2019 Hong Kong protests

2019 Hong Kong protests
(Timeline)
Part of democratic development in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong–Mainland China conflict
Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protest (48108527758).jpg
2019-09-15 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protest 036.jpg
2019-10-01 Demonstration Hong Kong 61.jpg
Hong Kong protests - Panorama.jpg
2019-09-13 Lion Rock, Hong Kong 04.jpg
Demonstration against extradition bill, 12 June 2019.jpg
LR-7557 (49049938866).jpg
A collection of various protest scenes in Hong Kong
Date
  • 15 March 2019 – ongoing
    (274 days, total)[1]
  • 9 June 2019 – ongoing
    (188 days, large-scale break out)[2]
Location
Caused by
Goals
  • Full withdrawal of the extradition bill from the legislative process
  • Retraction of the characterisation of the 12 June 2019 protests as "riots"
  • Release and exoneration of arrested protesters
  • Establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into police behaviour
  • Universal suffrage for Legislative Council and Chief Executive elections
  • Resignation of Carrie Lam[9]
  • Dissolution and reorganisation of the Hong Kong Police Force[10]
Methods Diverse (see tactics and methods)
Concessions
given
  • Bill suspended on 15 June and officially withdrawn on 23 October[11][12]
  • Police partially retracted characterisation of protests on or before 12 June as "riots", except for five individuals in Admiralty on 12 June[13]
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
Protesters
(no centralised leadership)

Deaths, injuries and arrests
Death(s) 2[a][33][b][34]
Injuries
  • 2,600+ (as of 9 December 2019)[32]
Arrested 6,000+ (as of 9 December 2019)[32]

The 2019 Hong Kong protests, also known as the Anti–Extradition Law Amendment Bill (Anti-ELAB) movement or the "water revolution",[35] are an ongoing series of demonstrations in Hong Kong triggered by the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill by the Hong Kong government.[36][37] If enacted, the bill would have allowed the extradition of criminal fugitives who are wanted in territories with which Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements, including Taiwan and mainland China.[38] This led to concerns that the bill would subject Hong Kong residents and visitors to the jursidiction and legal system of mainland China, which would undermine the region's autonomy and Hong Kong people's civil liberties.[39][40][41][42] As the protests progressed, the protesters laid out five key demands, which were the withdrawal of the bill, investigation into alleged police brutality and misconduct, the release of arrested protesters, a complete retraction of the official characterisation of the protests as "riots", and Chief Executive Carrie Lam's resignation along with the introduction of universal suffrage for election of the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive.[43][44]

Despite the demonstration with hundreds of thousands of people - perhaps even more than 1 million (according to organizers) - on 9 June, the government proceeded with the bill.[45][46] Protesters gathered outside the Legislative Council Complex to stall the bill's second reading on 12 June,[47][48][49][50] which resulted in an intense standoff between the protesters and the police, who have deployed tear gas and rubber bullets.[51] An even bigger march took place on 16 June, just one day after the suspension of the bill, as protesters insisted on the complete withdrawal of the bill and reacted to alleged excessive use of force by the police on 12 June.[52] The anniversary of the handover on 1 July marked the storming of the LegCo Complex which was largely viewed as a watershed moment for the protest.[53] Subsequent protests throughout the summer spread to different districts, and there were confrontations involving the police, activists on both sides, suspected triad gangs, and local residents.[54] The police's inaction when suspected triad members assaulted protesters and commuters in Yuen Long on 21 July[55] and the storming of Prince Edward station on 31 August further escalated the protests.[56]

Lam suspended the extradition bill on 15 June and declared the bill "dead" on 9 July, but refused to withdraw it until 4 September.[57][58][59] The bill was finally withdrawn on 23 October, but the government refused to concede on the other four demands. Large-scale demonstrations occurred on 1 October (National Day), the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, when an 18-year-old student protester was shot whilst attempting to hit a police officer. Claiming to curb further protests, Lam invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance on 4 October to implement an anti-mask law, to counterproductive effect.[60] As the protests dragged on, confrontations escalated as both sides became increasingly violent. The number of police brutality and misconduct allegations increased,[61][62] with Amnesty International accusing the Force of torturing some detainees.[63] Some protesters have escalated their use of radical methods such as throwing petrol bombs[64] to confront the police.[61] Rifts within the society widened as actvists from both sides have assaulted each other.[65][66] The deaths of students Chan Yin-lam and Alex Chow, as well as a policeman shooting an unarmed 21-year-old student protester, further intensified the protests. The protesters have also occupied university campuses and blocked the nearby traffic. The police reacted by besieging the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) which resulted in a large number of injuries and arrests.[67]

The government and the police have received the lowest approval ratings since the 1997 handover in public opinion polls.[68][69][70] Their performances prompted the pro-democratic bloc to deliver an unprecedented landslide victory during the District Council election, which was widely viewed as a de facto referendum on the protest movement.[71] The Central People's Government has indicated that it sees the protests as the "worst crisis in Hong Kong" since the handover in 1997.[72] The protests have been largely described as "leaderless", though Beijing government alleged that foreign powers were instigating the conflict.[73][74] Counter-protesters have held several pro-police rallies.[75] The United States passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on 27 November to support the protest movement.[76] Solidarity rallies were held in dozens of cities abroad. Since the protest movement began in June, it has resulted in two deaths — a man struck in the head by a brick thrown at him by a protester during a civil confrontation in Sheung Shui,[77][78][79] and a student protester falling inside a parking lot[70] — and several suicides.[80]

Background

Direct cause

The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 was first proposed by the government of Hong Kong on February 2019 in response to the 2018 murder of Poon Hiu-wing by her boyfriend Chan Tong-kai in Taiwan, where the two Hong Kong residents were visiting as tourists. As there is no extradition treaty with Taiwan (because the government of China does not recognise its sovereignty), the Hong Kong government proposed an amendment to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance (Cap. 503) and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance (Cap. 525) to establish a mechanism for case-by-case transfers of fugitives, on the order of the chief executive, to any jurisdiction with which the city lacks a formal extradition treaty.[42] One such jurisdiction would be mainland China.

The inclusion of mainland China in the amendment is of concern to different sectors of Hong Kong society. Pro-democracy advocates fear the removal of the separation of the region's jurisdiction from mainland Chinese laws administered by the Communist Party, thereby eroding the "one country, two systems" principle in practice since the 1997 handover. Opponents of the bill urged the Hong Kong government to explore other avenues, such as establishing an extradition arrangement solely with Taiwan, and to sunset the arrangement immediately after the surrender of the suspect.[42][81]

Underlying causes

The 2019 Hong Kong protests came four and a half years after the Umbrella Revolution, which began after the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress regarding proposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system which were largely seen as restrictive. However, the movement ended in failure as the government offered no concessions.[82] Since then, democratic development has stalled: only half of the seats in the Legislative Council remain directly elected, and the chief executive of Hong Kong continues to be voted by the small-circle Election Committee. The 2017 imprisonment of Hong Kong democracy activists further dashed the city's hope of meaningful political reform.[83] Citizens began to fear the loss of the "high degree of autonomy" as provided for in the Hong Kong Basic Law, as the government of the People's Republic of China appeared to be increasingly and overtly interfering with Hong Kong's affairs. Notably, the Hong Kong Legislative Council oath-taking controversy ended with the disqualification of six lawmakers following a ruling by courts in Mainland China; the Causeway Bay Books disappearances sparked concerns over state-sanctioned rendition and extrajudicial detention.[84][83]

The rise of localism and pro-independence was marked by the campaign for the 2016 New Territories East by-election by activist Edward Leung[85] as fewer and fewer youth in Hong Kong identify themselves as Chinese – Pollsters at the University of Hong Kong found that the younger respondents were, the more distrustful they were of the Chinese government.[84] By 2019, almost no Hong Kong youth identified themselves as "Chinese".[86] The Moral and National Education controversy in 2012, severely shook young people's confidence in the systems which they believed protected their rights. With the approach of 2047, when the Basic Law is set to expire, and along with it the constitutional guarantees enshrined within it, sentiments of an uncertain future have driven youth to join the protests against the extradition bill.[82] For some protesters, the Umbrella Revolution was an inspiration that brought about a political awakening.[82] Others, who felt that peaceful methods were ineffective, resorted to increasingly radical methods to express their views.[7][87] Media has noted that unlike the 2014 protests, protesters in 2019 were driven by a sense of desperation rather than hope,[88][89] and that the aims of the protests have evolved from withdrawing the bill to fighting for greater freedom and liberties.[90]

