Following the Hong Kong protests – 29th July to 4th August

Following the Hong Kong protests – 29th July to 4th August

This week was yet another eventful one in the financial hub of Hong Kong, home to 7.5 million citizens. Demonstrations that initially erupted over a controversial extradition bill have grown, sparking greater international attention and provoking mainland China.

The following update is part of The Millennial Source’s continuing coverage of the months-long protests, which show no sign of slowing down. For further context, please see our feature article on the current situation in Hong Kong and its implications for Beijing’s One-China policy.

This post contains images and videos that some may find distressing.
All images were captured by passers-by, protest participants and journalists.

29th July 2019 – Monday

On Monday, The State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office – mainland China’s top office for handling Hong Kong issues – held a press briefing.

This was the first official briefing since the handover of the island from the UK to mainland China in 1997.

Office Spokesperson Yang Guang expressed Beijing’s resolute support for the Hong Kong Police and government, including the island’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam. He claimed that Lam “has done lots of work since taking office. We have noted that the government has done a thorough review of its deficiencies … The government will be more inclusive and listen to different opinions.”

Spokesperson Yang also outwardly expressed his frustration with remarks made by Western countries regarding the ongoing protests, calling the countries and their comments “irresponsible." He added that based on listening to “some people’s speeches. They have weird logic…"  

After the press conference, furious journalists stormed to the front edge of the podium, claiming that a question-and-answer session had been promised after the briefing.

30th July 2019 – Tuesday

Protestors took to train stations at rush hour on Tuesday, preventing doors from closing and sounding emergency alarms.

This delayed trains for more than an hour, affecting thousands of people.

Some people expressed acceptance of the protestors’ behavior, stating, for example, that “I think my work and meeting could wait… But our freedom, safety [and] human rights are being taken away and that can’t wait – so I’m OK with it." Others, however, weren’t so understanding. One man told Reuters news agency, “It’s so inconvenient and annoying… I am in a hurry to work, to make a living."

A mainland politician also claimed on Tuesday that the protests were a “creation of the US". The Hong Kong unrest is occurring amidst ongoing trade tensions between the US and China, but no credible evidence has surfaced that the US is behind the protests.

By Wednesday evening, the situation had escalated. Demonstrators gathered outside Kwai Chung police station to demand the release of 44 protestors involved in the Tuesday train delays, all of whom had been charged with rioting. The 44 detained citizens were scheduled to appear in court Thursday.

During the demonstration, a solo police officer marched into the chaos, brandishing a gun at the protestors. For long moments, he held his gun ready to fire, his finger on the trigger.

At 2:30 a.m., fireworks were reportedly shot from a black Toyota into the crowd. Six people were injured, with five sent to hospital. The vehicle’s driver is still at large.

31st July 2019 – Wednesday

On Wednesday, during a number 8 typhoon, hundreds gathered outside the Eastern Magistrates Court in Sai Wan Ho, awaiting the 44 people facing rioting charges. A conviction for rioting carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

During this period, a large platoon of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) congregated at the mainland China-Hong Kong border, which caught the attention of other governments, including US officials in Washington, DC.  

Over the past two months of protests, the Hong Kong police have been largely overwhelmed by the upheaval caused by intense rallies. While mainland China is legally compelled not to interfere with local affairs, Hong Kong’s government is permitted to request “assistance from the garrison in the maintenance of public order and in disaster relief.”

The implications of the sudden build-up of troops at the border remain unclear. Simultaneously, there was a 20,000-person PLA swearing-in ceremony in China’s southern Guang Dong province.

1st August 2019 – Thursday

On Thursday, financial sector workers briefly gathered in the city’s financial district for what was labeled the “Freedom snooze, market lose” event.

2nd August 2019 – Friday

Two more protests occurred Friday evening.

The first arose within the medical and healthcare sectors at Edinburgh Place, Central. More politically significantly, however, was a rally among civil servants – a group typically known for their political neutrality.

A reported 40,000 people gathered in Chater Garden in Central Hong Kong on Friday evening. It was a symbolic act with the potential to further undermine the island’s current government and leaders.

The rally came after an anonymous letter to the mainland Chinese government was published on Facebook. The letter claimed to represent the opinions of civil servants.

Demands stipulated in the letter included:
– Complete and permanent withdrawal of the extradition bill
– A halt to descriptions of the protests as “rioting"
– A waiver of charges against those arrested
– An independent inquiry and resumption of political reforms

“I think the government should respond to the demands, instead of pushing the police to the frontline as a shield,” said Kathy Yip, a 26-year-old government worker.

3rd August 2019 – Saturday

After thousands of civil servants had taken to the streets in Central, a reported 120,000 people gathered for an approved rally in Mong Kok. The district is one of the most popular shopping destinations in Hong Kong.

The peace quickly disintegrated when the protestors split up, leading to unprecedented violence in Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui and Wong Tai Sin. Police used tear gas to disperse the tightly packed crowd of protestors.

Traffic was brought to a standstill at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel several times, and businesses in the area were forced to close early.

The event came after a Chinese state-run television network, CCTV, aired interviews with three representatives of Hong Kong police unions. In spite of numerous previous uses of tear gas, the representatives claimed that the police, to date, had only used minimal force. It was also claimed that demonstration events were “peacefully conducted with music.”

Looking ahead

A city-wide strike backed by unions and major businesses, labeled “a day of no cooperation", is set to occur Monday, 5th August at 1 p.m. A total of seven simultaneous rallies have been planned around the island.

“If you don’t go to work for a day, you may lose a meal; but if Hong Kong is broken, you can’t fix it anymore,” said lawmaker Au Nok-hin.

Three major train stations – Lai King, Fortress Hill and Diamond Hill – are said to be target areas for the planned protests.