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2019 Hong Kong protests

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2019 Hong Kong protests
(March–June, July, August, September, October, November)
Part of the Hong Kong–Mainland China conflict
Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protest (48108527758).jpg
2019-09-15 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protest 036.jpg
2019-10-01 Demonstration Hong Kong 61.jpg
Demonstration against extradition bill, 12 June 2019.jpg
Hong Kong protests - Panorama.jpg
LR-7557 (49049938866).jpg
2019-09-13 Lion Rock, Hong Kong 04.jpg
A collection of various protest scenes in Hong Kong
Date
  • 15 March 2019 – ongoing
    (244 days, total)[1]
  • 9 June 2019 – ongoing
    (158 days, large-scale break out)[2]
Location
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[9]
Methods Diverse (see tactics and methods)
Concessions
given
  • Bill suspended on 15 June[10]
  • Police partially retracted characterisation of protests on or before 12 June as "riots", except for five individuals in Admiralty on 12 June[11]
  • Bill officially withdrawn on 23 October[12]
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
Protesters
(no centralised leadership)
Deaths, injuries and arrests
Death(s) 1 during a civil confrontation, 2 deaths from falling possibly related to the protest
(as of 13 November 2019)
At least 9 suicides[18]
Injuries
  • 2,000+ (as of 15 August 2019)[17]
  • 4,000+ (estimated from extrapolation, as of November 2019)
Arrested 3,001 (as of 31 October 2019)[19]

The 2019 Hong Kong protests, also known as the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill (or Anti-ELAB) movement, are an ongoing series of demonstrations in Hong Kong which were triggered by the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill by the Hong Kong government.[20][21] If enacted, the bill would have let local authorities 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.[22] This created concerns that the bill would subject Hong Kong residents and visitors to the mainland Chinese jurisdiction and legal system, undermining the region's autonomy and its civil liberties.[23][24][25][26] As the protests progressed, the protesters laid out five key demands, which include the withdrawal of the bill, investigation into alleged police brutality and misconduct, the release of arrested protesters, a complete retraction of the official characterisation of the protests as "riots", and Chief Executive Carrie Lam's resignation along with the introduction of universal suffrage for election of the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive.[27][28]

The protest rally held on 9 June saw up to a million people marching for the withdrawal of the bill.[29] However, this has failed to pressure the government and protesters gathered outside the Legislative Council Complex to stall the bill's second reading on 12 June.[30][31][32][33] The protest escalated into a violent confrontation between the protesters and the police, who have deployed tear gas and rubber bullets.[34] An even bigger march took place on 16 June, just one day after the suspension of the bill, as protesters shifted the focus onto what they alleged to be the excessive use of force by the police on 12 June.[35] The anniversary of the handover on 1 July marked the storming of the LegCo Complex which was largely viewed as a watershed moment for the protest.[36] Subsequently, protests have continued throughout the summer, escalating into increasingly violent confrontations involving the police, activists on both sides, suspected triad gangs, and local residents in all districts throughout the region.[37] Police operations and alleged misconduct, including its inaction when suspected triad members assaulted protesters and commuters in Yuen Long on 21 July[38] and the storming of Prince Edward station on 31 August have further escalated the protests.[39] Large-scale demonstrations occurred on 1 October, being the National Day, when an 18-year-old student protester was shot.

Lam suspended the extradition bill on 15 June and declared the bill "dead" on 9 July, but resisted withdrawing it until an announcement to the effect was made on 4 September.[40][41][42] Intending to curb protests, Carrie Lam invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance on 4 October to implement an anti-mask law to counterproductive effects, resulting in citywide conflicts that have occurred throughout October.[43] The bill was finally withdrawn on 23 October, but the government refused to concede to the other four demands.

The protests have been largely described as "leaderless"[44] and protesters have used various tactics to pressure the government, which, alongside the Police, have received the lowest approval ratings since the 1997 handover in public opinion polls.[45][46][47] The Chinese central government has indicated that it sees the protests as the "worst crisis in Hong Kong" since the handover in 1997.[48] The protests have resulted in several suicides and two indirect fatalities.[49][47]

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.[26] 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.[26][50]

Underlying causes

The 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) 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 concessions and the movement ended in failure.[51] 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 democratic development.[52] Citizens began to fear the loss of the "high degree of autonomy" provided by 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 over state-sanctioned rendition and extrajudicial detention.[53][52]

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[54] 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 respondents were, the more distrustful they were of the Chinese government.[53] By 2019, almost no Hong Kong youth identified themselves as "Chinese".[55] Younger people had already faced political turmoil since the Moral and National Education controversy in 2012, and 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 have driven youth to join the protests against the extradition bill.[51]

For some protesters, the Umbrella Revolution was an inspiration that brought about a political awakening.[51] Others, who felt that peaceful methods were ineffective, resorted to increasingly radical methods to express their views.[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] and that the aims of the protests have evolved from withdrawing the bill to fighting for greater freedom and liberties.[59]

Objectives

Initially, protesters 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 the following five demands:[60]

  • Complete withdrawal of the extradition bill from the legislative process: Although the 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. The bill was formally withdrawn on 23 October.[61]
  • 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.[62] 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.[63] The existing watchdog, Independent Police Complaints Council lacks independence, and its functioning relies on police co-operation.
As the number of allegations of police brutality and misconduct continued to increase, some Hong Kong protesters have begun to call for the disbandment of the Police Force.[64]

History

Early stage

The police used tear gas to disperse protesters gathering outside the Legislative Council Complex on 12 June.

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 that 22,800 protesters took part in the second march, 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.[66] The anti-extradition issue attracted more attention when pro-democratic legislative councillors 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.[67]

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 attendance of 270,000, the organisers claimed that 1.03 million people attended the rally.[68][69] Carrie Lam demanded the second reading debate on the bill be resumed on 12 June,[70] 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.[71]

The general strike called for 12 June was observed by over 100 employers.[72] Protesters successfully stopped the LegCo from resuming the second reading of the bill. Riot police dispersed protesters at the Legislative Council building by kettling protesters, allegedly assaulting journalists, firing tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets,[73][74] Police Commissioner Stephen Lo declared the clashes a "riot",[75] 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,[76][77] and the lack of identifying numbers on police officers.[78] 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.

Organisers claimed 2 million attended the CHRF march on 16 June, while the police put the figure at 338,000.