The unaffordability of housing prices was also cited as an underlying cause of anger among Hong Kongers.[91][92] Hong Kong is "the world's most expensive city to buy a home".[93] This is because, unlike the comparable city-state of Singapore, Hong Kong has not secured affordable or public housing for the city's population.[94] That is due to the fact that since the colonial period, the city's politics have largely been ruled by the business elite.[95] That has also meant a few powerful families having significant influence over property development, with the construction of commercial properties on key real estate with limited competition.[96] Furthermore, a significant amount of the local government's revenue is made from land sales to developers.[97]

Objectives

Initially, protesters solely demanded the withdrawal of the extradition bill. Following an escalation in the severity of policing tactics against demonstrators on 12 June and the bill's suspension on 15 June, the objective of the protesters has been to achieve the following five demands:[98]

  • Complete withdrawal of the extradition bill from the legislative process: Although the chief executive announced indefinite suspension of the bill on 15 June, reading on it may be quickly resumed. The bill was "pending resumption of second reading" in the legislative council. The bill was formally withdrawn on 23 October.[99]
  • Retraction of the "riot" characterisation: The government originally characterised the 12 June protest as "riots". Later the description was amended to say there were "some" protesters who rioted. However, protesters contest the existence of acts of rioting during the 12 June protest.
  • Release and exoneration of arrested protesters: Protesters consider the arrests to be politically motivated; they also question the legitimacy of police arresting protesters at hospitals through access to their confidential medical data in breach of patient privacy.
  • Establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into police conduct and use of force during the protests: Civic groups felt that the level of violence used by the police on 12 June, specifically those against protesters who were not committing any offences when they were set upon, was unjustified; police performing stop-and-search to numerous passers-by near the protest site without probable cause was also considered abusive.[100] Some officers' failure to display or show their police identification number or warrant card despite being required to do so by the Police General Orders is seen to be a breakdown of accountability.[101] The existing watchdog, Independent Police Complaints Council lacks independence, and its functioning relies on police co-operation.
As the number of allegations of police brutality and misconduct continued to increase, some Hong Kong protesters have begun to call for the disbandment of the Police Force. [102]

History

Early demonstrations

The police used tear gas to disperse protesters gathering outside the Legislative Council Complex on 12 June.

A sit-in by Demosistō held at the Central Government Complex on 15 March was the first protest against the extradition bill.[1] The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), a platform for 50 pro-democracy groups, launched a protest march against the bill on 31 March 2019 and another on 28 April 2019.[104] The anti-extradition issue attracted more attention when pro-democratic lawmakers in the legislative council launched a filibuster campaign against the bill. In response, the Secretary of Security John Lee announced that the government would resume the second reading of the bill in full council on 12 June, bypassing the Bills Committee, whose role would have been scrutinising the bill.[105]

In the backdrop of the second reading of the bill, the CHRF launched their third protest march on 9 June. While Police estimated an attendance of the march on Hong Kong Island at 270,000, the organisers claimed that 1.03 million people attended the rally.[45][46] Carrie Lam insisted the second reading debate on the bill be resumed on 12 June.[106] Protesters successfully stopped the LegCo from resuming the second reading of the bill by surrounding the LegCo Complex. Riot police dispersed protesters using controversial methods such as kettling, firing tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets, allegedly assaulting journalists in the process.[107] Police Commissioner Stephen Lo declared the clashes a "riot",[108] although the police itself were subsequently criticised for using excessive force, such as firing tear gas at a crowd who were peacefully protesting near CITIC Tower,[109][110] and for the lack of identifying numbers on police officers.[111] Following the clashes, protesters began calling for an independent inquiry into police brutality; they also urged the government to retract the "riot" characterisation.

Organisers claimed 2 million attended the CHRF march on 16 June 2019, while the police put the figure at 338,000.

On 15 June, Carrie Lam announced the suspension of the bill but did not fully withdraw the bill.[112] A 35-year-old man committed suicide in protest at Lam's decision.[113] CHRF claimed a record-breaking "almost 2 million plus 1 citizens" had participated in the 16 June protest, while the police estimated that there were 338,000 demonstrators at its peak.[52]

Protesters surrounded the Police headquarters on 21 and 24 June for several hours and dispersed peacefully at night; on 24 June, they also blockaded other government buildings.[114][115][116] Protesters also began to call for international support and visited the consulates of member states of the G20 expected at the 2019 Osaka summit on 28 and 29 June.[116][117]

Storming of Legco and spillovers

Protesters briefly occupied the Legislative Council Complex on 1 July.

The CHRF claimed a record turnout of 550,000 for their annual march on 1 July, while police estimated around 190,000 at the peak.[118][119] The protest was largely peaceful. At night, protesters stormed the Legislative Council, while police took little action to stop them. Partly angered by several more cases of suicides since 15 June, protesters smashed furniture, defaced the Hong Kong emblem, and presented a new ten-point manifesto.[120][121][122]

After 1 July, protests spread out to different areas in Hong Kong.[123][124][125] The first anti-extradition protest in Kowloon was held on 7 July, from Tsim Sha Tsui to West Kowloon station.[126] Clashes occurred later in Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. Once again, police officer's failure to display their warrant cards was a source of contention.[127] A peaceful protest on 14 July in Sha Tin escalated into intense confrontations with the police when the protesters were kettled inside New Town Plaza.[128][129] Mall owner Sun Hung Kai Properties drew criticism from protesters for allowing the police to enter the shopping centre without due authorisation.[130][131]

Protesters marching on Castle Peak Road during the "Reclaim Yuen Long" protest on 21 July.

CHRF held another anti-extradition protest on 21 July on Hong Kong Island. Instead of dispersing, protesters passed the police-mandated endpoint,[132] and headed for the Hong Kong Liaison Office in Sai Ying Pun, where they defaced the Chinese national emblem.[133] While a standoff between the protesters and the police occurred on Hong Kong Island,[134] groups of white-clad individuals, suspected triad members, appeared and indiscriminately attacked people inside Yuen Long station.[135] Police were absent during the entire time, and the local police station shuttered and unresponsive, leading to suspicion that the attack happened in coordination with the police. The pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho was later seen greeting members of the group, which led to accusations that he approved of the attack.[135] Yuen Long residents stayed indoors the following day in fear of further violence.[136]

On 27 July, protesters marched to Yuen Long, despite opposition from rural groups and the police. The protest escalated into violent clashes inside Yuen Long station.[137] The next day, protesters again defied the police ban and marched to Sai Wan and Causeway Bay.[138] To support the arrestees charged with rioting, protesters rallied near the police stations in Kwai Chung,[139] and Tin Shui Wai, where protesters were attacked by fireworks launched from a moving vehicle.[140][141]

General strike and escalation

Protesters returned to Mong Kok on 3 August, though some marched to block the Cross-Harbour Tunnel toll plaza in Hung Hom,[142] and escalated into clashes between the police and local residents in Wong Tai Sin near the disciplined services quarters.[143] Marches in Tseung Kwan O and Kennedy Town on 4 August and in Tai Po on 10 August escalated into citywide conflicts as protesters dispersed wherever the riot police were deployed.[144][145] A call for a general strike on 5 August was answered by about 350,000 people, according to the Confederation of Trade Unions;[146] over 200 flights had to be cancelled.[147][148][149] Protests were held in seven districts in Hong Kong. To disperse the protesters, the police force used more than 800 canisters of tear gas.[150] Protesters in North Point were attacked by a group of stick-wielding men, leading to violent clashes.[151][152]

Protesters pointing their laser pointers at a newspaper outside the Space Museum, mocking an earlier police demonstration that aimed to illustrate the danger of laser pointers. [153] [154]

Various incidents involving alleged police brutality on 11 August – police shot bean bag rounds ruptured the eye of a female protester, the use of tear gas indoors, the deployment of undercover police as agents-provocateurs, and the firing of pepper ball rounds at protesters at a very close range – prompted protesters to stage a three-day sit-in at Hong Kong International Airport from 12 to 14 August, forcing the Airport Authority to cancel numerous flights on those days.[155][156][157] On 13 August, protesters at the airport cornered and assaulted two men they suspected of being either undercover police or agents for the mainland, including a man later identified as a Global Times reporter.[158][156][159][160] A peaceful rally was held in Victoria Park by the CHRF on 18 August to denounce police brutality. The CHRF claimed attendance of at least 1.7 million people.[161] The police put the attendance in Victoria Park football areas at 128,000 at the peak.

