By Marius Zaharia and Donny Kwok | Reuters
HONG KONG, China, 27 July 2019
Police, widely criticized for failing to better protect the public from the attack by club-wielding men in Yuen Long, had refused to allow the march in the town on safety grounds.
But protesters pushed ahead and what began as a peaceful action by several thousand in sweltering afternoon heat soon grew increasingly tense with stand-offs between police and protesters in several locations.
Rocks and bottles were thrown at police by protesters, who were also building barricades out of street furniture. Police responded in at least one location with tear gas.
“They failed the public,” a protester called Kevin, in a red T-shirt, said of the police earlier in the afternoon, as he stood outside the police station, gripping its gates.
“They deliberately let the triads beat up protesters to get revenge on us … We’re here to teach them a lesson,” he said, as he shouted an obscenity at the police.
Last Sunday, about 100 white-shirted men stormed the Yuen Long mass-transit station hours after protesters marched through central Hong Kong and defaced China’s Liaison Office – the main symbol of Beijing’s authority over the former British colony.
The men attacked black-clad protesters returning from Hong Kong island, passers-by, journalists and lawmakers with pipes and clubs, leaving 45 people injured.
Reuters reported on Friday that a Liaison Office official had days earlier urged village chiefs to drive away any activists from the town.
The Yuen Long attack and the vandalism at the Liaison Office marked new fronts in a protest movement that has intensified over the last two months.
The protests, considered the most direct challenge to the authority of China’s President Xi Jinping, mushroomed on Friday as thousands of activists thronged the arrivals halls of Hong Kong international airport.
The protesters, initially demanding the scrapping of a bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland courts for trial, are now also seeking independent inquiries into police use of force, the resignation of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and full democratic reform – anathema to Beijing’s Communist Party leadership.
The crisis is exposing fissures in Lam’s administration, with police chiefs and rank-and-file officers enraged at an apology over last weekend’s attacks by her chief secretary on Friday, apparently made without consultation.
The official, Matthew Cheung, said the government would not shirk its responsibility “and the police’s handling fell short of residents’ expectations”.
Britain handed Hong Kong to China in 1997 amid guarantees that its core freedoms and autonomy, including the right to protest and an independent judiciary, would be protected under a “one country, two systems” formula.
Many fear those rights are under threat as Beijing’s reach extends into the city.
Activists told Reuters they feared Saturday’s protest could turn violent, given anger among the protesters over last Sunday’s violence and a determination among some to challenge villagers they believe are close to triad groups in the area.
“We are hoping for a peaceful night,” said Neil, masked, in his mid-20s, standing next to a friend who was strapping on a hard hat.
“We want Yuen Long to be safe and peaceful. But there still might be trouble so we have to be prepared.”
Several banks in the area did not open on Saturday and many businesses were shuttered.
The people of Hong Kong are getting desperate now. They feel that if they cannot do something now to make their future less bleak, then they can never. It is now or never.
The challenge before them is frighteningly huge. The opponent is the government of the Communist Party of China. HK against the PRC is like a fly flapping its wings against a huge rock. But still the people want to stand up instead of lying down.
Don’t they deserve our admiration and support for their true grit?
Where do their determination and strength come from? I think it comes from certainty that HK will, in a few years, become another Chinese city where ordinary people dare not even to dream about freedom, liberty, and justice, if they fail to protect the spirit of the status granted to HK “under the principle of one country and two systems” arrangement in agreement between Britain and PRC in 1997 when HK was returned to China.
Xi Jinping wants to fold up this agreement before its expiry because he fears that HK’s determined and massive protests may provide oxygen to fellow Chinese in the mainland.
To avoid this Xi has two options:
1) henceforth he stops his interference to undermine ‘the spirit of the agreement.
2) He decides to crack down the HK protesters in a way similar to how the Chinese students’ freedom protest in Tienanmen Square in 1989 was handled.
Here comes a very important question: whether the West, and USA in particular, is prepared to send an unmistakable message to Xi Jinping that he cannot choose the latter option under any circumstance. If the West fails to do so, HONG KONG may end in tragedy. Xi Jinping will be enboldened by leaps and bounds, and he may think that the Chinese dream can touch the sky through pure violence, violence, and violence!!!
As a Tibetan who has experienced the brutality of the CCP and how it treates people who are under its occupation, I cannot help sympathising with the Hong Kongers. They lived freely under Great Britain for 155 years. For all it’s ills as a colonial power, Britain gave HK a free Press, an independent judiciary and made HK a bustling metropolis of the world. However, after the hand over to China in 1997, for the first few years the CCP stuck to the Sino-British treaty but in 2003 it caused great discomfort for the HKers when Beijing tried to impose Article 23 of the basic law which said “the HK SAR will enact laws to prohibit act of treason, secession, sedition and subversion against the Central Govt”. It culminated in 79 Day Umbrella revolution in 2014. In 2019, the CCP forced Carrie Lamb to impose another equally frightful bill of extraditing HK people to China for criminal offences. This has caused so much angst that millions of HKongers took to the streets. All the civil unrest and instability in HK is caused by the CCP and not by HKgers. It’s not the “black foreign hand” that Beijing always points to others but infact it is the yellow sticky hand that is wreaking so much havoc on the hapless HK people. Many are now leaving for other countries out of sheer desperation. They are subjected to coercion, bullying by hiring local triad thugs to beat innocent protestors. The CCP ALWAYS uses violence and intimidation to silence its critics. There is every danger, it may use the People Liquidating Army (PLA) to quell the protests. It will further alienate the HKongers if such a mindless act is committed upon the peaceful people of HK. You have to ask, how will jackboot tactics will ensure stability without considering the sensibility and aspirations of the Hong Kong people?