On 15 June, Carrie Lam announced the suspension of the bill, thereby not meeting the demand from the democratic camp to withdraw the bill.[79] A 35-year-old man committed suicide in protest at Lam's decision of not fully withdrawing the bill.[80] 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.[35]

Protesters besieged the Police Headquarters on 21 and 24 June and dispersed peacefully at night; on 24 June, they also launched a blockade against Revenue Tower, which houses Hong Kong's tax department, as well as adjacent government buildings.[81][82][83] The protesters also began to call for international support by visiting the consulates of member states of the G20 expected at the 2019 Osaka summit on 28 and 29 June; they assembled at Edinburgh Place at night.[83][84]

Spread

Protesters briefly occupied the Legislative Council Complex on 1 July.

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.[85][86] Reuters estimated that a total of 227,000 demonstrators passed a counting point in Admiralty District, some distance away from the endpoints of the march at Chater Road as well as the Legislative Council Complex.[87] The protest was largely peaceful. At night, protesters stormed the Legislative Council Complex, while police took little action to stop them. Protesters smashed furniture, defaced the Hong Kong emblem, and presented a new manifesto with ten points.[88][89] Some of the protesters who stormed the Complex were motivated by the desperation which stemmed from several more cases of suicides since 15 June.[90] Carrie Lam condemned the protesters who stormed the council.[91][57]

Following the 1 July protest, protests spread out to different areas in Hong Kong,[92] against the extradition bill as well as on local issues, including parallel trading in northern districts.[93][94] The first anti-extradition protest in Kowloon was held on 7 July, when protesters marched from Tsim Sha Tsui to West Kowloon station.[95] Clashes occurred later in Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. The police's failure to display their warrant cards drew criticism.[96] The protest on 14 July in Sha Tin started peacefully but escalated into intense confrontations with the police when the protesters were kettled inside New Town Plaza.[97][98] Sun Hung Kai Properties were scrutinised for allowing the police to enter the shopping centre without due authorisation.[99][100]

Protesters marching on Castle Peak Road during the "Reclaim Yuen Long" protest on 21 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,[101] and some protesters surrounded the Liaison Office in Sai Ying Pun, where they defaced the Chinese national emblem, an act that was condemned by the government.[102] While a standoff between the protesters and the police occurred in Sheung Wan,[103] white-clad groups, suspected triad members who were allegedly supported by pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho,[104] appeared at Yuen Long station and indiscriminately attacked people inside the station. Yuen Long became a ghost town following the attack, as residents stayed inside for fear of further attacks.[105] The police's sluggish response to the incident prompted criticism.[106]

On 27 July, protesters marched to Yuen Long, despite opposition from rural groups and the police. The protest escalated into violent clashes inside Yuen Long station.[107] The next day, protesters again defied the police ban and marched to Sai Wan and Causeway Bay.[108] To support the arrestees charged with rioting, protesters rallied near the police stations in Kwai Chung, where a station sergeant pointed a shotgun loaded with bean bag rounds at protesters,[109] and Tin Shui Wai, where protesters were attacked by fireworks launched from a moving vehicle.[110][111]

Escalation

Protesters returned to Mong Kok on 3 August, though some marched to block the Cross-Harbour Tunnel portal in Hung Hom.[112] The arrest of protesters in Wong Tai Sin angered local residents, who clashed with police near the disciplined services quarters.[113] Subsequent marches in Tseung Kwan O and Kennedy Town (on 4 August) and Tai Po (on 10 August) escalated into citywide conflicts as protesters retreated to somewhere else when the riot police was deployed.[114][115] 5 August saw a call for a general strike which was answered by about 350,000 people, according to the Confederation of Trade Unions.[116] Over 200 flights were cancelled due to the strike.[117][118][119] 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.[120] Protesters in North Point and Tsuen Wan were attacked by two groups of stick-wielding men, though some fought back the attackers.[121][122]

Protesters pointing their laser pointer at a newspaper, mocking an earlier police demonstration that aimed to illustrate the danger of laser pointers

On 6 August, 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. Protesters subsequently gathered outside the Hong Kong Space Museum to shine laser pointers on the wall of the museum.[123][124]

Alleged police brutality on 11 August (including allegations that police bean bag rounds ruptured the eye of a female protester, 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 two days.[125][126][127] 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.[128][126][129][130] 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.[131] An additional estimated 300,000 protesters 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 during the "Hong Kong Way" on 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.[132][133] The 50-kilometre human chain that was formed stretched across both sides of Hong Kong harbour and one was formed on the top of Lion Rock.[134][135][136]

Starting from the Kwun Tong protest on 24 August, protesters began to target railway operator MTR after it closed four stations ahead of the legal, authorised protest.[137] 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 for the first time.[138] 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.[138][139]

Ignoring a police ban[140] 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.[141][142] At night, the Special Tactical Squad stormed the Prince Edward station and beat and pepper-sprayed the commuters inside.[39] Protesters besieged the Mong Kok police station in the following weeks to condemn the police brutality and demand the MTR Corporation to release the CCTV footage of that night as rumours began to circulate on the Internet that the police's operation has caused death, which the police have denied.[143][144]

On 1 September, the target of protesters was the Hong Kong International Airport.[145] With transport suspended by MTR, some protesters walked 15 km (9.3 mi) on the highway from Tung Chung back to the urban area.[146] The mass evacuation was dubbed by some media as "Hong Kong's Dunkirk".[147] On 2 and 3 September, thousands of secondary school and university students boycotted classes on the first two days of the new term to join the protests.[148][149][150] Rallies were held on Hong Kong Island for people who participated in the general strike.[151]

Decision to withdraw the extradition bill

Protesters marched to the US consulate on 8 September

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".[152][153] Protests continued after the withdrawal of the bill, with protesters marching to the US consulate to call for the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on 8 September.[154][155]

Starting from 10 September, protesters began to sing the protest anthem "Glory to Hong Kong" in various places, such as shopping malls and football stadiums.[156] Protesters continued to initiate campaigns to block the airport,[157] launching boycotts against New Town Plaza, various shopping malls owned by MTR Corporation, and pro-Beijing shops and corporations,[158] and formed human chains to voice their solidarity with the protesters.[159]

The police using the water cannon trucks outside the Government HQ during the 29 September march.

On 14 September, protesters and counter-protesters clashed in Kowloon Bay and Fortress Hill. A mass protest broke out on 15 September, which descended into chaos near the North Point neighbourhood as the local Fujianese physically assaulted the protesters who retreated there.[160] The sit-in in Yuen Long on 21 September escalated into conflicts between protesters and the police. Brought to an alley and surrounded by numerous officers in riot gear, a man was kicked by an officer. The police later denied the accusation, saying that videos only showed kicking of a "yellow object". His response created a widespread backlash.[161]

Carrie Lam held the first dialogue session in Queen Elizabeth Stadium, Wan Chai with 150 members of the public. Protesters surrounded the venue and trapped her inside for four hours.[162] On 28 September, the CHRF held a rally to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Umbrella Revolution, though the police conducted a widespread manhunt shortly afterward.[163] On the next day, protesters, in defiance of the police ban, marched in an anti-CCP protest where they condemned the authoritarian regime of mainland China. Solidarity protests were held on the same day in 40 cities around the world.[164]

National Day and invocation of emergency law

Hong Kong protesters threw eggs at Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping's portrait on National Day.