Protestors atop Lion Rock during the "Hong Kong Way" on 23 August

On the evening of 23 August, an estimated 210,000 people participated in the "Hong Kong Way" campaign, in which participants formed a 50-kilometre human chain stretching along both sides of Hong Kong harbour to draw attention to the movement's five demands.[162][163] The chain extended across the top of Lion Rock.[164][165][166]

Starting from the Kwun Tong protest on 24 August, protesters began to target railway operator MTR after it closed four stations ahead of the legal, authorised protest.[167] During the protests of 25 August in Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing Districts, hardline protesters threw bricks and gasoline bombs toward the police, who in turn responded with volleys of tear gas; police water cannon trucks were deployed for the first time.[168] During the protest, one officer fired a warning shot toward the sky, marking the first use of a live round since the demonstrations broke out in June.[168][169]

Ignoring a police ban, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong Island on 31 August following the arrests of high-profile pro-democracy activists and lawmakers the previous day.[170][171][172] At night, the Special Tactical Squad stormed Prince Edward station, where they beat and pepper-sprayed the commuters inside.[56] Protesters rallied outside the Mong Kok police station in the following weeks to condemn the police brutality and demanded the MTR Corporation to release the CCTV footage of that night as rumours began to circulate on the internet that the police's operation has caused death, which the police have denied.[173][174]

Protesters once again targeted the Hong Kong International Airport on 1 September.[175] With transport suspended by MTR, some protesters walked 15 km (9.3 mi) on the North Lantau Highway back to the urban area.[176] On 2 and 3 September, thousands of secondary school and university students boycotted classes on the first two days of the new term to join the protests.[177][178][179][180]

Decision to withdraw the extradition bill

Protesters marched to the US consulate on 8 September.

On 4 September, Carrie Lam announced the formal withdrawal the extradition bill once Legco reconvened in October and the introduction of additional measures to calm the situation. However, protests continued to insist on all five demands being met.[181][182] On 8 September, the protesters marched to the US consulate to call for the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act,[183][184] and organised flashmob rallies to sing the protest anthem "Glory to Hong Kong".[185][186] Protesters continued their campaign to block the airport,[187] and boycotted shops and corporations perceived to be pro-Beijing.[188]

The police using water cannon trucks outside the Government HQ during the 29 September march.

A mass protest on 15 September descended into chaos near North Point as the local Fujianese physically assaulted the protesters who ventured there.[189] A sit-in in Yuen Long on 21 September escalated into conflicts between protesters and the police. Brought to an alley and surrounded by numerous officers in riot gear, a man was kicked by an officer. The police later denied the accusation, saying that videos only showed kicking of a "yellow object". The police response created a widely derided.[190]

Carrie Lam held the first public meeting in Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai with 150 members of the public. Protesters demanding to talk to her surrounded the venue and trapped her inside for four hours.[191] On 28 September, the CHRF held a rally to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Umbrella Revolution.[192] On the next day, there was an anti-Chinese Communist Party rally in defiance of a police ban. Solidarity protests were held on the same day in 40 cities around the world.[193]

National Day and invocation of emergency law

Hong Kong protesters threw eggs at the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and President of China Xi Jinping's portrait on 1 October during the 70th National Day of the People's Republic of China.

On 1 October, mass protests and violent conflict occurred between the protesters and police during the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in various districts of Hong Kong, leading to the first usage of live rounds by police, with one protester shot in the chest by police in Tsuen Wan while trying to hit a policeman with a pipe.[194][195][196][197] The police fired around 1,400 tear gas canisters and made 269 arrests on one day, setting a new record for both since the protests began in June.[198]

Protesters setting up a makeshift roadblock ignited with fire in Causeway Bay on 6 October in a march protesting against the invocation of the emergency law.

On 4 October, Carrie Lam invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to impose a law to ban wearing face masks in public gatherings, attempting to curb the ongoing protests.[199] The enactment of the law was followed by continued demonstrations in various districts of Hong Kong, blocking major thoroughfares, vandalising shops perceived to be pro-Beijing and paralysing the MTR system.[200][201] In Yuen Long, a 14-year-old boy was shot in the leg: a plainclothes officer who had come under attack by some protesters for bumping into a person with his vehicle, and the officer pulled his weapon and fired a shot. Protesters retaliated by throwing two petrol bombs at him.[202] Protests and citywide flashmob rallies against the anti-mask law and the invocation of the emergency ordinance persisted throughout the month.[203][204][205][206] The ban was declared unconstitutional by the High Court on 18 November.[207]

On 14 October, thousands of protesters rallied at Chater Garden to support the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was subsequently passed unanimously by the US House of Representatives.[208] Ethnic minorities stood in solidarity with the protesters outside Chungking Mansions after the protest organiser, Jimmy Sham was attacked allegedly by South Asians.[209][210] Lam and the police issued an apology to the Muslim community after the gates of the Kowloon Mosque were sprayed with blue-dyed water by a water cannon truck during police clearance.[211][212]

On 23 October, Secretary John Lee officially withdrew the extradition bill.[213] Protesters besieged the Tai Hing Operation Base in Tuen Mun on 28 and 30 October after it had allegedly leaked tear gas. 30 October saw the police conducting forceful arrests inside private areas and breaching into the lobby of a building in Siu Hin Court, ordering residents inside to kneel down with their hands in the air or behind their backs[214] allegedly for more than half an hour.[215]

On 2 November, a mostly peaceful but unapproved election gathering at Victoria Park saw police quickly responding by employing tear gas.[216][217][218] Later that day, protesters attempted to block major roads, and vandalised pro-Beijing businesses, including the premises of Xinhua, the state news organisation of China.[219]

Intensification and sieges of the universities

Due to doxxing, private details of a police officer's wedding in Tseung Kwan O were leaked.[220] Protesters intending to crash the event set up road blocks around Sheung Tak Estate and threw objects at the police late at night on 3 November. Alex Chow Tsz-lok, a 22-year-old student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, was later found unconscious on the second floor of the estate's car park. He was suspected to have fallen from the third floor. The student died on 8 November, after two unsuccessful brain surgeries.[221][222] After the death of Alex Chow, protesters engaged in flashmob rallies against the police and attended vigils in various districts of Hong Kong where they accused the police of obstructing the ambulance on the way to the car park for at least 20 minutes, causing a delay in treatment. The police denied this accusation.[223]

The police confronted the protesters at the entrance of Chinese University of Hong Kong on 12 November.

In response to Chow's death, protesters planned a city-wide strike starting from 11 November, and disrupted transport in the morning in various districts of Hong Kong.[224] That morning, a policeman fired live rounds in Sai Wan Ho; wounding an unarmed 21-year-old man.[225] The police defended the policeman's action and alleged that the protester was trying to grab his gun.[226] On 11 November, the police also fired tear gas in Hong Kong's central business district during a lunchtime protest, causing businesses to close early.[227] On 14 November, an elderly man died from a head injury during a confrontation between protesters and local government supporters in Sheung Shui.[228]

For the first time, during a standoff on 11 November, police shot numerous rounds of tear gas, sponge grenades and rubber bullets into the campuses of universities, while protesters threw bricks and petrol bombs.[229] The student protesters from the Chinese University confronted the police for two consecutive days.[230] Following the conflict, protesters briefly occupied several universities, which became their strongholds as they crafted various improvised offensive weapons inside.[231][232][233][234][235] Several universities reported that protesters had taken away some dangerous chemicals.[236][237]

Protesters in Yau Ma Tei on 18 November as they attempted to breach the police's cordon line to save the protesters trapped inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

A major conflict between protesters and police took place in Hung Hom on 17 November after protesters had taken control of the Polytechnic University and blockaded the Cross Harbour Tunnel. Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters, while a media liaison officer for the police was hit by an arrow from protesters during a standoff.[238] Thus began the siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University by the police, which concluded with the police storming into the campus and arresting several protesters in the early morning on 18 November.[239] Among those arrested while leaving were many volunteer medics.[240][241] There were multiple attempts by the remaining protesters to escape from the university, including abseiling down a bridge and crawling through the sewers.[242] Other escape attempts were thwarted by the police.[243] With PolyU under complete lockdown by the police, and students inside running short of supplies, protesters outside the campus attempted to penetrate police cordons to rescue those trapped inside but were repelled by tear gas and pepper balls.[244] The police's action in Yau Ma Tei resulted in a stampede, which was denied by the police but confirmed by firefighters.[245] On subsequent days, more protesters from PolyU surrendered to police.[246] The siege continued up to 23 November, with around 50 protesters remaining.[247] The campus's hygiene quickly deteriorated, and the protesters inside reported being mentally and physically weak.[248] More than 1,100 people were arrested in and around PolyU over the course of the siege.[249][250] The siege was ended on 29 November.[251]

December protests

A Winnie the Pooh toy used to symbolise Xi Jinping with the Chinazi flag on it, used in the 1 December protests

