179] One note even stated: "What Hong Kong needs is a revolution."[180][181]

The first person committed suicide on 15 June, when 35-year-old Marco Leung Ling-kit climbed the elevated podium on the rooftop of Pacific Place, a shopping mall in Admiralty at 4:30 pm.[177] Wearing a yellow raincoat with the words "Brutal police are cold-blooded" and "Carrie Lam is killing Hong Kong" in Chinese written on the back, he hung a banner on the scaffolding with several anti-extradition slogans.[182] After a five-hour standoff, during which police officers and Democratic Party legislator Roy Kwong attempted to talk him down, Leung fell to his death, missing an inflatable cushion set up by firefighters.[177][183][184]

A shrine appeared at the scene soon afterward; Ai Weiwei shared the news on his Instagram feed, while Chinese satirist Badiucao honoured the dead man with a cartoon.[184] On Thursday 11 July another vigil was held, in which thousands turned up leaving sunflowers at the memorial site.[185] Artists in Prague have also honoured the event, and painted a memorial on the Lennon Wall in the Czech Republic, depicting a yellow raincoat along with words of well wishes.[186]

Gathering for Lo Hiu-yan at EdUHK. 30 June 2019

A 21-year-old Education University of Hong Kong student, Lo Hiu-yan, jumped to her death from Ka Fuk Estate in Fanling on 29 June.[187][188] She had left two notes written on a stairwell wall with red marker, and uploaded photos of her note to Instagram.[18][178][189] A third suicide occurred the next day when a 29-year-old woman, Zhita Wu, jumped from the International Financial Centre.[190][179] On 4 July, a 28-year-old woman only identified by the surname Mak died after jumping off a building in Cheung Sha Wan.[191] A fifth suicide occurred on 22 July, a 26-year-old man identified by the surname Fan died after jumping off the building of Cypress House, Kwong Yuen Estate after an argument with his parents about his political stance and being driven out of the house. Neighbours of Fan left flowers near the site.[20]

Allegations of police misconduct

During the protests, the Hong Kong Police Force have been accused of various misconducts. The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) has launched investigations into alleged police misconducts in the protests,[192] although the protesters call for forming an independent commission of inquiry, as the members of the IPCC are mainly pro-establishment.[193] Carrie Lam has rejected this demand and had allegedly claimed that she would not "betray" the Force.[192]

Hong Kong police were accused of using excessive force, such as using rubber bullets dangerously by aiming horizontally, targeting the heads and the torsal of protesters.[194] Its use of bean bag rounds allegedly ruptured the eye of a female protester,[195] and the police's use of pepper ball rounds in Tai Koo station was described as "execution-styled shooting".[196] The police insisted that its usage aligned with international standards and that the injury of the female protester was not caused by the police. Its use of tear gas was criticised for violating the international safety guidelines, as the police were found using it as an offensive weapon,[197] firing it indoors,[198] and using expired tear gas, which may release toxic gases such as phosgene and cyanide upon combustion according to academics.[199] Its usage in densely populated residential areas also attracted criticisms from affected residents.[200] Some bystanders caught up in the protests were beaten up or kicked by officers,[201][202] and several police operations, in particular in Prince Edward station, where the STS squad assaulted commuters on a train, were thought to have been a disregard for public safety by protesters and pro-democrats.[203][204]

The kettling of protesters during the Sha Tin protests,[204] the operations inside private areas,[205] the deployment of undercover officers,[206] the suspected tampering with evidence,[207][208] the denial of first-aid services for the wounded,[203] and how the police displayed their warning signs[209] were also controversial. As some police officers did not wear uniforms with identification numbers or failed to display their warrant cards,[210][211] it was difficult for citizens to file complaints. Police were also accused of using excessive force on already subdued arrestees.[212][213] Amnesty International had stated that the police had used "retaliatory violence" against protesters and have mistreated and tortured some of the detainees.[214][215] It was also accused of using sexual violence on female protesters.[216] Some detainees reported that the police had denied them access to lawyers.[217]

The police were accused of interfering with press freedom and injuring journalists during various protests.[218][219] The police was also accused of spreading white terror by conducting hospital arrests,[220] arresting people arbitrarily,[221] banning several requests for demonstrations,[222] and arresting multiple high-profile activists and lawmakers.[223] Its inaction during the storming of the Legislative Council Complex was seen as a divisive tactic.[224] Its slow response towards the Yuen Long and North Point attacks sparked accusations that the police had colluded with triad members. Some lawyers have pointed out that their refusal to help the victims as they shut the gates of the nearby police stations during the Yuen Long attacks might be an offence of misconduct in public office.[225][226] The police was also accused of upholding a "double standard" by showing eniency towards anti-protester mobsters.[227] The police have denied all of these accusations.