On 1 October, mass protests and violent conflicts occurred between the protesters and police during the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in various districts of Hong Kong, leading to the first usage of live rounds by police, with one protester shot in the chest by police in Tsuen Wan while trying to hit a policeman with a pipe.[165][166][167][168] The police has also fired around 1,400 tear gas canisters and made 269 arrests on one day, setting a new record for both since the protests began in June.[169]

Protesters setting up a makeshift roadblock ignited with fire in Causeway Bay on 6 October in a march protesting against the invocation of the emergency law.

On 4 October, Carrie Lam invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to impose an anti-mask law to ban wearing face masks in public gatherings, attempting to curb the ongoing protests.[170] The enactment of the law was followed by continued demonstrations as they showed up in various districts in Hong Kong, blocking major thoroughfares, vandalising shops perceived to be pro-Beijing and paralysing the MTR system.[171][172] In Yuen Long, a 14-year-old boy was shot in the leg by a plainclothed officer after he was attacked by some protesters for bumping into a person.[173] Protests against the anti-mask law and the invocation of the emergency ordinance persisted throughout the month. During the 6 October protest, the PLA garrison in Hong Kong issued its first warning to the protesters after they shone laser lights on the exteriors of the garrison building in Kowloon Tong.[174] Citywide flashmob rallies occurred on 13 October. The police said a remote-controlled homemade bomb targeting police was detonated near a protester-built roadblock[175] and a police sergeant's neck was slashed from behind by a protester with a box cutter.[176]

On 14 October, thousands of protesters rallied at Chater Garden to support the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was subsequently passed unanimously by the US House of Representatives.[177] The attention of the 20 October rally was focused on Chungking Mansions and the Kowloon Mosque after the protest organiser, Jimmy Sham was attacked allegedly by South Asians.[178] Some ethnic minorities stood in solidarity with the protesters outside the mansion.[179] The gates of the mosque were sprayed with blue-dyed water by a water cannon truck during police clearance, an act that was condemned by the Muslim community in Hong Kong.[180][181]

On 23 October, Secretary John Lee officially withdrew the extradition bill. Chan Tong-kai, the murder suspect that prompted the HKSAR government to propose the bill, was released from prison on the same day.[182][183] Protesters continued to defy the mask ban, donning it during the Halloween season.[184][185] Protesters besieged the Tai Hing Operation Base in Tuen Mun on 28 and 30 October after it had allegedly leaked tear gas. 30 October saw the police conducting forceful arrests inside private areas and breaching into the lobby of a building in Siu Hin Court, ordering residents inside to kneel down with their hands in the air or behind their backs[186] allegedly for more than half an hour.[187]

Student death and intensification

The police besieged the Chinese University of Hong Kong for two consecutive days from November 11 to November 13.

On 2 November, a mostly peaceful but unapproved protest at Victoria Park saw police quickly responding by employing tear gas.[188][189] Over 70 were injured over the weekend, including one man hospitalised in critical condition.[190] Later that day, protesters attempted to block major roads, and vandalised pro-Beijing businesses, including the premises of Xinhua, the state news organisation of China. With police conducting frisks and searches of phones and vehicles, protesters and residents have described Hong Kong as now a "police state".[191] On 3 November, police and protesters engaged in violent conflicts inside Cityplaza and New Town Plaza after some protesters allegedly vandalised some shops. Near Cityplaza, politician Andrew Chiu had his ear bitten off by a Chinese mainlander who had reportedly knifed three other people. The attacker was then set upon by protesters.[190][192]

Protesters gathered around Sheung Tak Estate late night on 3 November, provoking police to respond with tear gas. Alex Chow Tsz-lok, a 22-year-old student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, was later found unconscious on the second floor of Sheung Tak Estate's car park, suspected to have fallen from the third floor. The student died on 8 November, after two unsuccessful brain surgeries.[193][194][195] After the death of Alex Chow, protesters engaged in flashmob rallies against the police and gathered for vigils in various districts in Hong Kong as they accused the police of obstructing the paramedics from attending to him, causing a delay in treatment.[196] A police officer was reprimanded by the Police Force for shouting to the protesters, "Cockroaches... Tonight we would pop champagne and celebrate".[197] On 9 November, police arrested and charged six pro-democracy lawmakers (while summoning one more lawmaker) for their roles in a 11 May scuffle over the earlier proposed extradition bill. The lawmakers posted bail and were released.[198]

In response to Alex Chow's death, protesters planned a city-wide strike starting from 11 November, and disrupted transport and traffic in the morning.[199] That morning, police fired live rounds in Sai Wan Ho in eastern Hong Kong Island, in addition to tear gas rounds and pepper spray; a 21-year-old man was wounded after being shot by police, and was sent to hospital.[200] In Kwai Chung, a traffic police officer rammed his motorcycle into a crowd of protesters, resulting in 2 injuries.[201] In addition, a protester poured a flammable liquid onto a person and lit him on fire in Ma On Shan due to vocal arguments.[202] For the first time, during a standoff on 11 November, police shot numerous rounds of tear gas, sponge grenades and rubber bullets into the campuses of universities.[203] The students from Chinese University of Hong Kong confronted the police for two consecutive days; clashes occurred at the university campus on 12 November, with police firing tear gas and projectiles into the campus, while protesters put up road blocks and threw bricks and petrol bombs.[204] On 11 and 12 November, there were also rare weekday protests in Hong Kong's central business district, including flash mobs during lunchtime. The clashes between police and protesters resulted in businesses closing early.[205]

Tactics and methods

A subway near Tai Po Market station, dubbed the "Lennon Tunnel"
Pepe the Frog became a symbol of resistance during the protests. "Give me Liberty or Give me Death!" alludes to Patrick Henry's speech in support of the American Revolution

The 2019 Hong Kong protests have been largely described as "leaderless".[44] 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.[206] Protesters commonly used LIHKG, an online forum similar to Reddit, Telegram, and an optionally end-to-end encrypted messaging service similar to Whatsapp, to communicate and brainstorm ideas for protests and make collective decisions.[207]