Following the District Council election on 24 November, which saw the pro-democracy camp delivering their biggest electoral landslide and the pro-Beijing camp suffering their biggest electoral defeat in Hong Kong history,[252][253] protesters returned to the streets on 1 December in Tsim Sha Tsui to reiterate their five demands. The police fired volleys of tear gas into the crowd and revoked the Letter of No Objection one hour after the march began,[254] as the police alleged that protesters were throwing smoke bombs.[255] This prompted the protesters and the police to confront with each other in Mong Kok and Whampoa Garden at night.[256] The organiser reported 380,000 people attended the march, while the police put the estimate at around 16,000 people at the peak.[255]

In an 8 December mass march held to maintain pressure on the government, more than 800,000 protesters came to the streets, according to the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF). Meanwhile, the police reported the turnout to be 183,000 people at peak. The CHRF-organised march was the first in nearly four months to have been given police permission.[257] On December 11, a group of about 100 protesters presented a petition to the British Consulate General to rescind the Sino-British Joint Declaration and return Hong Kong to Commonwealth of Nations status.[258]

Clashes between protesters and counter-protesters

Jimmy Sham, a protest organiser and the convenor of CHRF, was attacked twice during the protests.
Junius Ho, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, was stabbed by a man pretending to be his supporter

Clashes between protesters and counter-protesters became frequent since the movement began in June. During a pro-police rally on 30 June, the counter-protesters began directing profanities at their opposition counterparts and destroyed their Lennon Wall and the memorial for Marco Leung, resulting in intense confrontations between the two camps.[259] Pro-Beijing citizens, wearing "I love HK police" T-shirts and waving the Chinese national flag, assaulted people perceived to be protesters on 14 September in Fortress Hill.[65] Lennon Walls became sites of conflict between the two camps, with pro-Beijing citizens attempting to tear down the messages or removing poster arts.[260][261] Some protesters and pedestrians were beaten, slashed and knife attacked near Lennon Walls.[262][263][264] Some civilians also allegedly attempted to ram their cars into the crowds of protesters or the barricades set up by them.[265][266] Protest organisers, including Jimmy Sham from the CHRF, and pro-democratic lawmakers such as Lam Cheuk-ting and Roy Kwong were assaulted and attacked.[264][267][268][269] On 3 November, politician Andrew Chiu had his ear bitten off by a Chinese mainlander who had reportedly knifed three other people outside Cityplaza.[218][270] Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho was stabbed by a man pretending to be his supporter on 6 November.[271]

White-clad men assaulting commuters and protesters with sticks inside Yuen Long station on 21 July.

The 2019 Yuen Long attack occurred following a mass protest organised by the CHRF on 21 July. Suspected gangsters have claimed that they would "defend" their "homeland", and threatened all anti-extradition bill protesters not to set foot in Yuen Long.[272] The attack saw the perpetrators attacking commuters in the concourse of Yuen Long station indiscriminately, on the platform and inside train compartments, which resulted in widespread backlash from the community. The Department of Justice have since been criticised by some lawyers for making "politically motivated" prosecutions, since the Yuen Long attack assailants have not been charged several weeks after the attacks while young protesters were charged with rioting several days after the protests.[273] The protesters were attacked with fireworks in Tin Shui Wai on 31 July,[140] and then attacked by knife-wielding men in Tsuen Wan[274] and suspected "Fujianese" gang members wielding long poles in North Point on 5 August, though protesters fought back the attackers.[275][276]

Amidst frustration that the police have failed to prosecute the pro-government violent counter-protesters and being increasingly distrustful toward the police due to the allegations,[277][66] protesters began clashing with counter-protesters more frequently. They clashed with each other inside Amoy Garden on 14 September and then in North Point on the next day.[189][278] Hard-core protesters also began taking justice into their own hands, attacking individuals perceived to be hostile; the protesters described vigilante attacks as "settling matters privately" (Chinese: 私了).[66][277][279] Pro-Beijing actress Celine Ma,[280] and the taxi driver who was accused of ramming into the protesters in Sham Shui Po on 8 October were attacked.[281] A middle-aged man was doused with flammable liquid and set on fire by a protester when he confronted the protesters at Ma On Shan Station on 11 November.[282][283] On 14 November, an elderly man died from a head injury during a confrontation between protesters and local government supporters in Sheung Shui.[228] A man clearing roadblock near Mong Kok police station was hit with a drain cover.[284]

Deaths

By suicide

Marco Leung Ling-kit on scaffolding at Pacific Place before he fell to his death on 15 June.

A Guardian article dated 22 October 2019 reported that "protesters have tracked at least nine cases of suicides that appear to be directly linked to the demonstrations" since June.[80] In five of these cases, the victims left suicide notes related to the protests, and three were attributed to events following the extradition bill.[285][286][287][288] One note even stated: "What Hong Kong needs is a revolution."[289][290]

The first suicide took place on 15 June 2019, when 35-year-old Marco Leung Ling-kit climbed the elevated podium on the rooftop of Pacific Place in Admiralty.[286] Wearing a yellow raincoat with the words "Brutal police are cold-blooded" and "Carrie Lam is killing Hong Kong" in Chinese written on the back, he hung two banners on the scaffolding with several anti-extradition slogans in Chinese and English.[291] After a five-hour standoff, during which police officers and Democratic Party legislator Roy Kwong attempted to talk him down, Leung fell to his death, missing an inflatable cushion set up by firefighters.[286][113][291] A shrine appeared at the scene soon afterward.[291]

A 21-year-old Education University of Hong Kong student jumped to her death from Ka Fuk Estate in Fanling on 29 June.[292][293] She had left two notes written on a stairwell wall with red marker.[294][287][295] The next day, a 29-year-old woman jumped from the International Financial Centre.[296][288] On 4 July, a 28-year-old woman only died after jumping off a building in Cheung Sha Wan.[297] A fifth suicide occurred on 22 July, when a 26-year-old man died after jumping from Kwong Yuen Estate after an argument with his parents about his political stance and being driven from the house.[298]

During confrontations

Mourners laying down flowers and origami at the site where Alex Chow Tsz-lok fell.

On 8 November 2019, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology student Alex Chow Tsz-Lok died due to complications from severe head injuries sustained early 4 November when he fell from the third story to the second story inside the Sheung Tak car park in Tseung Kwan O, close to an area of confrontation where police was dispersing protesters.[299][300] He remained in critical condition for several days before succumbing to cardiac arrest on 8 November.[222] The cause of his fall remained unknown, but while police claimed that he fell solely accidentally, protesters either accused the police of pushing him or claimed that he was fleeing from tear gas.[301] After reviewing footage from over 30 cameras provided by Link REIT, investigators ruled that Chow could not have been pushed by police officers as the police entered the car park after the estimated time frame of his fall, could not have been hit by beanbags or rubber bullets shot by the police as the distance was too great to reach him, and could not have fallen due to tear gas as no person in the area was affected and no smoke filled the area.[302] Protesters accused the police of intentionally obstructing ambulance access to Chow, resulting in a delay in treatment, but police have denied the accusations.[301] The Fire Services Department stated that the ambulance assigned to Chow was blocked by buses and private vehicles but that the ambulance did not come in contact with the police that were on duty.[33] Chow's death became the first fatality linked to a scene where police officers and protesters clashed.[33]

On 14 November, the first fatality directly attributed to the violent protests occurred.[303][304]A 70-year-old man died from head injuries sustained the previous day[79][228] in Sheung Shui, when a violent clash had erupted between a group of protesters and a group of local residents in which both groups hurled bricks at each other.[305][228] Local residents were trying to clear the bricks left in the street by protesters.[306][307][308] According to the police, the man was a bystander recording the conflict using his mobile phone,[305][308] but was hit in the head by a brick thrown at him by a black-clad protester.[305][309][310][308] The victim, identified as an outsourced worker of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department,[34] was hospitalised in a critical condition[305][308] but died the following day.[308] The police classified his death as murder as they considered the attack to be malicious and intentional.[307]

Tactics and methods

A subway near Tai Po Market station, dubbed the "Lennon Tunnel"
Pepe the Frog became a symbol of resistance during the protests. "Give me Liberty or Give me Death!" alludes to Patrick Henry's speech in support of the American Revolution

The protests have been largely described as "leaderless".[74] Although no group or political party has claimed leadership over the movement, civic groups and prominent politicians played a supportive role, such as applying for Letters of No Objection from the police or mediating conflicts between protesters and police officers.[311] Protesters commonly used LIHKG, an online forum similar to Reddit, as well as Telegram, an optionally end-to-end encrypted messaging service, to communicate and brainstorm ideas for protests and make collective decisions.[74] Unlike previous protests, the 2019 protests were spread over 20 different neighbourhoods, the entire territory witnessing protests.[312]

