The resistance, which has mainstream support, is the biggest rebellion against China’s government since President Xi took power.
Natasha Khan and Wenxin Fan report: This summer, the civil servant, who is in her 20s, has zip tied metal barriers together to block roads and dug bricks out of sidewalks to throw at police. Her primary role is to be “arrest support”—ready to hire lawyers for detained protesters and help their families with an emergency plan.
Hong Kong’s protests against the mainland government’s increasing reach are emerging as bigger, more frequent and more violent than previous pro-democracy movements. In a contrast to 2014, when demonstrations were largely led by students, the current action has been embraced by a broader cross-section of Hong Kong society—including civil servants, pop stars, doctors, shopkeepers and people of all ages. And those taking part in more radical acts of civil disobedience are finding wider support.
Hard-core current protesters have largely rejected the strategies of veteran leaders, whose approach is seen to have failed. Actions are mostly organized by anonymous leaders of small groups. In 2014, named student leaders became well known figures.
The shift in attitude means Hong Kong’s resistance has become the biggest open rebellion against China’s ruling Communist Party since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.
“There’s a feeling among many that there’s no other option, that some physical confrontation is the only way for the regime to listen to the voices of Hong Kongers,” said Jeffrey Ngo, chief researcher at pro-democracy group Demosisto. Mr. Ngo said he doesn’t use violence himself in the current protests, but understands why some have resorted to it.
Residents have become increasingly dissatisfied as the government has dug in its heels and police have cracked down. Police on the front lines have embraced the use of tear gas—even in residential neighborhoods. Officers have beaten protesters with batons and stormed into shopping malls and subway stations to bring demonstrators to heel. Since June 9, 420 people have been arrested, and some have been charged with crimes that carry up to 10-year prison terms.
Beijing has endorsed the way the police have handled the protests and has sent signals it is losing patience with the unrest. Last week the Chinese army’s Hong Kong garrison released a video showing soldiers performing riot drills and taking part in mock street battles.
Protests across the city continued over the past weekend, the ninth in a row, some with violence, including in tourist and residential areas. On Monday a protester-led strike disrupted the subways and airport, and kept thousands home from work.
Carrie Lam, the city’s Beijing-backed chief executive, said Monday that the city was becoming dangerous and unstable, and condemned violent protests, in her first public comments in two weeks. She didn’t accede to any of the protesters’ demands.
Demonstrations began in early June as a fight against an extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to China for trial. The bill was set aside but not formally withdrawn, and protests morphed into a broader ideological battle to preserve Hong Kong’s civil rights against the encroaching authoritarianism of China … (read more)