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.[208] Protesters often retreated when the police arrived, though they would reemerge somewhere else.[209] Unlike previous protests, the 2019 protests were diversified to over 20 different neighbourhoods throughout Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories witnessing protests.[210] In addition, protesters adopted the black bloc method. They wore mostly black face masks to protect their identities and have subsequently worn helmets and respirators to further protect themselves. 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.[211] A mobile app was developed to help protesters to crowdsources the location of police.[212]

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).[213] The "peaceful group" chanted slogans during marches and from their apartment at night,[214] sang songs such as "Glory to Hong Kong" in flash mob rallies,[215] and joined religious gatherings, singing hymns such as "Sing Hallelujah to the Lord".[216] Some of them volunteered as medics,[217] started hunger strikes,[218] formed human chains,[133] started petition campaigns,[219] organised general strikes, obstructed public transport services,[220] launched boycotts against pro-Beijing shops and organisations,[221] created protest arts and derivative works mocking the police and the government,[222] and set up Lennon Walls in various districts and neighbourhoods in Hong Kong.[223] On the other hand, the more radical protesters confronted the police, besieged police stations,[224] set up roadblocks,[112] sometimes committed vandalism and arson against government properties, pro-Beijing shops and MTR stations,[225][226] and defacing symbols representing China.[227][228][229][230][174][231] Nonetheless, despite difference in methods, both groups have refrained from denouncing or criticising the other. The principle was the "Do Not Split" (Chinese: 不割席) praxis, which was aimed to promote mutual respect for different views within the same protest movement.[232] Some moderate protesters also supported the hardline protesters by providing supplies and serving as volunteer drivers.[56] Protesters have also set up funds to help people who need medical or legal assistance due to the protests,[233] and set up pop-up stores that sold cheap protest gadgets for young activists.[234]

To raise awareness of their demands, some protesters have also raised funds to place advertisements in major international newspapers,[235] and waved the national flags of other countries, such as the US Star Spangled Banner to call for their support.[236] Citizens press conferences were held to broadcast protesters' own perspectives to the public and counter the police's and the government's conferences.[237] 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.[238] Pepe the Frog has been widely used as a symbol of resistance,[239] and the #Eye4HK campaign, which showed solidarity for a female whose eye was allegedly ruptured by a beanbag round shot by the police, gained international momentum around the world.[240] The Lady Liberty Hong Kong statue was also crowdfunded by citizens to commemorate the protests.[241]

Controversies

A surveillance lamppost thought to be used by the government to monitor its citizens was destroyed by protesters on 24 August.

Starting in August, protesters have escalated their use of violence. Protesters have confronted the police by reportedly throwing bricks, petrol bombs, corrosive liquid and other projectiles at police. As a result of clashes, there have been multiple reports of police injuries and assault of officers throughout the protests.[242][243] The police obtained an injunction from the court to prevent the protesters from damaging the Disciplined Services Quarters and Police Married Quarters.[244] Protesters have also occasionally directed violence towards alleged undercover officers acting suspiciously, some of which were accused of inciting the protesters to commit violent acts (Chinese: 捉鬼).[245] The assault on reporter Fu Guohao, who was suspected to be a mainland agent by the protesters at the Airport on 13 August, was described as a "setback" in maintaining public support.[246]

60 per cent of Best Mart 360 stores were vandalised after being accused of having ties to "Fujian gangs" that have clashed with protesters. The company denied the allegation.[247][248] Corporations thought to be pro-Beijing such as Maxim's Caterers and Chinese companies such as Bank of China were also vandalised or spray-painted. In particular, Maxim's operated shops, including Starbucks, were targeted after the daughter of the company founder condemned the protesters at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.[249][250][251] Protesters also directed violence at symbols of the government by storming the Legislative Council Complex and vandalising government offices and pro-Beijing lawmakers' offices.[252][253] A large number of MTR stations were vandalised and subjected to arson, and as of 4 October 2019, 83 out of 94 rail stations had been vandalised.[254] MTR has become a target of vandalism by the protesters after it shut down four stations ahead of a legal, authorised protest after being pressured by Chinese media.[137]

Carrie Lam has called on the public to condemn and cut ties with the violent protesters.[255] BBC has occasionally described some of the radical protesters as "rioters".[256], while The Guardian speculated that the increase in violence was a response toward the police brutality.[257] and noted that there was no "random smashing and looting that characterises most riots" as the extent and the focus of the violence were largely contained to what were perceived to be "injustice" in the society by the protesters.[257] Protesters have since apologised for accidentally vandalising perceived "innocent" shops.[258] Despite an increase in violence, The Independent have pointed out that "public opinion is still firmly on the side of the democracy movement's key demands", citing a poll conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong in October. The poll showed that 59% of the respondents agreed that it was understandable for protesters to escalate their actions as large-scale and peaceful demonstrations have failed to force the government to concede.[46]

Clashes with counter-protesters

Jimmy Sham, a protest organiser and the convenor of CHRF, was attacked several days before the march on 20 October.

There were more frequent clashes between protesters and counter-protesters since the movement began in June. During a pro-police rally, the counter-protesters began directing profanities at their opposition counterparts and destroyed their Lennon Wall and the memorial for Marco Leung, resulting in intense confrontations between the two camps.[259] Pro-Beijing citizens, wearing a "I love HK police" T-shirt and waving the Chinese national flag, assaulted people perceived to protesters on 14 September in Fortress Hill.[260] Lennon Walls became sites of conflict between the two camps, with pro-Beijing citizens attempting to tear down the messages or removing poster arts.[261][262] Some protesters or pedestrians were beaten, slashed and knife attacked near Lennon Walls.[263][264][265] Some counter-protesters also allegedly attempted to ram their cars into the crowds of protesters or the barricades set up by them.[266][267] Protest organisers, including Jimmy Sham from the CHRF, and pro-democratic lawmakers such as Lam Cheuk-ting and Roy Kwong were assaulted and attacked.[268][269][270][271] The left ear of pro-democractic District Councilor Andrew Chiu was partially bitten off by a pro-Beijing, Mandarin-speaking, knife-wielding man during the Cityplaza conflict on 3 November.[272][273]

White-clad men assaulting commuters and protesters with sticks inside Yuen Long station on 21 July.