There are mainly two groups of protesters, namely the "peaceful, rational and non-violent" (Chinese: 和理非) protesters and the "fighters" group (Chinese: 勇武).[313] Nonetheless, despite difference in methods, both groups have refrained from denouncing or criticising the other. The principle was the "Do Not Split" (Chinese: 不割席) praxis, which was aimed to promote mutual respect for different views within the same protest movement.[314] While Carrie Lam has been calling the public to condemn and cut ties with the violent protesters,[315] the movement has been able to maintain public support despite the violence, with 59% of the respondents agreeing that it was understandable for protesters to escalate their actions as large-scale and peaceful demonstrations have failed to force the government to concede, according to pollsters from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in October.[69] Some moderate protesters also supported the hardline protesters by providing supplies and logistical support.[87]

Moderate group

The peaceful group organised mass rallies, chanted slogans and sang the protest anthem during marches and from their apartment at night,[316][317] and joined religious gatherings, singing hymns.[318] Some of them volunteered as medics,[319] started hunger strikes,[320] formed human chains,[163] started petition campaigns,[321] organised general strikes,[322] launched boycotts against pro-Beijing shops and organisations,[323] created protest arts and derivative works mocking the police and the government,[324] and set up Lennon Walls in various districts and neighbourhoods in Hong Kong.[325] Protesters have also set up funds to help people in need of medical or legal assistance,[326] set up pop-up stores that sold cheap protest gadgets for young activists,[327] and developed a mobile app to crowdsource the location of police.[328]

To raise awareness of their cause, some protesters raised funds to place advertisements in major international newspapers.[329] At events, they waved the national flags of other countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom to call for their support.[330] Twitter and Reddit were used to deliver information about the protests to users abroad to raise awareness.[331][332] Protesters held "civil press conferences" to broadcast their own perspectives to the public and counter the police's and the government's conferences.[333] Protesters also attempted to inform tourists about the protests of Hong Kong by staging sit-ins at Hong Kong International Airport and using Apple devices' AirDrop feature to broadcast anti-extradition bill information to the public and mainland tourists.[334] Pepe the Frog has been widely used as a symbol of resistance,[335] and the #Eye4HK campaign, which showed solidarity for a female whose eye was allegedly ruptured by a beanbag round shot by the police, gained momentum around the world.[336] The Lady Liberty Hong Kong statue was also crowdfunded by citizens to commemorate the protests.[337]

Radical group

Protesters adopted the black bloc method and wore helmets and respirators to protect themselves.
A surveillance lamppost was destroyed by protesters on 24 August. [338]

The radical protesters upheld the "be water" strategy, inspired by Bruce Lee's philosophy, often moving in a mobile and agile fashion to confound and confuse the police.[339] Protesters often retreated when the police arrived, only to reemerge somewhere else.[340] In addition, protesters adopted the black bloc method. They wore mostly black face masks to protect their identities and frontliners have subsequently worn helmets and respirators to protect themselves from projectiles and teargas.[341] Furthermore, protesters used laser pointers to distract police officers, sprayed paint to disable surveillance cameras, and unfurled umbrellas to protect and conceal the identities of the group in action.[341] When they were arrested, they would shout out their names and declare that they are not "suicidal" when they were arrested as they feared that they would be severely harmed during detention following the death of Chan Yin-lam.[342] At protest scenes, protesters communicated using a set of hand communications, and supplies were delivered via human chains. Radical protesters have shifted to organising extemporaneous flashmob protests.[35][343]

Starting in August, protesters have escalated their use of violence. Protesters have confronted the police by reportedly throwing bricks, petrol bombs, corrosive liquid and other projectiles at police. The police also accused the protesters of using a remote-controlled explosive device.[203] As a result of clashes, there have been multiple reports of police injuries and assault of officers throughout the protests,[169][344] with one officer being slashed in the neck with a box cutter,[204] and a medial liaison officer being shot with an arrow.[238] Protesters have also occasionally directed violence towards alleged undercover officers as agents-provocateurs (Chinese: 捉鬼).[345] The assault on reporter Fu Guohao, who was suspected to be a mainland agent by the protesters at the Airport on 13 August, was acknowledged to be a "setback" in maintaining public support.[346] The use of petrol bombs have been controversial. Radical protesters have used them to confront the police and hurled them at police stations and vehicles.[347][348] A police officer had two petrol bombs thrown directly at him by the protesters after he had shot a young boy in Yuen Long on October 4.[202] A reporter from RTHK suffered burns after a petrol bomb mistakenly hit him despite protesters rushing to extinguish the flames.[349] During the sieges of the universities, protesters created makeshift catapults to launch petrol bombs,[350] thousands of which were found inside CUHK and PolyU after police ended the siege.[351]

As of 28 November 2019, of the 102 stores of the snack food chain Best Mart 360, 75 have been trashed or firebombed a total of 180 times after being accused of having ties to "Fujian gangs" that have clashed with protesters. The company denied the allegation.[352] Corporations believed to be pro-Beijing, such as Yoshinoya and Maxim's Caterers, mainland Chinese companies such as Bank of China, Xiaomi and Commercial Press, and shops engaging in parallel trading, were also vandalised or spray-painted.[353][354][355][356] Protesters also directed violence at symbols of the government by storming the Legislative Council Complex, vandalising government and pro-Beijing lawmakers' offices,[357][358] and defacing symbols representing China.[359][277][279] The MTR Corporation has become a target of vandalism by the protesters after it shut down four MTR stations ahead of a legal, authorised protest after being pressured by Chinese media,[167] and a large proportion of stations were vandalised and subjected to arson.[360] Protesters also disrupted traffic by setting up roadblocks,[142] damaging traffic lights,[361] and deflating the tyres of buses.[362] Protesters have also been accused of harassing the news crew from TVB and damaged their equipment and vehicles as the broadcaster was accused of upholding a pro-government bias.[363]

The government, the police and state-run media often labelled the radical group of protesters as "masked rioters",[364] while The Guardian noted that there was "little of the random smashing and looting that characterises most riots", quoting a statement from an academic at the Education University of Hong Kong to the effect that vandalism of demonstrators was focused on what they perceived to be targets that embodied injustice.[62] Protesters have apologised for accidentally vandalising perceived "innocent" shops.[365]

Online confrontations

Doxing and cyberbullying were tactics used by both supporters and opponents of the protests. Some protesters doxed and cyberbullied some police officers and their families, and uploaded their personal information online.[366] Hong Kong Police have since obtained court injunction prohibiting anyone from sharing any personal information of police officers and their families.[367] Some protesters who found their personal information and photos circulating on pro-Beijing circles on Facebook and other social media platforms after they had been stopped and searched by police, suspected the leaked photos were taken during the stop-and-searches. In a response, the police said they had procedures to ensure that their members comply with privacy laws.[368] HK Leaks, an anonymous website based in Russia and promoted by groups linked to the Communist Party of China, has doxed about 200 people seen as supportive of the protests. An Apple Daily reporter who was doxed by the website was targeted by sexual harassment via "hundreds of threatening calls".[369] According to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, as of 30 August 2019, the proportion of doxing cases involving police officers comprised 59% of all reported and discovered cases of doxing, while the remaining 41% involved other people such as protesters, those holding different political views, citizens and their family members. The proportion of cases involving non-police officers increased from 28% two days prior.[370]

A Lennon Wall at Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI). HKDI was the school Chan Yin-lam attended before her death in September.

Both sides of the protests have been spreading unverified rumours, misinformation and disinformation, which has caused heightened reactions and polarisation among the public.[371][372][373][374] Following the Prince Edward station incident, citizens continued to lay down white flowers outside the station's exit to mourn the "deceased" for weeks, as rumours circulated on the Internet alleged that the police had beaten people to death during the operation.[342] The police and the government have denied the accusation.[375] The death of Chan Yin-lam, a 15-year-old girl whom the police suspected had committed suicide, was the subject of a conspiracy theory that alleged that the government murdered her for participating in the protests and covered-up the death.[371] Rumors suggesting that gang members would launch another attack on the day following the attack on 21 July left Yuen Long as a "ghost town" for a day.[376] The pro-Beijing camps spread rumours that female protesters were offering "free sex" to their male counterparts.[377] The police were also accused of lying to the public by several media outlets and prosecutors.[378][379] According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Hong Kong's spread of misinformation was the result of the deep mutual distrust between both camps, and that as the protests escalates, existing beliefs galvanised, causing people to become more inclined to share unverified news.[374]