The personal conduct of some officers was also criticised. Some uniformed officers used foul language to harass protesters and journalists,[228] and some officers were accused of provoking the protesters.[229] The Junior Police Officers' Association also used the term "cockroaches" to describe the radical subset of protesters.[230]

Impacts

Effects on economy

As the protest continued to escalate and the US-China trade war remains unresolved, retail sales have declined and consumers' appetite for spending has decreased.[231] Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce senior economist Wilson Chong warned that as protests continued, retail sales would be impacted badly. According to a gift shop owner, her shop's daily income have dropped 50% to 70% since the protesters stormed the LegCo Complex because of the heightened tension and a sense of desperation in Hong Kong which influenced Hong Kong people's mood for spending.[231] During the days of protests, protesters brought "mixed fortunes" to the businesses according to the South China Morning Post. Some restaurants saw their customers canceling their bookings and some banks and shops were forced to shut their doors. Supplies for goods were also halted and obstructed due to the protest. Meanwhile, some shops prospered as nearby protesters bought food and other commodities. For instance, on June 12, Japanese rice-ball store Hana-Musubi saw a 50% rise in sales because of the protest.[232] Meanwhile, protest supplies such as gas masks were running low in stock in both Hong Kong and Taiwan.[233]

The protests also affected property owners. Fearing the instability in Hong Kong, some property owners abandoned the purchases of land. Desire to purchase properties also declined, as overall property purchases declined by 24% when compared with Umbrella Revolution. Some developers are forced to reduce the selling price of their properties. In Yuen Long, the flat prices for Yoho Town declined by 4%.[234]

The Hang Seng Index declined by at least 4.8% from June 9 to late August. As interest for trading waned, companies that have already applied to float shares in Hong Kong urged their bankers to temporarily withhold their deal. August 2019 recorded only one IPOs, which was the lowest since 2012, and two large IPOs were shelved respectively in June and July. Fitch Ratings downgraded Hong Kong's sovereignty rating from AA+ to AA since it doubted the government's ability to maintain the "one country, two systems" principle. It also changed the outlook of the city from "stable" to "negative".[235]

Tourism was also affected. The Travel Industry Council remarked that the number of both mainland and overseas bookings in August 2019 declined by 50% when compared with August 2018. With their businesses affected, some travel agency requested their staff to take no pay leave.[234] Flight bookings also declined, with Cathay Pacific saying that the firm saw "the impact of local political unrest". Disney also revealed that there were fewer guests visiting Hong Kong Disneyland. Mainland tourists, according to Radio Free Asia, avoided traveling to Hong Kong due to safety concerns. Various countries have since issued travel warnings to Hong Kong.[236] The number of visitors travelling to Hong Kong declined by 40% in August year-on-year.[237]

During the August 12 and 13 Airport protests, the Airport Authority canceled numerous flights, which resulted in an estimated US$76 million loss according to aviation experts.[238]

Effects on society

Lam's administration received criticisms for their performance during the protests. Critics condemned Carrie Lam's arrogance,[239][240] and her extended absence and avoidance of public attention after her apology and believed that these factors enabled the protests to escalate.[241][242] According to polls done by the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Program, Lam's ratings dropped to a historic low score of 24.6, and other domains ranging from the satisfaction rate to the trust rate in the government also reached record low.[243] Ma Ngok, a political scientist at CUHK, remarked that the government "has lost the trust of a whole generation" and predicted that the youths would remain angry at both the government and the police "for years to come".[244]

Although the media has often dubbed it "Asia's Finest", the reputation of the police has taken a serious drubbing following the heavy-handed treatment of protesters.[245][246] According to some reports, the police have become a symbol that represented hostility and suppression and police's actions on the protesters has resulted in a breakdown of citizens' trust towards the Force.[247][248] Citizens were also concerned about the Force's ability to regulate and control itself and feared about its abuse of power.[249] The suspected police brutality have turned some previous politically neutral citizens to become more sympathetic with the young protesters.[250] For the Force, some lower-ranking officers reported feeling "lost and confused", citing "a lack of leadership" during important moments.[251] The Force has cancelled foot patrol due to fear that they may be attacked,[252] and issued extendable batons to off-duty officers.[249] Frontline officers have since faced public humiliation by citizens angered by the allegations, some of which also abused them and their families online.[253] Police officers also reported being "physically and mentally" tired, as they faced the risks of being doxxed and distanced by their family members.[254]

