HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 10 April 2020
THE SITUATION NOW
The coronavirus (COVID-19) threat coupled with police enforcement of lockdown measures continue to largely subdue protest activities in Hong Kong, aside from smaller and ad hoc gatherings. However, there have been reports of isolated attacks against suspected pro-Beijing entities committed by individuals alleged to be pro-democracy activists.
A protester carries a flag bearing pro-democracy slogans, Sandy Ridge Cemetery: 5 April 2020. Shutterstock/HUI
On Sunday 5 April, the day after Qingming Festival, a traditional festival for ancestor veneration, pro-democracy activists congregated at the Sandy Ridge Cemetery in the New Territories in remembrance of activists who have died during the protest movement, allegedly due to police brutality. No other gatherings were reported.
On Monday 6 April, it was reported that the newspaper Wen Wei Po, also known as Wenhui Daily, received a letter containing unidentified white powder at its old office in Wan Chai. Officers of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Bureau were deployed to inspect the letter and confirmed the powder to be flour. Wan Chai District Police are following up the case. Wen Wei Po is controlled by the Liaison Office of the Central Government and is perceived as Beijing aligned.
On Tuesday 7 April, five female activists were arrested by police for vandalising the footbridge leading to Fuyuan Street, on Hong Kong Island with pro-democracy propaganda. Messages such as ‘Free HK’ and ‘The World is Terrible’ were painted on walls and pillars. ‘831’ and ‘721’ were also spray painted. The former number is in reference to the 31 August Prince Edward station incident when police attacked demonstrators returning from a protest. The latter is in reference to an attack against demonstrators by alleged triad members dressed in white shirts. Both events are frequently cited as rallying calls for pro-democracy activists.
On the same day Hong Kong Police Headquarters located at Arsenal Street in Wan Chai reported it received a letter containing white powder. EOD officers inspected the letter and confirmed the powder contained no hazardous substance.
Wednesday 8 April marked the five-month anniversary of the death of Chow Tsz-lok, a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology student who passed away after suffering severe brain trauma incurred during a fall from the Sheung Tak car park in Tseung Kwan O. For the first time since his death protesters were calling for an online memorial rather than street demonstrations. Police presence remained significant near Sheung Tak car park throughout the afternoon and the evening. Officers found a pile of stones and bricks at the rooftop of the carpark and a nearby flowerbed on Tong Ming Street, which they believed were to be used in an attack by radical activists. In the evening a few people congregated to pay tribute to Chow but no large gathering was reported.
On Thursday 9 April, the Police Sports and Recreation Club located on Sai Yeung Choi Street South in Sheung Shui Po, New Territories reported it received a letter that contained an unknown white powder. Initial reports stated that the substance appeared non-toxic but that it was sent to a laboratory for further testing. The club was previously petrol bombed on Tuesday 31 March.
THE WEEK AHEAD
At the time of writing no protests are scheduled over the coming week. However, we expect that small, ad hoc protest activities will continue during this period of lockdown and for the foreseeable future.
The posting of suspicious powders to targeted recipients is a new development and it is possible this will continue over the coming weeks. There is currently no evidence to suggest the perpetrators have access to hazardous substances and the risk to the general population is very low. Nevertheless, it is likely radical elements within the protest movement would be prepared to deploy hazardous chemicals against individuals associated with the police and government if they obtained the capability. This would significantly increase the collateral risk to the public.
There have been two developments that have been gaining significant amount of attention on social media: reports about the Hong Kong government spending around USD320,000 of public money on anti-protest TV advertisements and the police revealing that there were only 104 cases of baton use during anti-government demonstrations over a six-month period. Both reports have been widely condemned with the latter declared blatantly false by anti-government activists.
Meanwhile, there has been a steady number of protests from pro-democracy activists on online forums or encrypted instant messaging apps. The coronavirus (COVID-19) threat and police enforcement of lockdown measures have forced activists to take to social media to voice the same level of condemnation against the pro-Beijing government. As soon as there is a reduction in the COVID-19 threat to the general public, it is highly likely that activists will take to the streets to reinvigorate their protest activities.
No activity is scheduled.
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 3 APRIL – 9 April
Tuesday 7 April
0000: Police arrested five female activists who allegedly vandalised the footbridge leading to Fuyuan Street, Hong Kong island with pro-democracy propaganda.