On 19 August, both Twitter and Facebook announced that they had discovered what they described as large-scale disinformation campaigns operating on their social networks[380][381] with Facebook discovering that those posts had altered images and taken them out of context, often with captions intended to vilify and discredit the protesters.[382] According to investigations by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, some of the attacks were coordinated, state-backed operations that were traced to the Chinese government.[383] A report by the ASPI found that the purported disinformation campaign promoted three main narratives: condemnation of protesters, support for Hong Kong Police, and "conspiracy theories about Western involvement in the protests."[384] Google, Facebook, and Twitter have since banned these accounts. After having videos banned on YouTube, some of China's online commentators instead upload their videos via platforms such as Pornhub.[385] State-run media China Daily have spread fake news suggesting the protesters would launch a terrorist attack on 11 September.[386] In September, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the International Federation of Journalists and the Centre for Law and Democracy released a joint statement urging key social media platforms to take steps to stop the disinformation campaign orchestrated by the Chinese government to disrupt public narratives.[387]

China has launched several cyberattack attempts against Telegram and LIHKG, protesters' key platforms for online communication, with both suffering from several distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks during key moments of the protests. Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram called the attack a "state actor-sized DDoS" and suggested that the attacks were orchestrated by Chinese IP addresses. The DDoS attacks coincided with the protest on 12 June.[388] Anonymous LIHKG moderators also suggested that the DDoS attack on 31 August, which was the date for a mass protest, was launched by Chinese websites including Baidu Tieba.[389]

Allegations of police misconduct

A water cannon truck firing blue-dyed liquid at protesters
A police officer firing tear gas canisters on 31 August.
Hong Kong police storm Prince Edward station and attack civilians on 31 August

Hong Kong police were accused of using excessive and disproportionate force and not following international safety guidelines while using their weapons. According to Amnesty International, the police have aimed horizontally while aiming, targeting the heads and torsos of protesters.[111][230] Its use of bean bag rounds and rubber bullets have allegedly ruptured the eyes of several protesters and one eye of an Indonesian journalist.[390][391][392] The police were found to have been using tear gas as an offensive weapon,[393] firing it indoors inside a railway station,[393] and using expired tear gas, which could release toxic gases upon combustion.[394] The usage of tear gas sparked public health concerns after a reporter was diagnosed with chloracne,[395]as approximate 10,000 volleys of gas have been fired since June.[396] Chemical residues were found on different public facilities in various neighbourhoods,[397][398][c] Several police operations, in particular in Prince Edward station, where the Special Tactical Squad (STS) assaulted commuters on a train, were thought to have disregarded public safety by protesters and pro-democrats.[400][128] The police were accused of using disproportionate force[401] after an officer shot two young protesters with live ammunition in Tsuen Wan and Sai Wan Ho on 1 October and 11 November respectively.[d][407][408] An off-duty officer also accidentally shot and injured a 15-year-old boy in Yuen Long on 4 October when he was assaulted by protesters who accused him of bumping into people with his car.[409] The siege of PolyU, which was described as a "humanitarian crisis" by democrats and medics,[410][244] prompted Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres to intervene as the wounded protesters trapped inside ran out of supplies and lacked first-aid care.[244]

The kettling of protesters,[128] the operations inside private areas,[411] the deployment of undercover officers,[412] the firing of pepper ball rounds at protesters at a near point blank range,[413] the suspected evidence tampering,[414][415] the dyeing of Kowloon Mosque,[212] insufficient protection for police dogs,[416] accessing patients' medical records without consent,[417][418][419] and how the police displayed their warning signs[420] have also been sources of controversy. Some police officers wore face masks,[421] did not wear uniforms with identification numbers, or failed to display their warrant cards,[422][127] making it difficult for citizens to file complaints. The police was also accused of driving dangerously. A police officer was suspended after he hit one protester and dragged him in the process on 11 November with a motorcycle,[423][424] while a police van suddenly accelerated into a crowd of protesters, causing a stampede as STS officers exiting from the van chased after protesters in Yau Ma Tei on 18 November. The police defended the actions as an appropriate response by well-trained officers to attacks by protesters, and that "[driving] fast doesn't mean it is unsafe".[425]

The police have also been accused of locking down Prince Edward Station, thereby preventing medical personnel from treating the wounded inside,[400] and of obstructing paramedics from helping Alex Chow Tsz-Lok, thereby delaying treatment, a claim that the police denied.[33] Its arrest of voluntary medics during the siege of PolyU was condemned by medical professionals.[426] The police were also accused of using excessive force on already subdued, compliant arrestees. Video footages show the police kicking an arrestee[427] pressing one's face against the ground,[428] using one as a human shield and,[429] stomping on a demonstrator's head.[430] The police was also accused of sitting on a protester's head, though the police defended the action, saying that the officer was using "minimum necessary force".[431] Amnesty International have stated that the police had used "retaliatory violence" against protesters and mistreated and tortured some of the detainees.[63][432] They were also accused of using sexual violence on female protesters.[433] A female has alleged that riot police officers gang raped her in Tsuen Wan police station, while the police reported that their investigation did not align with her accusation.[434] Some detainees reported the police have denied them access to lawyers.[435] Many of these allegations were believed to have taken place in San Uk Ling Holding Centre.[436]

Police near Lan Kwai Fong, Central on 31 October. The police were accused of obstructing reporters from taking photographs by shining flashlights at them. [437]

The police have been accused of interfering with freedom of the press and of injuring journalists during various protests.[438][439][440] The police was also accused of spreading a climate of fear by conducting hospital arrests,[441][442] arresting people arbitrarily,[63] banning requests for demonstrations,[443] and arresting high-profile activists and lawmakers.[444] Some bystanders caught up in the protests were beaten or kicked by officers.[445][446] Its inaction during the storming of the Legislative Council Complex was divisive.[447] Its slow response towards the Yuen Long attack sparked accusations that the police had colluded with triad members.[24] Lawyers have pointed out that police inaction, such as shutting the gates of the nearby police stations during the Yuen Long attacks might be an offence of misconduct in public office,[448][24] while IPCC reported that the jamming of the emergency hotline during the attack was also a common criticism.[449] The police were also accused of applying double standards by showing leniency towards violent counter-protesters.[450] The police have denied all of these accusations.

Some uniformed officers used foul language to harass and humiliate protesters and journalists,[451] insulted mediators,[452] and provoked protesters.[453] The Junior Police Officers' Association used the controversial term "cockroaches" to describe the radical subset of protesters.[454] The slur "cockroach" — whose dehumanizing qualities have been recognised in the social sciences and psychology — was frequently used by frontline officers to insult protesters; police sought to counter this development, and suggested that in several instances, verbal abuse by protesters may have led officers to use the term.[455] A police officer was reprimanded by the Force for shouting to the protesters that he would "pop champagne" and celebrate the death of Chow Tsz-lok.[456] The police's description of a man wearing a yellow vest being kicked by an officer as a "yellow object" was widely criticised.[190]

The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) has launched investigations into alleged police misconducts in the protests,[457] although the protesters demand an independent commission of inquiry instead, as the members of the IPCC are mainly pro-establishment and IPCC lacks the power to investigate, make definitive judgements and hand out penalties.[458][181] Carrie Lam has rejected this demand and insisted that the IPCC was able to fulfill the task,[459][460] On 8 November, a five-member expert panel, headed by Sir Denis O'Connor and appointed by Lam in September 2019 to advise the IPCC, concluded that the police watchdog lacked the "powers, capacity and independent investigative capability necessary" to fulfill its role as a police watchdog group and suggested the formation of an independent commission of inquiry given the current protest situation.[461] Members of the panel quitted after negotiations to increase the IPCC's powers fell through. The panel reiterated their criticisms of the IPCC, while the IPCC chairman Anthony Neoh said that the suggestions by the expert panel have exceeded the "statutory functions" of the police watchdog.[462][463]

Impacts

Effects on economy

Protest at the Hong Kong International Airport on 26 July 2019.