The protests have deepened the rift between the "yellow" (pro-democracy) and "blue" (pro-government) camps created since the Umbrella Revolution. There were more frequent and more violent clashes between people from the two camps, resulting in intense physical conflicts.[255] There were also cases where middle-aged pro-Beijing men attacked younger citizens setting up Lennon Walls or protest organisers.[256][257] Parents have argued with their children over their attending protests, either because they felt that their children's actions may cost them their future, or they supported the government and disagreed with their children's political stance.[250][258] Social workers have voiced their concerns for some of the young protesters, whose emotional health have become unstable.[253] Experts noted the eruption of despair in the city during the protests, though protesters have chanted rallying cries to raise people's mental health awareness and urged people not to suicide.[259]

Among the protesters, there was a stronger sense of solidarity when compared with the Umbrella Revolution. Protesters, instead of condemning and criticizing each other, reflected and reminded each other in a friendly manner instead. As the protests continued to escalate, citizens showed an increasing tolerance to confrontational and violent actions. Pollsters have found out that among 8,000 respondents, 90% of them believed that the use of these tactics is understandable because of the government's refusal to respond to the demands.[260] Unity among the protesters was seen across a wide spectrum of age groups, with middle-aged and elderly volunteers attempting to separate the police and the young protesters in the frontline and providing various forms of assistance.[261] Various professions such as teachers, civil servants, accountants, medical professionals, and finance sector have organized protests or rallies to stand in solidarity with the youths.[262][263][264][265][266][267]

Domestic reactions

Hong Kong government

Chief Executive Carrie Lam at the press conference with Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng and Secretary for Security John Lee one day after the massive protest on 10 June.

The government initially took a hardline approach towards the protesters and refused to withdraw the bill despite the criticisms from Hong Kong politicians, Taiwan and foreign envoys. Carrie Lam continued to push the second reading of the bill despite a mass protest that attracted 1 million people, saying that the government was "duty-bound" to amend the law.[268][269] Following the 12 June conflict, both Police Commissioner Stephen Lo and Lam characterised the conflict as a "riot". The police later backed down on the claim, saying that among the protesters, only five of them rioted. Protesters have since demanded the government to fully retract the riot characterisation.[270] Her analogy as Hong Kong people's mother attracted criticisms after the violent crackdown on 12 June.[271]

Lam announced the suspension of the bill on 15 June, though she insisted that the justification of amending the bill was "sound". She officially apologised to the public on 16 June following a march that attracted 338,000 people at its peak according to police, or 2 million people as claimed by organisers.[272][273] In early July, Lam reiterated that the bill was "dead" and reaffirmed that all efforts to amend the law had ceased, though her use of language was thought to be vague and ambiguous.[274] During July and August, the government insisted that it would not make any concession, and that Lam could still lead the government despite calls asking her to resign. For the demand to set up an independent commission to investigate police misconduct, she insisted that the existing mechanism, the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) would suffice.[275][276]

After condemning the protesters for storming the Legislature on 1 July for their "use of extreme violence"[277] and defacing the national emblem during the 21 July protest,[278] Lam suggested in early August that the protests had derailed from their original purposes and that its goal was to challenge China's sovereignty and damage "one country, two systems".[279] She suggested that the radical protesters were dragging Hong Kong to a "point of no return"[279] and that they had "no stake in society",[280] a remark that received criticisms from some civil servants.[281] She also stressed that the government would instead focus on improving the city's economy and preparing measures to help the businesses in Hong Kong due to the impending "economic downturn".[282]

Following a rally on 18 August that was attended by more than 1.7 million people, Lam announced that she would create platforms for dialogue but continued to reject the five core demands.[283] On 4 September, Lam announced that she would formally withdraw the extradition bill. She also announced that she would introduce measures such as introducing new members to the IPCC, engaging in dialogue in a community level, and inviting academics to evaluate the deep-rooted problems of Hong Kong. However, protesters and democrats had previously expressed that a partial concession would not be accepted and affirmed that all the five core demands must be answered.[50] Her concession was described as "too little, too late", as the conflicts would not have escalated if she had withdrawn the bill during the early stage of the protest.[141][284]