2019 Yuen Long attack occurred following a mass protest organised by the CHRF on 21 July. Suspected gangsters have claimed that they would "defend" their "homeland", and threatened all anti-extradition bill protesters not to set foot in Yuen Long.[274] The attack saw the perpetrators attacking commuters in the concourse of Yuen Long station indiscriminately, on the platform and inside train compartments, and have created widespread backlash from the community. Triad gangsters were previously linked to attacks on democracy activists in Mong Kok during the 2014 Umbrella Movement,[275] Junius Ho, who was allegedly involved in the attack,[276] was later stabbed by a fake supporter on 6 November.[277] The Department of Justice have since been criticised by some lawyers for making "politically motivated" prosecutions, since the Yuen Long attack assailants have not been charged several weeks after the attacks while young protesters were charged with rioting several days after the protests.[278] The protesters clashed with suspected "Fujianese" gang members wielding long poles in North Point on 5 August,[279] and confronting them once again on 15 September.[280] Amidst frustration that the police have failed to prosecute the pro-government violent counter-protesters,[281] hard-core protesters began taking justice into their own hands, attacking individuals perceived to be hostile; the protesters describe vigilante attacks as "settling matters privately" (Chinese: 私了) as they became increasingly distrustful and wary towards the police due to the misconduct allegations.[230][174][231] Actress Celine Ma claimed she was assaulted by protesters after she attempted to film them vandalising an ATM with her phone,[282] and the taxi driver who was accused of ramming into the protesters in Sham Shui Po on 8 October was beaten until other protesters intervened to protect him.[283]

Doxxing and cyberbullying was a tactic used by both supporters and opponents of the protests. Some protesters doxxed and cyberbullied some police officers and their families and uploaded their personal information online.[284] Hong Kong Police have since obtained an injunction from the court, prohibiting any people from sharing any personal information of police officers and their families.[285] Some protesters found their personal information and photos circulating on pro-Beijing circles on Facebook and other social media platforms after being stopped and searched by police, suspecting police to have leaked the photos they took during the stop-and-searches. In a response, the police said they had procedures to ensure that their members comply with privacy laws.[286] HK Leaks, an anonymous website based in Russia and promoted by groups linked to the Communist Party of China, has doxxed about 200 people seen as supportive of the protests. An Apple Daily reporter who was doxxed by the website was targeted by sexual harassment via "hundreds of threatening calls". As of 1 November, the site remained online.[287] According to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, as of 30 August, the proportion of doxxing cases involving police officers comprised 59% of all reported and discovered cases of doxxing, while the remaining 41% involved other people such as protesters, those holding different political views, citizens and their family members. The proportion of cases involving non-police officers increased from 28% two days prior.[288]

Deaths

Mourners laying down flowers and origami at the site where Alex Chow Tsz-lok fell.

A 22-year-old Hong Kong University of Science and Technology student named Alex Chow Tsz-Lok fell from the 3rd floor to the 2nd floor of a multistory car park in Sheung Tak Estate, Tseung Kwan O during a police dispersal operation on 4 November, which included firing tear gas at the building Chow was in.[47][289][290] Protesters claimed that he was fleeing from tear gas, but video footage from the CCTV showed that a man similar in appearance and clothing to Chow was seen strolling around the car park before his fall. He remained in critical condition for several days during his stay in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital before succumbing to a cardiac arrest on 8 November. The cause of his fall remained unknown, but while police claimed that he fell solely accidentally, protesters accused the police of pushing him, causing his fall. Protesters accused the police of intentionally obstructing ambulance access to Chow, resulting in a delay in treatment, but police have denied the accusations.[291] Amnesty International has since demanded the government to thoroughly investigate the cause of his death.[292] Chow's death became the first fatality linked to a scene where police officers clashed with protesters.[293]

On 13 November, a man (whose identity remains unknown) was found dead in Tsuen Wan before the Kerry Logistics building, wearing a black shirt and a pair of black trousers. The death was initially thought to be the result of a knife attack, but later confirmed to be death caused by falling. It remains unconfirmed whether this death was related to the protest, or whether it was a murder or a suicide, but the man's attire was typical of that of a protester[294].

Supporters of the Hong Kong government recorded its first death on 14 November, when a 70-year-old cleaner died of an injury caused by a brick[295]. The day prior in Sheung Shui, a fight broke when a group of pro-Chinese counter-protesters took up long sticks to attack the protesters, who set up roadblocks in the area. The man, a government worker on break, got to the centre of the fighting to seemingly record the conflict as people from both sides picked up bricks to throw at each other. Amidst the chaos, he was hit in the head by a flying brick, allegedly thrown by a protester[296].

Suicides

Marco Leung Ling-kit on scaffolding at Pacific Place before he fell to his death on 15 June.

A Guardian article dated 22 October reported that "protesters have tracked at least nine cases of suicides that appear to be directly linked to the demonstrations" since June.[49] In five of these cases, the victims left suicide notes related to the protests, and three were attributed to events following the extradition bill.[297][298][299][300] One note even stated: "What Hong Kong needs is a revolution."[301][302]

The first suicide took place on 15 June, when 35-year-old Marco Leung Ling-kit climbed the elevated podium on the rooftop of Pacific Place, a shopping centre in Admiralty at 4:30 pm.[298] 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 two banners on the scaffolding with several anti-extradition slogans in Chinese and English.[303] 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.[298][304][305]

A shrine appeared at the scene soon afterward; Ai Weiwei shared the news on his Instagram feed, while Chinese satirist Badiucao honoured the deceased with a cartoon.[305] On Thursday 11 July another vigil was held, where thousands showed up leaving sunflowers at the memorial site.[306] Artists in Prague have also honoured the event, who have painted a memorial on the Lennon Wall in the Czech Republic, depicting a yellow raincoat along with words of well wishes.[307]

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.[308][309] She had left two notes written on a stairwell wall with red marker, and uploaded photos of her note to Instagram.[310][299][311] A third suicide occurred the next day when a 29-year-old woman, Zhita Wu, jumped from the International Financial Centre.[312][300] On 4 July, a 28-year-old woman only identified by the surname Mak died after jumping off a building in Cheung Sha Wan.[313] A fifth suicide occurred on 22 July, when a 26-year-old man identified by the surname Fan died after jumping from Kwong Yuen Estate after an argument with his parents about his political stance and being driven from the house. Neighbours of Fan left flowers near the site.[314]

Allegations of police misconduct

A water cannon being fired
A police officer firing tear gas canisters on 31 August.
Hong Kong police storm Prince Edward station and attack civilians on 31 August 2019
External video
The 1 October Tsuen Wan shooting incident (HKFP)
The 11 November Sai Wan Ho shooting incident (HKFP)

During the protests, the Hong Kong Police Force have been widely accused of misconduct.[315][316][317] The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) has launched investigations into alleged police misconducts in the protests,[318] although the protesters demand an independent commission of inquiry instead, as the members of the IPCC are mainly pro-establishment and IPCC lacks the power to investigate, make definitive judgements and hand out penalties.[319][320] Carrie Lam has rejected this demand and had allegedly claimed that she would not "betray" the Force.[321] Carrie Lam insisted that the IPCC was able to fulfill the task.[322] A panel of overseas experts appointed by Lam to advise the IPCC released a report in October, stating that IPCC was unequipped due to its limited "powers, capacity and independent investigative capability" and recommended the formation of a fully independent inquiry for a conflict of this scale.[323]

