HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 13 DECEMBER 2019
THE SITUATION NOW
A march on Sunday 8 December to mark the six-month anniversary of the first major demonstration by the territory’s protests movement drew a massive and largely peaceful crowd, signalling that opposition to the local and central government remains a potent force. Although instances of violence and attacks against property have fallen, Mass Transit Railway (MTR) stations and businesses perceived as pro-Beijing continue to be targeted on a much reduced scale. On Sunday morning before the rally started police seized firearm, ammunition and other weapons they claim were to be used against their officers. The discovery of a semi-automatic pistol was the first time a weapon of this type has been seized since the unrest began in June 2019.
On the afternoon of Saturday 7 December, around 500 people rallied at Edinburgh Place in Central to protest against the detention and deportation of Yuli Riswati, an Indonesian journalist who had written about the protest movement. During the rally she addressed the crowd by phone to accuse the Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre of treating detainees inhumanely. The event ended at 1700 with no violence reported.
On Sunday 8 December, one day before Hong Kong’s anti-extradition bill protest movement reached its half-year anniversary, a huge number of protesters marched peacefully through the territory’s business centre. The event was led by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), a pro-democracy group that has organised most of the largest marches ever experienced in Hong Kong. The march to demand a government response to the protest movement’s ‘five demands,’ and timed to coincide with International Human Rights Day, attracted between the CHRF’s estimate of around 800,000 people and the police’s more modest 183,000 turnout.
While the march was largely peaceful, tensions briefly spiked around 1630 when protesters reached Des Voeux Road, Central, where police with a water cannon and an armoured vehicle were deployed to prevent them from moving any further west. Although the two sides avoided a direct confrontation and many protesters left the Central district ahead of the agreed time, scattered violent incidents occurred after dark. Some businesses viewed as pro-Beijing or anti-protest movement, including a branch of Chiyu Bank in Wan Chai, a Bank of China building on Des Voeux Road and a Starbucks Coffee shop at the Pacific Place mall in Admiralty were attacked and damaged. Some radical protesters also set fire to the entrances of the High Court and the Court of Final Appeal, respectively in Admiralty and Central.
A huge, peaceful protest march stretched from Causeway Bay to Central. 8 December 2019
Before Sunday’s rally began, police arrested 11 people and seized weapons including a semi-automatic Glock pistol, 105 rounds of ammunition, canisters of pepper spray, batons, bulletproof vests and others items. Police claimed some of those arrested allegedly participated in a petrol bomb attack on Mong Kok police station in October.
In the early hours of Monday 9 December, police arrested 12 people at a car park in Tin Ping Shopping Mall in Sheung Shui, northern New Territories, and seized cans of petrol and other home-made weapons. The suspects included a school teacher and six students.
Protesters used social media to threaten to disrupt the territory’s traffic during Monday 9 December’s morning commute. However, the so-called ‘Dawn Movement’ only attracted a handful of participants and no roads or MTR services were disrupted. In Mong Kok, Kowloon, a few protesters briefly blocked sections of Nathan Road with rubbish bins but left when police arrived. Others activated the emergency brakes on moving buses, causing a temporary suspension of some services. In Lam Tin, New Territories, protesters attempted to block the road outside the Kai Tin Shopping Centre, but a few passers-by quickly helped clear the obstructions. Police subdued at least one man near Sheung Tak Estate in Tsuen Kwan O, New Territories, when a small group sought to block sections of Po Hong Road. Objects were also reportedly thrown onto railway tracks near the Sha Tin, Tuen Mun and Fanling MTR stations in the New Territories, but were quickly cleared and had minimal impact on services.
On Monday evening, protesters and police clashed in Tai Po, New Territories after activists blocked sections of Tai Wo Road and threw bricks at officers who responded with rubber bullets and other crowd control munitions. Near midnight a small group that again tried to block a section of Nathan Road were pepper sprayed by the police.
At 1900 on Wednesday 11 December, around 500 people attended a rally in Edinburgh Place, Central, to support healthcare sector workers. In a separate event, more than a hundred protesters gathered in front of the British Consulate-General, Admiralty, to urge the UK to terminate the Sino-British Joint Declaration. In Kowloon activists set fire debris at the intersection of Nathan Road and Argyle Street and activated emergency brakes on four buses. Later that night a petrol bomb was thrown at a branch of Genki Sushi in Un Chau Shopping Centre, Cheung Sha Wan, New Territories, causing minor damage.
At around 0100 on Thursday 12 December, four petrol bombs were thrown into the Ngau Tau Kok MTR station in Kwun Tong, Kowloon. Two slightly damaged a Maxim’s Cake Shop and the other two hit the station‘s escalators.
On the evening of Thursday 12 December, a large crowd gathered at Edinburgh Place, Central, to mark the half-year anniversary of the first violent clashes between protesters and police. No unrest was reported.