Pro-Beijing parties

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU), supported Carrie Lam's amendment of the bill before the mass protests broke out. After Carrie Lam announced the suspension of the bill, many pro-government lawmakers took a U-turn with their view.[285] Starry Lee from DAB claimed that her party would not oppose the withdrawal of the bill,[286] and the party distanced itself from Ann Chiang, who claimed that the government could revive the bill after the summer. Lee disagreed with setting up an independent commission to investigate the police behaviours as she felt that it would "dampen their morale".[287] Felix Chung, a lawmaker from Liberal Party, supported the withdrawal of the bill, though he felt that an independent commission should be set up to investigate the whole incident.[288] The CE held a private meeting with pro-government lawmakers explaining the decision to suspend the bill, though some lawmakers, including Alice Mak from HKFTU, were said to have vented her anger toward Lam as her decision may harm their chances in the upcoming elections.[289]

As protests continued to escalate, pro-Beijing lawmakers have condemned the violence of the protesters for breaking into the LegCo Complex and using petrol bombs and unidentified liquids against the police.[290][291] They have maintained their support for the Hong Kong Police Force, and have held various counter-demonstrations to support the police.[292][293][294] On 17 August, a pro-government rally organised by the Safeguard Hong Kong Alliance occurred in Tamar Park. Organisers said 476,000 people including pro-government politicians and business leaders joined the demonstration, but police stated only 108,000 attended.[295]

Members of the Executive Council, Ip Kwok-him and Regina Ip alleged that there was a "mastermind" behind the protests but could not provide substantial evidence to support their claim.[296]

Pro-democracy camp

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters on 28 July

The pro-democratic parties played a supporting role in the protest, and have opposed the amendment of the bill and have criticised the Police Force for the alleged misconduct. Many lawmakers, such as Democratic Party's Roy Kwong, assisted the protesters in various scenarios.[297] Civic Party's criticised the government for not responding to the protesters, and described the storming of the LegCo as the "outburst of people's grievances".[298] Despite the escalation of the protests, convenor of the pro-democratic lawmakers, Claudia Mo, have insisted that their group of lawmakers would not split with the protesters despite not agreeing with all of their methods.[299][300] Fernando Cheung warned that Hong Kong was slowly becoming a "police state" with the increasing violence used by the police.[301]

Both the incidents on 21 July and 31 August were likened to "terrorist attacks" by some pro-democrats.[302][303] Pro-democrats also criticised the arrests of several lawmakers before the 31 August protest, saying that such arrests were an attempt by the police to suppress the movement, but warned that the police would further "fuel greater anger".[304] Demosisto's Joshua Wong and Alex Chow said that "Hong Kong people will not be cowed by the CCP" and that the arrests of Wong and several other activists on 30 August "marked another watershed moment in the fast-moving story of Hong Kong's eroding freedoms".[305]

Several lawmakers, including Dennis Kwok and Alvin Yeung from Civic Party also travelled to the US to explain and discuss the situation in Hong Kong with American lawmakers and business leaders and voice their support for the reintroduction of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.[306] Joshua Wong, Denise Ho and several other democrats also provided testimonies during the US congressional hearing for the Democracy Act.[307] Meanwhile, some councillors proposed several alternate versions of the extradition bill.[308]

Former government executives, including Anson Chan, the former Chief Secretary for Administration, issued several open letters to Carrie Lam, urging her to respond to the five core demands raised by protesters.[309] At the civil servant rally, Joseph Wong, the former Secretary for Civil Service, said "If we think today's officials, today's chief executive, violated or failed to follow the rule of law, as civil servants and as civilians, we have a duty to point it out", responding to the current Secretary Joshua Law's letter to all civil servants which requested them to maintain their political neutrality.[310][311]

Chinese government and media

The Chinese government has expressed their opposition to the protests, while taking measures against the protests and their supporters. The protests have been described by Chinese government and media as separatism riots facilitated by foreign forces.[312]

International reactions

As a result of the protests, many nations have issued travel warnings for Hong Kong.[313] Demonstrations in reaction to the protests have taken place in locations around the world, including Los Angeles, Berlin, Canberra, Frankfurt, Melbourne, London, New York City, San Francisco, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Montreal, Toronto, Vilnius and Vancouver. [314] [315] [316][317]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Some people regarded the demonstration on 31 March 2019 as the beginning of the movement and has continued 5 months, 3 weeks and 2 days.

References

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External links

  • HK Democratic Movement 2019 – Timeline
  • Free Hong Kong Movement: Stand With Us at G20 – Open Letter & Timeline
  • Fight for Freedom: Stand with Hong Kong – Call for Solidarity & Joint Declaration history
  • How an Extradition Bill Became a Red Line for Hong Kongers – Podcast (33 min). Foreign Policy. 14 June 2019.
  • Why We Stormed Hong Kong's Parliament – Documentary short film (5 min). BBC. 1 August 2019.
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