Hong Kong police were accused of using excessive and disproportionate force, such as using rubber bullets dangerously by aiming horizontally, targeting the heads and torsos of protesters.[324][204] Its use of bean bag rounds allegedly ruptured the eye of a female protester,[325] and the police's use of pepper ball rounds in Tai Koo station has been described as an "execution-styled shooting".[326] The police have insisted that its usage aligns 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 international safety guidelines, as the police were found to have been using it as an offensive weapon,[327] firing it indoors in Kwai Fong station,[328] and using expired tear gas, which could release toxic gases such as phosgene and cyanide upon combustion according to academics.[329] Its usage in densely populated residential areas has also attracted criticism from affected residents.[330] Several police operations, in particular in Prince Edward station, where the STS assaulted commuters on a train, were thought to have disregarded public safety by protesters and pro-democrats.[331][332] The police were accused of using disproportionate force[333] after an officer shot a young protester who struck him with a pipe with live ammunition on 1 October.[334] The police defended the officer's actions, saying that the officer and his colleague's lives were at risk as a group of protesters was assaulting another officer at the time.[335][336] Protesters argued that the officer shooting the man's chest was unnecessary and that he had other less lethal alternatives available at his disposal.[337][338] 3 more people have since been shot by the police.[339][340]

The kettling of protesters in CITIC Tower and New Town Plaza,[332] the operations inside private areas,[341] the deployment of undercover officers,[342] the suspected evidence tampering,[343][344] the usage of water cannon trucks resulting in the dyeing of Kowloon Mosque,[181] insufficient protection for police dogs,[345] accessing patients' medical records without consent,[346][347][348] and how the police displayed their warning signs[349] have also been sources of controversy. As some police officers wore face masks[350] and did not wear uniforms with identification numbers or failed to display their warrant cards,[351][352] made it difficult for citizens to file complaints. The police have also denied first-aid service for the wounded,[331] and reportedly obstructed paramedics from helping Alex Chow Tsz-Lok, delaying treatment.[353] They were also accused of using excessive force on already subdued, unresisting arrestees,[354][355] and were criticised for using one of them as a human shield.[356] Amnesty International have stated that the police had used "retaliatory violence" against protesters and mistreated and tortured some of the detainees.[357][358] They was also accused of using sexual violence on female protesters.[359] A female has alleged that riot police officers gang raped her in Tsuen Wan police station, while the police claim that their investigation did not align with her accusation.[360] Some detainees reported the police have denied them access to lawyers.[361] Many of these allegations were believed to have taken place in San Uk Ling Holding Centre.[362]

Police near Lan Kwai Fong, Central on 31 October. The police were accused of obstructing reporters from taking photographs by shining flashlights at them.[363]

The police have been accused of interfering with freedom of the press and of injuring journalists during various protests, in one case permanently blinding an Indonesian journalist in the right eye.[364][365][366] The police was also accused of spreading a climate of fear by conducting hospital arrests,[367] arresting people arbitrarily,[357] banning requests for demonstrations,[368] and arresting high-profile activists and lawmakers.[369] Some bystanders caught up in the protests were beaten or kicked by officers.[370][371] Its inaction during the storming of the Legislative Council Complex was divisive.[372] 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.[373][374] According to the IPCC, the jamming of the emergency hotline during the 2019 Yuen Long attacks was also a common criticism.[375] The police were also accused of upholding a "double standard" by showing leniency towards violent counter-protesters.[376] The police have denied all of these accusations.

The personal conduct of some officers has also been criticised. Some uniformed officers used foul language to harass and humiliate protesters and journalists,[377] and some officers were accused of modifying their weapon,[378] provoking the protesters,[379] and grinning while using force.[380] The Junior Police Officers' Association also used the controversial term "cockroaches" to describe the radical subset of protesters.[381] The police's description of a man wearing a yellow vest being kicked by an officer as a "yellow object" was widely criticised.[382] On 11 November, a video emerged showing a policeman repeatedly rammed his motorcycle into a crowd of protesters, reportedly injuring two protesters. Police stated that the officer was suspended for his actions.[383]

Fake News circulation in China

Some Wechat public accounts have been issuing fake news related to the protests, which was shared to content farm. For example, in a content farm site called Today's headline (今日頭條), there was an article quoted from a Wechat public account called "With reasons and faces" (有理兒有面), which accused the protesters for getting paid and claimed that there would be a 20 millions rewards if they were able to kill a police. The article, however, cannot offer any solid evidence, did not attempt to look for response from any relevant pro-democracy politicians, or to offer any background information of the Wechat public account.[384]

During the 2019 November CUHK-Hong Kong Police Force conflict, mainland media claimed that pro-Beijing politician Junius Ho and other volunteering Hong Kong people were mobilizing vehicles in different means to help mainland students to retreat to the Shenzhen. [385]or other suitable places[386]. These reports were criticized by a Hong Kong fact-check group called "Proofing media" (求驗傳媒). The group stated that some mainland media described Junuis Ho as a hero bearing risk to secure the mainland students. And yet, even within the self-description of Ho, he was only making a few calls but he was not going to CUHK campus in person. The group also criticized the mainland media for accusing the protesters to try to burn the hill and to blow up the entire campus, but they never offered evidence, explain the reasons of the incident, or report the actions of the police[387]

Impacts

Effects on economy

Protest at the Hong Kong International Airport on 26 July 2019.

Official statistics showed that Hong Kong had slipped into recession as its economy had shrunk in the second and third quarters of 2019.[388] 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.[389] Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce senior economist Wilson Chong warned that as protests continued, retail sales would be impacted badly.[389] During the days of protests, protesters brought "mixed fortunes" to the businesses according to the South China Morning Post. Some restaurants saw their customers cancelling 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.[390] Protest supplies such as gas masks were running low in stock in both Hong Kong and Taiwan.[391]

The protests also affected property owners. Fearing the instability in Hong Kong, some investors abandoned the purchases of land. Desire to purchase properties also declined, as overall property transactions declined by 24% when compared with the Umbrella Revolution. Property developers were forced to reduce the selling price of some their properties. In Yuen Long, the flat prices for Yoho Town declined by 4%.[392] 17 members from the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong and The Chinese General Chamber of Commerce have released statements condemning the escalating protests due to the instability it brought to the city's economy and business community in August.[393]