Official statistics showed that Hong Kong had slipped into recession as its economy had shrunk in the second and third quarters of 2019.[464] Retail sales have declined and consumers' appetite for spending has decreased.[465] During the days of protests, protesters brought "mixed fortunes" to the businesses according to the South China Morning Post. Some restaurants saw their customers cancelling their bookings and some banks and shops were forced to shut their doors. Supplies for goods were also halted and obstructed due to the protest. Meanwhile, some shops prospered as nearby protesters bought food and other commodities.[466] Protest supplies such as gas masks were running low in stock in both Hong Kong and Taiwan.[467] Starting from August, supporters of the protesters labelled different establishments based on their political stance and chose to only consume in "yellow-ribbon" shops while boycotting companies who have expressed an anti-protest view.[468]

The protests also affected property owners. Fearing the instability in Hong Kong, some investors abandoned the purchases of land. Desire to purchase properties also declined, as overall property transactions declined by 24% when compared with the Umbrella Revolution. Property developers were forced to reduce the selling price.[469] Trade shows reported decreased attendance and revenue, and many firms cancelled their events in Hong Kong.[470]

The Hang Seng Index declined by at least 4.8% from 9 June to late August. As interest in trading waned, companies that had already applied for initial public offerings (IPO) in Hong Kong urged their bankers to put their listing on hold. August 2019 recorded only one IPO, which was the lowest since 2012, and two large IPOs were shelved respectively in June and July. Fitch Ratings downgraded Hong Kong's sovereignty rating from AA+ to AA due to doubts over the government's ability to maintain the "one country, two systems" principle; the outlook of the city was similarly lowered from "stable" to "negative".[471]

Tourism was also affected. The number of visitors travelling to Hong Kong declined by 40% in August 2019 compared to August 2018,[472] while the decline was 31.9% for the days during and after National Day.[473] As a consequence, both the tourist sector and the food and beverage industry saw an increased unemployment rate.[469][474] Flight bookings also declined, with airlines cutting or reducing their services.[475] During the airport protests on 12 and 13 August 2019, the Airport Authority cancelled numerous flights, which resulted in an estimated US$76 million loss according to aviation experts.[476] Hong Kong Disneyland also revealed that there were fewer guests visiting. Many mainland tourists avoided travelling to Hong Kong due to safety concerns. Various countries have since issued travel warnings to Hong Kong.[477]

Effects on society

Lam's administration received criticisms for its performance during the protests. Carrie Lam's perceived arrogance,[478] her extended absence, reluctance to engage in dialogue with protesters, and subpar performance at press conferences,[479] were believed to have enabled the protests to escalate.[480] At a press conference on 5 August, Lam explained her absence from the public eye in the preceding two weeks by the risks for organisers regarding possible disruption of public events and press conferences by protesters.[481] According to polls conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, Lam's approval ratings declined to 22.3 in October, lowest among all chief executives, and her performance was categorised as "disastrous" alongside Secretary for Security John Lee and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, prompting institute director Robert Chung to describe the situation as "dire".[68] Ma Ngok, a political scientist at CUHK, remarked that the government "has lost the trust of a whole generation" and predicted that the youths would remain angry at both the government and the police "for years to come".[482] According to The Diplomat, there was also the emergence of the concept of "mutually assured destruction" (Chinese: 攬炒) where protesters became more radical to compel the administration to concede, while the establishment waited for their increase in aggressiveness so that they can justify the greater militarisation of the Force and dismissed the protesters as "insurgents" and their demands.[483] Rifts within the government were also formed with Lennon Walls being set up in government offices and civil servants organising rallies.[484]

A riot police officer held up a blue flag warning the protesters to disperse in an unapproved march.

The reputation of the police has taken a serious drubbing following the heavy-handed treatment of protesters.[485][486] In October, a survey conducted by Chinese University of Hong Kong revealed that more than 50% of the respondents were deeply dissatisfied with the Force's performance.[69] According to some reports, the police have become a symbol that represented hostility and suppression and police's actions on the protesters has resulted in a breakdown of citizens' trust towards the Force.[487][488] Citizens were also concerned about the Force's ability to regulate and control itself and feared about its abuse of power.[489] The suspected acts of police brutality have turned some politically neutral citizens to become more sympathetic with the young protesters.[490] Fearing Hong Kong changing into a police state, some citizens were actively considering emigration.[491] For the Force, some lower-ranking officers reported feeling "lost and confused", citing "a lack of leadership" during important moments,[492] and was reportedly discontent with the government, as its extended absence left the Force to be the only group to clash with the protesters, resulting in the two groups developing immense mutual hatred for each other.[479] The Force has cancelled foot patrol due to fear that they may be attacked,[493] and issued extendable batons to off-duty officers.[489] Frontline officers and protesters have insulted each other with degradative terms.[455][494][495] Police officers also reported being "physically and mentally" tired, as they faced the risks of being doxed, cyberbullied, and distanced by their family members.[496] The police's relations with journalists,[439] social workers,[497] medical professionals[498] and members from other disciplined forces[499] became strained during the protests.

The protests have deepened the rift between the "yellow" (pro-democracy) and "blue" (pro-government) camps created since the Umbrella Revolution. People who oppose the protests in a self-dubbed "silent majority", including wavering sideline supporters and moderates who say that they have been driven away by the violence, argued that protesters were spreading "chaos and fear" across the city, causing damage to the economy and harming people not involved in the protests.[75] On the other hand, some protesters believed that the disruptions caused were necessary trade-offs for a movement that they felt can "save the city" amidst fears that Beijing would further encroach the city's freedoms and its semi-autonomous status.[75] There were more frequent and more violent clashes between people from the two camps, resulting in intense physical conflicts.[500] Family relationships were strained, as parents have argued with their children over their attending protests, either because they felt that the protests may cost them their future, or they disagreed with their children's political stance or manners of the protests.[490][501][502][503][504] Social workers have voiced their concerns for some of the young protesters, whose emotional health has become unstable.[495] Experts noted the eruption of despair in the city during the protests, though protesters have chanted rallying cries to urge people not to commit suicide.[505]

Elderly marching on 17 July to support the youths in the anti-extradition bill protests.

Among the protesters, there was a stronger sense of solidarity when compared with the Umbrella Revolution. Instead of condemning and criticising each other, protesters reflected and reminded each other in a friendly manner instead. As the protests continued to escalate, citizens showed an increasing tolerance to confrontational and violent actions.[506] Pollsters have found out that among 8,000 respondents, 90% of them believed that the use of these tactics was understandable because of the government's refusal to respond to the demands.[507] Unity among the protesters was seen across a wide spectrum of age groups, with middle-aged and elderly volunteers attempting to separate the police and the young protesters in the frontline and providing various forms of assistance.[508] Various professions such as teachers, civil servants, accountants, medical professionals, and finance sector have organised protests or rallies to stand in solidarity with protesters.[509][510][511][512] While some more moderate protesters reported that the increase in violence alienated them from the protests,[75] public opinion polls conducted by CUHK suggested that the movement was able to maintain public support.[69]

Reactions

Hong Kong government

Chief Executive Carrie Lam at the press conference with Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng and Secretary for Security John Lee one day after the massive protest on 9 June.

Carrie Lam continued to push the second reading of the bill despite a mass anti-extradition bill protest that attracted 1 million people, (according to the organisers) saying that the government was "duty-bound" to amend the law.[513][514] Following the 12 June conflict, both Police Commissioner Stephen Lo and Lam characterised the conflict as a "riot". The police later backed down on the claim, saying that among the protesters, only five of them rioted. Protesters have since demanded the government to fully retract the riot characterisation.[515] Lam's analogy as Hong Kong people's mother attracted criticisms after the violent crackdown on 12 June.[516]

Lam announced the suspension of the bill on 15 June,[517] and officially apologised to the public on 18 June two days after another massive march.[518] In early July, Lam reiterated that the bill was "dead" and reaffirmed that all efforts to amend the law had ceased, though her use of language was thought to be ambiguous.[519] During July and August, the government insisted that it would not make any concessions, and that Lam could still lead the government despite calls asking her to resign. For the demand to set up an independent commission to investigate police misconduct, she insisted that the existing mechanism, the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) would suffice.[520][12]

After condemning the protesters for storming the legislature on 1 July for their "use of extreme violence"[521] and defacing the national emblem during the 21 July protest,[522] Lam suggested in early August that the protests had derailed from their original purposes and that its goal was to challenge China's sovereignty and damage "one country, two systems".[481] She suggested that the radical protesters were dragging Hong Kong to a "point of no return"[481] and that they had "no stake in society",[523] a remark that received criticisms from some civil servants.[524]

Following a rally on 18 August that was attended by more than 1.7 million people, Lam announced that she would create platforms for dialogue.[525] On 4 September, Lam announced that she would formally withdraw the extradition bill, introduce measures such as introducing new members to the IPCC, engaging in dialogue in a community level, and inviting academics to evaluate the deep-rooted problems of Hong Kong. However, protesters and democrats had previously affirmed that all the five core demands must be answered.[43] Her concession was described as "too little, too late", as the conflicts would not have escalated if she had withdrawn the bill during the early stage of the protest.[181][182] The first dialogue session was held on 26 September. However, critics doubted Lam's ability to solve the problem in these dialogue sessions since a Chinese envoy has previously affirmed that the HKSAR government would not make any more concessions.[526]

On 5 October, after what Lam referred to as "extreme violence" taking place, an emergency law was enacted to ban face masks in Hong Kong – without declaring a state of emergency – which has sparked criticism from various human rights organisations.[527] Some political analysts warned that invoking the emergency law would be "the beginning of authoritarianism in Hong Kong."[528] The democrats have filed a judicial review to challenge Carrie Lam's decision,[529] and the High Court of Hong Kong ruled that the mask ban was unconstitutional.[207]

The Department of Justice has applied for and was granted an injunction against damaging the disciplined services quarters,[530] and a temporary court order that bans the public from harassing police officers or posting their personal information online. The ban had been criticised for the possibility of producing a chilling effect on free speech; it was also criticised for having an excessively broad scope.[531][206]

Domestic reactions

Activists including Joshua Wong and Nathan Law met House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Representative Chris Smith at the US Congress.

