Hong Kong was rocked by demonstrations over the past 14 weeks, and activists are giving a lesson to the world on how to prevail against all odds, and at the same time are develop strategies for other democracy activists across the globe on how to resist authoritarianism.
Some areas in Hong Kong were scenes of extreme violence by police against protesters and any innocent bystanders who got in their way. They stormed the Prince Edward metro station, armed with batons, rubber bullets, and pepper spray, intimidating and beating people who just happened to be there going about their business. They were on a mission to cause chaos and terrify the train passengers, as the video below from HKFP shows. People screaming and terrified for their lives, is this the way police have been instructed to deal with the situation?
“Video footage shows police stormed into the train carriage and used batons to repeatedly beat people posing no threat whatsoever. Pepper spray was used in a carriage where people had no means to retreat, while medics were barred from entering the station. It is also alarming that a police officer appeared to aim a sponge grenade launcher at close range to those inside the train. Such unlawful police tactics continue to inflame rather than de-escalate the situation, said Man-Kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.
This might seem a lifetime away from the problems happening in other countries, so why should we care too much? China, for one, has become one of the strongest nations in the world and has amassed troops at the border, ready to teach the Hong Kong protesters a lesson. This intimidation could happen in other ways in many other areas that are controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, regardless of the distance from the mainland.
Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong leader announced on Aug. 4 the government would formally withdraw the controversial extradition bill that sparked the original protests, but it is unlikely to be enough to subdue the sea of protesters across the city, as the four other key demands from protesters have not been met. Activists have refused to yield until all of the demands have been met.
Joshua Wong, Hong Kong pro-democracy told media, “The protests will continue, Hong Kong people will never stop until Hong Kong is a place of democracy and freedom.” “We urge government to completely withdraw the bill, we demand government stop harass and prosecution, not to define protesters as rioters, set up independent inquiry on police brutality, and the final and most important one is free election.”
Pro-democracy activist Natham Law, Hong Kong’s youngest-ever lawmaker, has called for Carrie Lam and her government to step down even after the extradition bill had been withdrawn saying protesters have a “strong consensus and commitment to all five demands.”
Around 1,200 people have so far been detained, and Lam said it is “contrary to the rule of law, and not acceptable” to consider dropping charges or releasing those arrested without prosecution. More protests have been planned for next weekend, with the airport being a major focus, as it is an area that is visible to the world through the media.
These protests have been turning violent with the addition of triad members, notable at Yuen Long railway station in July, when hundreds of white-shirted gang members attacked commuters and media with batons, in full view of video cameras.
The agitators are often used by the Chinese Communist Party, “Beijing officially claims some triad leaders are patriotic and help maintain social order in Hong Kong … [through] United Front the CCP try to co-opt a lot of people including triad leaders. The triad leaders get a lot of money from the CCP through middlemen,” said professor T. Wing Lo, an expert in triad groups, from the City University of Hong Kong, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
“If the CCP think they can’t do something by themselves they use the triads to do that,” he said. The men usually are paid $90 per night. “We call this extra-legal governance, where triads do the dirty jobs for Beijing or police,” added Lo.
Global media coverage has been widely sympathetic toward the protesters, as the internet has become their ally. After one protester was blinded in one eye from a round of beanbag pellets fired by police, a video shown on the Straits Times showing many wearing eye patches in support, with one young student pasting a note on her eye patch, “We need the world to see how shameful the Hong Kong police are.” Dozens of media outlets took up this story.
For the CCP to attempt to control events in Hong Kong in their response—by using force, thus creating another Tiananmen Square massacre, is something the rest of the world is unlikely to tolerate. The CCP record of atrocious human rights abuses of its people is well documented.
In an editorial in the Chinese state-run Global Times, the pro-democracy leaders were labeled as “traitors” who are wanting to become “martyrs,” reiterating the CCP rhetoric that the Hong Kong demonstrations are a plot instigated by the United States to destroy the CCP. “The new generation of traitors is betting that Americans will do so and that China cannot afford the chaos.” The paper issued a veiled threat, “These people have never seen what China has done to resist the pressure from the outside. They have no idea of China’s power and will as an emerging country,” the Global Times warned.