The Hang Seng Index declined by at least 4.8% from 9 June to late August. As interest in trading waned, companies that had already applied for initial public offerings (IPO ) in Hong Kong urged their bankers to put their listing on hold. August 2019 recorded only one IPO, 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 due to doubts over the government's ability to maintain the "one country, two systems" principle; the outlook of the city was similarly lowered from "stable" to "negative".[394]

Tourism was also affected. The number of visitors travelling to Hong Kong declined by 40% in August 2019 compared to August 2018,[395] while the decline was 31.9% for the days during and after National Day.[396] As a consequence, some travel agencies requested their staff to take unpaid leave.[392] Flight bookings also declined; Hong Kong Disneyland also revealed that there were fewer guests visiting. Mainland tourists, according to Radio Free Asia, avoided travelling to Hong Kong due to safety concerns. Various countries have since issued travel warnings to Hong Kong.[397]

During the Airport protests on 12 and 13 August, the Airport Authority cancelled numerous flights, which resulted in an estimated US$76 million loss according to aviation experts.[398]

Effects on society

Hong Kong citizens warmly welcome protesters when they passed by New Town Plaza, Sha Tin on 25 August 2019.

Lam's administration received criticisms for its performance during the protests. Critics condemned what they perceived to be Carrie Lam's arrogance[399][400] and her extended absence and avoidance of the public eye after her apology, and believed that these factors enabled the protests to escalate.[401][402] According to polls conducted by the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Program, Lam's approval ratings dropped to a historic low score of 24.6% in August, and other domains ranging from the satisfaction rate to the trust rate in the government also reached record low.[403] Her score further declined to 22.3 in October, and her performance was categorised as "disastrous" alongside Secretary for Security John Lee and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng.[45] 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".[404] According to The Diplomat, there was also the emergence of the concept of "mutually assured destruction" (Chinese: 攬炒) where protesters became more radical to compel the administration to concede, while the establishment has waited "with bated breath" for their increase in aggressiveness so that they can justify the greater militarisation of the Force and dismissed the protesters as "insurgents".[405] Rifts within the government were also formed with Lennon Walls being set up in government offices and civil servants organising rallies to demand the government to answer the five demands.[406]

A riot police officer held up a blue flag warning the protesters to disperse in an unapproved march.

The reputation of the police has taken a serious drubbing following the heavy-handed treatment of protesters.[407][408] In October, a survey conducted by the Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey from Chinese University of Hong Kong revealed that more than 50% of the respondents gave the police a score of 0 out of 10.[46] 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.[409][410] Citizens were also concerned about the Force's ability to regulate and control itself and feared about its abuse of power.[411] The suspected acts of police brutality have turned some previous politically neutral citizens to become more sympathetic with the young protesters.[412] Fearing Hong Kong changing into a police state, some citizens were actively considering emigration.[413] For the Force, some lower-ranking officers reported feeling "lost and confused", citing "a lack of leadership" during important moments.[414] The Force has cancelled foot patrol due to fear that they may be attacked,[415] and issued extendable batons to off-duty officers.[411] Frontline officers and protesters have humiliated and insulted each other with degradative terms.[416][417][418] Police officers also reported being "physically and mentally" tired, as they faced the risks of being doxxed, cyberbullied, and distanced by their family members.[419] The police's relations with journalists,[420] social workers,[421] medical professionals[422] and members from other disciplined forces[423] became strained during the protests.

The protests have deepened the rift between the "yellow" (pro-democracy) and "blue" (pro-government) camps created since the Umbrella Revolution. Among those who oppose the protests, a group of people describing themselves as part of a "silent majority", noted by CNN as "unclear if they are really a majority at all", argued that protesters were spreading "chaos and fear" across the city, causing damage to the economy and harming people not involved in the protests, while some protesters believed that the disruptions caused were necessary trade-offs for a movement that they felt can "save the city" amidst fears that Beijing would further encroach the city's freedoms and its semi-autonomous status.[424] There were more frequent and more violent clashes between people from the two camps, resulting in intense physical conflicts.[425] Some mainland Chinese living in Hong Kong have expressed fears for their own safety as anti-Mainlander sentiment became high.[426][427] 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 or manners of the protests, straining family relationships.[412][428][429][430][431] Social workers have voiced their concerns for some of the young protesters, whose emotional health has become unstable.[418] 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 urge people not to commit suicide.[432]

Elderly marching on 17 July to support the youths in the anti-extradition bill protests.

Among the protesters, there was a stronger sense of solidarity when compared with the Umbrella Revolution. Instead of condemning and criticising each other, protesters 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.[433] Pollsters have found out that among 8,000 respondents, 90% of them believed that the use of these tactics was understandable because of the government's refusal to respond to the demands.[434] 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.[435] Various professions such as teachers, civil servants, accountants, medical professionals, and finance sector have organised protests or rallies to stand in solidarity with protesters.[436][437][438][439] In three public opinion polls from August to October conducted by Ming Pao and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, a significantly larger proportion of respondents thought that the police used excessive force during the protests, compared to those who thought the protesters used excessive force. 59.2% of respondents in the mid-October poll considered it understandable for protesters to engage in radical actions when large-scale peaceful protests have been unable to result in responses from the government.[433] Some more moderate protesters however noted that the increase in violence alienated them from the protests.[424]

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.

Carrie Lam continued to push the second reading of the bill despite a mass anti-extradition bill protest that attracted 1 million people, saying that the government was "duty-bound" to amend the law.[440][441] 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.[442] Her analogy as Hong Kong people's mother attracted criticisms after the violent crackdown on 12 June.[443]

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 18 June following another massive march on 16 June.[444][445] 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.[446] During July and August, the government insisted that it would not make any concessions, 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.[447][448]

After condemning the protesters for storming the Legislature on 1 July for their "use of extreme violence"[449] and defacing the national emblem during the 21 July protest,[450] 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".[451] She suggested that the radical protesters were dragging Hong Kong to a "point of no return"[451] and that they had "no stake in society",[452] a remark that received criticisms from some civil servants.[453]

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.[454] On 4 September, Lam announced that she would formally withdraw the extradition bill, 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 affirmed that all the five core demands must be answered.[27] 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.[152][455] The first dialogue session was held on 26 September. However, critics doubted Lam's ability to solve the problem in these dialogue sessions since a Chinese envoy has previously affirmed that the HKSAR government would not make any more concessions.