The pro-Beijing camp supported the government in promoting the bill, though U-turned when the government withdrew the bill.[532] They have condemned the use of violence by protesters, including breaking into the LegCo Complex and using petrol bombs and unidentified liquids against the police.[533][534] They have maintained their support for the Hong Kong Police Force, and have held various counter-demonstrations to support the police.[535][536][537] On 17 August, a pro-government rally organised by the Safeguard Hong Kong Alliance occurred in Tamar Park. The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) chairwoman Starry Lee disagreed with setting up an independent commission to investigate police behaviour as she felt that it would "dampen their morale".[538] Felix Chung, a lawmaker from Liberal Party, supported the withdrawal of the bill, though he felt that an independent commission should be set up to investigate the whole incident.[539] Some lawmakers, including the HKFTU's Alice Mak, were said to have vented their anger toward Lam as her decision to suspend the bill may harm their chances in the upcoming elections.[540] Members of the Executive Council, Ip Kwok-him and Regina Ip alleged that there was a "mastermind" behind the protests but could not provide substantial evidence to support their claim.[541]

Many lawmakers from the pan-democratic camp, such as Ted Hui and Roy Kwong, assisted the protesters in various scenarios.[542] Responding to the escalation of the protests seen in mid August at the airport, the convenor of the pro-democratic lawmakers, Claudia Mo, while disagreeing with some protesters' actions, asserted that her group of lawmakers would not split with the protesters.[543][544][545] Fernando Cheung warned that Hong Kong was slowly becoming a "police state" with the increasing violence used by the police.[546] Pro-democrats also criticised the arrests of several lawmakers before the 31 August protest, saying that such arrests were an attempt by the police to suppress the movement,[547] and condemned the violence directed at its protests organisers, lawmakers and election candidates.[548] Former government executives, including Anson Chan, the former Chief Secretary for Administration, issued several open letters to Carrie Lam, urging her to respond to the five core demands raised by protesters.[549] Joshua Wong, Denise Ho and several other democrats also provided testimonies during the US congressional hearing for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.[550]

17 members from the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong and The Chinese General Chamber of Commerce have released statements condemning the escalating protests due to the instability it brought to the city's economy and business community in August.[551] Abraham Shek, lawmaker representing the Real Estate and Construction constituency supported the formation of an independent commission and that the problem cannot be resolved by solving economic problems.[552] Tycoon Li Ka-shing took out a two-page advertisement on newspapers, urging people to "stop anger and violence in the name of love", and quoting a Chinese poem: "The melon of Huangtai cannot bear the picking again".[553]

The 2019 Hong Kong local elections were held on 24 November, as first poll since the beginning of the protests, and one that has been billed as a "referendum" on the government.[554] More than 2.94 million votes were cast, for a turnout rate of 71.2%, up from 1.45 million and 47% from the election prior.[555] This is the highest turnout ever in the history of Hong Kong, both in absolute numbers and in turnout rates.[556] The results were a resounding landslide victory for the pro-democracy bloc, as they saw their seat share increased from 30% to almost 88%, with a jump in vote share from 40% to 57%.[556] The largest party before the election, DAB, fell to the third place, with its leader's vote share cut from a consistent 80% to 55%, and all three of their vice-chairpeople losing. Among those who are also legislators, the overwhelming majority of the losing candidates were from the pro-Beijing bloc.[557]

Mainland China reactions

The Chinese government has expressed their opposition to the protests, while taking measures against the protests and their supporters. The protests have been depicted by Chinese government and media as separatist riots.[558] Beijing has accused the movement of displaying "characteristics of colour revolutions" and "signs of terrorism".[559][560] The Beijing government and state-run media have accused foreign forces of interfering with domestic affairs, and supporting the protesters;[73] These allegations were criticised by those who were blamed,[561] and CNN noted that China has a record of blaming foreign forces for causing domestic unrest.[562] On 22 October, following similar protests and violence in Catalonia and Chile, the Chinese government accused Western media of hypocrisy for not providing similar coverage and support to those protests.[563][564] After the High Court had ruled that the anti-mask ban was unconstitutional, the spokesperson of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress' (NPCSC) Legislative Affairs Commission suggested that the rights to declare any law in Hong Kong as "unconstitutional" lay exclusively with the NPCSC, and that Hong Kong courts had no rights to do so.[565]

State-run media have pressured various companies, including railway operator MTR Corporation, airline Cathay Pacific, and the Big Four accounting firms[566] to take a hardline approach against employees who have taken part in the protests. Cathay Pacific witnessed a huge managerial reshuffling and began firing pro-democratic employees after the Civil Aviation Administration of China threatened to block Cathay's access to Chinese airspace,[567] while the MTR began to close stations and end its service early after being criticised for transporting protesters.[568][569][570]

Chinese state media outlets largely ignored the protests until 17 April.[571] The protests were mostly censored from Mainland Chinese social media, such as Sina Weibo, though state-owned media and Chinese social media users later turned to condemn the protesters and was accused of launching a disinformation campaign to disrupt public narratives.[572] Chinese government has required goods mailed from Mainland China to Hong Kong to be investigated while goods which are believed as related to the protests are forbidden to mailing.[573][574]

Foreign envoys have reported that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) have doubled the number of troops stationed near the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border.[575] The army itself also filmed and uploaded a video of an anti-riot drill in Shenzhen, which was considered a "thinly veiled warning to Hong Kong" by Time.[576] On 6 October, the PLA issued its first warning to the protesters, who were shining laser lights on the exterior of the PLA garrison in Kowloon Tong.[577] On 16 November, soldiers have appeared publicly for the first time in the streets, in plain clothes and unarmed, to clear roadblocks and other debris left during protests alongside local residents, firefighters, and police officers before marching back to the Kowloon Tong barracks.[578] The government insisted that they were only volunteering and they have not requested any form of assistance.[579] The act was criticised by pro-democrats as they deemed it a violation of the Basic Law.[580]

International reactions

As a result of the protests, many nations have issued travel warnings for Hong Kong.[581] Demonstrations in reaction to the protests have taken place in locations around the world, such as Los Angeles, Berlin, Canberra, Frankfurt, Melbourne, London, New York City, Seoul, San Francisco, Delhi, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Montreal, Toronto, Vilnius and Vancouver.[582][583][584][585][586] Solidarity rallies held by Hong Kong international students studying abroad in overseas universities were often disrupted by mainland Chinese supporters.[587][588][589] Following the death of Chow Tsz-lok, in London, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng was heckled and jostled by supporters of the protests, who called her "murderer" in London, when she was entering Bloomsbury Square to give a lecture. She fell on the ground and injured her arm.[590] Some protesters in the concurrent 2019 Catalan protests have claimed inspiration from, and solidarity with the Hong Kong protests.[591][592]

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo comments on 18 November 2019

The United States House of Representatives and Senate both unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in light of the extradition bill and protests, with amendments that differ between the two versions needing resolution before being presented to President Donald Trump for approval.[593][594][595][76] Trump signed the bill on 27 November, alongside a companion bill restricting U.S. exports of crowd control devices to the Hong Kong police forces.[596] Various United States politicians have expressed disapproval of corporate decisions related to the protests.[597][598][599][600]

A former employee from the British consulate in Hong Kong, Simon Cheng, reported being tortured by Chinese officials when he was detained for 15 days in China. His captors reportedly called him "an enemy of the state" and "a British spy and secret agent", and put him in a torture device known as the "tiger chair", which limited the detainee's movement to force Cheng to "confess" that the UK government had instigated the protests. Chinese authorities arrested him in Hong Kong's West Kowloon station immigration checkpoint after he returned from Shenzhen for allegedly "soliciting prostitutes".[601] Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab released a statement saying that he was "outraged by the disgraceful mistreatment" and that he has summoned the Chinese ambassador. China, however, rejected the summon and attempted to summon the British ambassador to "express their indignation".[602]

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet demanded the Hong Kong government to conduct an investigation on the police's use of force against the protesters, though she subsequently expressed that she was "troubled and alarmed" by the escalating violence used by the protesters.[603]

See also

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