by Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: Demosisto/Facebook
BRUTAL SCENES of violence took place in Hong Kong yesterday, with what some suspect to have been the highest level of police violence in demonstrations to date.
This weekend marks the tenth consecutive week of protest in Hong Kong, marking two months since demonstrations began. Apart from that tear gas was fired at demonstrators in Sham Shui Po, Cheung Sha Wan, Tsim Sha Tsui, particularly shocking was police firing a tear gas canister inside of an underground MTR station in Kwai Chung, despite the fact that demonstrators would have nowhere to disperse to and that it is considered unsafe to fire tear gas canisters indoors, much less to fire them directly into crowds. Police also fired pepper balls at close-range against demonstrators within the MTR station.
A female medic is also thought to have lost her eye after being hit with a bean bag fired by police, with parts of her face also shattering, and a male protester was pushed onto the ground by police with enough force that he pleaded his teeth were breaking. The female medic reportedly remains in serious condition, having gone in and out of consciousness, requiring surgery, and the possibility of the bullet having affected her brain. A post on LIHKG later emerged from an individual purporting to be her younger sister.
Video of a female protester bleeding from her eye after being shot. Film credit: CUHK Campus Radio
As with past protests, attacks on medics, community workers, and journalists took place, with one medic reportedly fainting after being shot at close range. While plainclothes police have been present at past protests, police also adopted the new tactic of disguising themselves as protestors and luring demonstrators into police ambushes. To this extent, police are also accused of planting evidence in demonstrators’ backpacks in order to depict them as violent.
And, as also in past weeks, individuals wearing white who are thought to be triad members conducted attacks on demonstrators, to little action from police. Some of the individuals who conducted attacks tonight wore red shirts indicating that they are members of a Fujian hometown place association. The Hong Kong Federation of Fujian Associations held an event on Saturday calling for an end to the “riots.”
Some of these individuals are thought to be Fujianese residents of Hong Kong. There are also allegations that these may be Chinese nationals who crossed the border to conduct attacks and who were paid off to do so, as was also previously rumored about the first wave of triad attacks that took place in Yuen Long on July 21st, with video purporting to show triad members crossing the border from China.
Yesterday night’s violence comes on the heels of demonstrations in Victoria Park and Sham Shui Po. The former demonstration was approved by police, although police refused to approve a march route that would have taken the demonstration by government buildings, while the latter demonstration was not approved by police—however, it took place anyway. Demonstrations also took place on Saturday in Tai Po and Edinburgh Place, the latter demonstration consisting of parents and their children. The demonstration in Tai Po led to street occupations in Tai Wai and Shatin, leading tear gas to be fired and clashes with the police. Demonstrators in Wong Tai Sin also burned effigies of Hong Kong government leaders.
Hong Kong International Airport has also seen three consecutive days of protests in the airport, explaining the demands of demonstrators to visitors to Hong Kong, and even holding art workshops in the airport lobby.
Actions by workers in the airline industry such as pilots, flight attendants, and ground staff in support of the current demonstrations have led to reprisals against them. Cathay Pacific currently faces an order from the Civil Aviation Administration of China that pilots who have expressed support of demonstrations are not to be allowed to fly routes that take them over mainland China, the claim being that such pilots might use their planes as deadly weapons to carry 9/11-style attacks against Chinese cities. Reportedly two Cathay Pacific workers have been fired, possibly due to participating in demonstrations, and there have also been reports of Cathay Pacific workers being told ahead of time to delete pictures or information showing that they have participated in demonstrations before landing in China.
Police firing tear gas inside an MTR station in Kwai Chung. Photo credit: Felix Lam/Facebook/100毛
Protests now take place in Hong Kong on such a frequent basis and see such disproportionate responses from police that local residents have taken to wearing gas masks at home in areas which see frequent protest—particularly vulnerable are elderly individuals who may be more easily affected by tear gas.
Police violence is escalating at an alarming rate in Hong Kong. For example, as stated by police themselves during a press conference, 800 tear gas canisters were fired by police during last Monday’s citywide general strike, when protests over the nine weeks of protest preceding the general strike saw only over 1,000 tear gas canisters being. Demonstrations on July 12th saw police fire more tear gas in a single day than during the 79-day Umbrella Movement, which took place in 2014.
The Hong Kong police have likely long since taken to seeing Hong Kong residents in dehumanizing terms—as observed in references to protesters as “cockroaches”—or perhaps seeing them, as claimed by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as individuals who do not contribute productively to Hong Kong society. Notably, instead of responding to demonstrations this weekend, Lam attended a university student People’s Liberation Army military training camp at the Sai Wan barracks in Hong Kong.
In the meantime, in response to yesterday night’s violence, several actions have been declared for today. Firstly, a group of medical sector workers has issued a call for an indefinite strike of the medical sector as a whole.
Secondly, and likely more significantly, calls are taking place online to occupy Hong Kong International Airport later this afternoon and to disrupt the operations of the airport as a whole. Significant protest organizers, such as Demosisto, have thrown their weight behind this action, calling for tens of thousands to occupy the airport.
As with the notion of holding a general strike that would ground all of Hong Kong society to a halt, given the amount of international air traffic that passes through the airport, which is one of the world’s largest airports, disrupting the operations of the Hong Kong International Airport would not only serve to draw a great deal of international attention to the police violence which took place last night.
Calls for an occupation of Hong Kong International Airport, as issued by Demosisto, among other groups. Photo credit: Demosisto/Facebook
But given that a great deal of air traffic to China also passes through Hong Kong International Airport, the airport serves as a logistical chokepoint that could allow protestors to apply pressure to both the Hong Kong and the Chinese governments. Indeed, the size of Hong Kong’s economy and the role it plays as a travel hub and a key node of the global financial market suggests that there are many logistical and economic choke points in Hong Kong which could be used to apply pressure to China in such a way as to disrupt the Chinese economy—which in itself is facing the dual challenges of an economic slowdown and the US-China trade war.
It may be worth considering how Hong Kong can leverage on its global position in order to take elements of the Chinese economy hostage through strategic protest actions. After all, no economic relations is solely unidirectional; even if China dwarfs Hong Kong may many orders of magnitude, there are still ways for Hong Kong to cause significant disruption for China—just within the city itself.