On 5 October, after what Lam referred to as "extreme violence" taking place, an emergency law was enacted to ban face masks in Hong Kong – without declaring a state of emergency – which has sparked criticism from various human rights organisations.[456] All pro-establishment lawmakers with the exception of Michael Tien and Felix Chung supported the anti-mask law,[457] while pan-democrats believed that it breached the Basic Law and that it violated the rule of law since the use of the emergency law bypassed the Legislative Council's scrutiny and approval.[172] The democrats have filed a judicial review to challenge Carrie Lam's decision.[458] Political analysts warned that invoking the emergency law would be the beginning of authoritarianism in Hong Kong.[459] Associated Press reports that the pressure from the anti-mask law and the escalating violence have deterred some citizens away from participating in the demonstrations.[460]

On 26 October, the Justice Department was granted a temporary court order (lasting until 8 November) that bans the public from harassing or doxxing police officers online. The ban had been criticised for the possibility of producing a chilling effect on free speech.[185]

On 8 November, a group of independent experts appointed by Chief Executive Lam to advise the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded that the IPCC lacked the "powers, capacity and independent investigative capability necessary" to fulfill its role as a police watchdog group given the current protest situation.[461]

On 11 November, Chief Executive Lam labelled protesters as the enemy of the people.[462][463]

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 Lam announced the suspension of the bill, the views of many pro-government lawmakers U-turned.[464] Starry Lee, the leader of the DAB, claimed that her party would not oppose the withdrawal of the bill,[465] 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 police behaviour as she felt that it would "dampen their morale".[466] 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.[467] The Chief Executive's Office held a private meeting with pro-government lawmakers explaining the decision to suspend the bill, though some lawmakers, including the HKFTU's Alice Mak, were said to have vented their anger toward Lam as her decision may harm their chances in the upcoming elections.[468] Abraham Shek supported the formation of an independent commission and that the problem cannot be resolved by solving economic problems. He said that "their five demands did not mention that they want a house. The five demands of young people are that they want justice, fairness and transparency".[469]

As protests continued to escalate, pro-Beijing lawmakers have condemned the use of violence by protesters, including breaking into the LegCo Complex and using petrol bombs and unidentified liquids against the police.[470][471] They have maintained their support for the Hong Kong Police Force, and have held various counter-demonstrations to support the police.[472][473][474] 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.[475]

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.[476] Fanny Law accused that some young females have been offering "free sex" services to the hardline protesters without providing any evidence. Her claim was condemned for spreading fake news with malice.[477]

Pro-democracy camp

Activists including Joshua Wong and Nathan Law met Representative Chris Smith at the US Congress.

The pro-democratic parties played a supporting role in the protests, 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.[478] The Civic Party criticised the government for not responding to the protesters, and described the storming of the LegCo as the "outburst of people's grievances".[479] Responding to the escalation of the protests seen in mid August at the airport, the convenor of the pro-democratic lawmakers, Claudia Mo, while disagreeing with some protesters' actions, asserted that her group of lawmakers would not split with the protesters.[480][481][482] Fernando Cheung warned that Hong Kong was slowly becoming a "police state" with the increasing violence used by the police.[483]

Both the incidents on 21 July and 31 August were likened to "terrorist attacks" by some pro-democrats.[484][485] 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".[486] The pan-democratic camp also condemned the violence directed at its protests organisers, lawmakers and election candidates. Lo Kin-hei has accused the pro-Beijing camp and its supporters of committing the "most brutal physical violent acts" throughout the protests.[487]

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.[488] Joshua Wong, Denise Ho and several other democrats also provided testimonies during the US congressional hearing for the Democracy Act.[489] Meanwhile, some councillors proposed several alternate versions of the extradition bill.[490]

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.[491] 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.[492][493]

Mainland China reactions

The Chinese government has expressed their opposition to the protests, while taking measures against the protests and their supporters. The protests have been depicted by Chinese government and media as separatist riots.[494] Beijing has accused the movement of displaying "characteristics of colour revolutions" and "signs of terrorism".[495][496] The Beijing government and state-run media have accused foreign forces of interfering with domestic affairs, and supporting the protesters;[497] These allegations were criticised by those who were blamed,[498] and CNN noted that China has a record of blaming foreign forces for causing domestic unrest.[499] On 22 October, following similar protests and violence in Catalonia and Chile, the Chinese government accused Western media of hypocrisy for not providing similar coverage and support to those protests.[500][501]

State-run media have pressured various companies, including railway operator MTR Corporation, airline Cathay Pacific, and the Big Four accounting firms[502] to take a hardline approach against employees who have taken part in the protests. Cathay Pacific witnessed a huge managerial reshuffling and began firing pro-democratic employees after the CAAC threatened to block Cathay's access to Chinese airspace,[503] while the MTR began to close stations and end its service early after being criticised for transporting protesters.[504] China also stopped broadcasting NBA matches following a pro-Hong Kong tweet by Daryl Morey, and banned the American television programme South Park after the release of the episode "Band in China".[505][506]

Chinese state media outlets largely ignored the protests until 17 April.[507] The protests were mostly censored from Mainland Chinese social media, such as Sina Weibo.[508] On 19 August, both Twitter and Facebook announced that they had discovered what they described as large-scale disinformation campaigns operating on their social networks[509][510] with Facebook discovering that those posts had altered images and taken them out of context, often with captions intended to vilify and discredit the protesters.[511] According to investigations by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, some of the attacks were coordinated, state-backed operations that were traced to the Chinese government.[512] A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that the purported disinformation campaign promoted three main narratives: condemnation of protesters, support for Hong Kong Police, and "conspiracy theories about Western involvement in the protests."[513] Google, Facebook, and Twitter have since banned these accounts.

Foreign envoys have reported that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) have doubled the number of troops stationed near the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border.[514] The army itself also filmed and uploaded a video of an anti-riot drill in Shenzhen, which was considered a "thinly veiled warning to Hong Kong" by Time.[515] On 6 October, the PLA issued its first warning to the protesters, who were shining laser lights on the exterior of the PLA garrison in Kowloon Tong.[516]

International reactions

As a result of the protests, many nations have issued travel warnings for Hong Kong.[517] Demonstrations in reaction to the protests have taken place in locations around the world, such as Los Angeles, Berlin, Canberra, Frankfurt, Melbourne, London, New York City, San Francisco, Delhi, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Montreal, Toronto, Vilnius and Vancouver.[518][519][520][521] Protesters in the concurrent 2019 Catalan protests have claimed inspiration from, and solidarity with the Hong Kong protests.[522][523]

On 15 October 2019, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was unanimously passed in a voice vote in the United States House of Representatives.[524] In response to the passing of the act, Iran condemned the act for supporting the protests.[525][526][527]

On 14 November 2019, it was reported that a number of Korean students in Hanyang University and Korea University had various actions to support the protests in Hong Kong. They were however, attacked and beaten up by the students from China. The poster prepared by the Korean students were also destroyed. The dispute were extended to the internet. Some Korean students asked those students to go back to China if they were so patriotic.[528]


See also

References

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External links

  • 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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