Mass protests and riots rocked Hong Kong for three days from Friday of last week. Demonstrators defied bans on protests to gather in several areas and faced down attacks from the cops.
China has called for harsher measures against demonstrators. Government spokesperson Yang Guang denounced what he called “rampant violence” by demonstrators, which he blamed on a “few radicals”.
“The most important task is to resolutely punish violent crimes, restore social stability and safeguard Hong Kong’s legal system,” he said on Monday. “Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong.”
In reality, it is protesters who have faced violent and criminal acts from police and others. Masked men suspected to be pro-government triad criminal gangs attacked demonstrators in Yuen Long with sticks and metal bars earlier this month.
Cops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who joined a banned rally in Yuen Long against the attack last Saturday. They baton-charged protesters resting in the train station. The attack left 24 people injured, two in a serious condition.
Yuen Long resident Simon Cheng said there was “no difference” between the actions of the cops and the triads. But he said violence from the police was worse “because they are government approved and have deadly force”.
On Sunday, riot police fired volleys of tear gas at pro-democracy protesters close to the Liaison Office, Beijing’s office in Hong Kong. Protesters set up barricades and blockaded roads in Causeway Bay.
Several demonstrations took place across Hong Kong. In some areas, local residents opened their homes to protesters so they could escape police attacks.
Protesters are fighting a new law that would allow for extraditions of suspects to mainland China. But the movement has grown to demand wider changes.
They want an inquiry into police brutality, the freeing of arrested demonstrators and the resignation of Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam.
Protests forced Lam to suspend the extradition law within days. But demonstrators want the whole thing scrapped.
The movement represents a serious challenge to China’s authority.
As the People’s Daily, an official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, put it, “If this can be tolerated, what can not?”
The Chinese state and its media backers have blamed the protests on “Western interference”. In reality they are actions that have involved millions of people fighting to defend their rights.
Some protesters have raised the Union Jack flag, in reference to Britain’s previous control of Hong Kong. But Britain has an appalling record in Hong Kong and looking to the West isn’t the way to win.
Protests are planned all over Hong Kong over the next three weeks. There are also plans for a city-wide strike. Building up this kind of action can win real changes.