Police use pepper spray during first violent protest. 12 June 2019Small ‘lunchtime protests’ continued in Central, Causeway Bay, Sha Tin, Cheung Sha Wan and Kwai Chung each weekday. No unrest was reported and the number of participants continued to decline.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Last Sunday’s protest was one of the biggest in months and served as a reminder that the pro-democracy and anti-local and central government movement still has broad public support after six months of often highly disruptive demonstrations. The huge turnout reflected the landslide victory of pro-democracy candidates in the recent local elections and the passage of the US Congress’ Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, both which have served to embolden the movement while contributing to the decline in street level clashes and other disruptive actions.
Declining turnout at the daily scheduled ‘lunchtime protests’ and the failure of last Monday’s morning strike call indicates a broad preference for non-violent political activity and organised and themed gatherings rather than the scattered, leaderless and often anarchic ‘flash-mob’ style protests. In addition, the approaching holiday season, encompassing Christmas and the two new years (Gregorian and Chinese), are likely to further distract marginal supporters and erode the ‘critical mass’ element that has given some demonstrations their political significance.
Further, and despite the show of strength evident in Sunday’s march, the protest movement has failed to achieve its ‘five core demands,’ with few signs the Beijing or Hong Kong governments are prepared to make any serious concessions. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrier Lam will travel to Beijing on Saturday 14 December for her third annual ‘duty’ visit when she is expected to be told of Beijing’s priorities regarding the restoration or order, targeting foreign groups viewed as interfering in China’s internal affairs and rebuilding the pro-establishment faction.
There is now a danger radical elements within the leaderless protest movement, lacking a coherent political policy and declining mainstream support for direct action, may adopt a more violent strategy based on targeting their opponents in law enforcement, pro-local and central government entities and allies and even former supporters they now perceive to have become ‘soft’ in the wake of the electoral victories.
Friday 13 December
The ‘Yau Tsim Mong and Sham Shui Po Secondary School Students Assembly’ is scheduled at Salisbury Garden, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, from 1800 to 2100.
Saturday 14 December
A rally to call for the UK to terminate the Sino-British Joint Declaration is scheduled at the British Consulate-General, Admiralty, from 2000 to 2200.
Sunday 15 December
The ‘Strike with Social Welfare Sector’ is scheduled at Edinburgh Place, Central, from 1500 to 1700.
Monday 16 December
The ‘lunchtime protest’ rally is scheduled at Causeway Bay from 1300 to 1400.
Tuesday 17 December
The ‘Grieve with you’ rally is scheduled at following locations from 1300
- Edinburgh Place, Central
- InPark, Kwun Tong, Kowloon
- Hong Kong Clock Tower, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
- Sha Tin Town Hall, New Territories
- MetroPlaza, Kwai Fong, New Territories
The ‘Hong Kong Humanitarian Crisis Mourning’ is scheduled at Edinburgh Place, Central, from 1900.
Wednesday 18 December
The ‘lunchtime protest’ rally is scheduled at the intersection of Tai Nan West Road and Cheung Sha Wan, Cheung Sha Wan, New Territories, from 1300 to 1400.
Thursday 19 December
Protesters plan to march from Wan Chai to seven foreign consulates (UK, US, Japan, Australia, EU, Italy and Canada) in Admiralty to call for international support, from 1400 to 1700.
A rally to show protesters’ monument is scheduled at Chater Garden, Central, from 1900 to 2100.
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 7- 12 DECEMBER
Saturday 7 December
Around 500 people gathered in Edinburgh Place to protest against the detention and deportation of Indonesian journalist Yuli Riswanti.
Sunday 8 December
During the afternoon a large and peaceful crowd marched from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to Chater Road in Central.
At night, a branch of Chiyu bank in Wan Chai, a Bank of China building on Des Voeux Road Central and a Starbucks Coffee branch at the Pacific Place mall in Admiralty were attacked. Fires were set at the entrances to the High Court and the Court of Final Appeal in Admiralty.
Monday 9 December
Early morning unrest in Tin Ping Shopping Centre, Sheung Shui, New Territories. Police arrested 12 people.
The following locations were temporarily blocked with debris or disrupted as protesters launched a ‘citywide general strike’ in the morning:
- Parts of Nathan Road outside the President Commercial Centre in Mong Kok, Kowloon
- Kai Tin Road outside Kai Tin Shopping Centre in Lam Tin, Kowloon
- Po Hong Road outside the Sheung Tak Estate, Tsueng Kwan O, New Territories
- Tuen Mun MTR station, New Territories
- Tai Wai MTR station, New Territories
1300: ‘Lunchtime protests’ occurred in the following locations:
- Intersection of Argyle Street and Nathan Road, Mong Kok
- Tai Nan West Street, Cheung Sha Wan
- New Town Plaza, Sha Tin, New Territories
- Tuen Mun Town Hall, Tuen Mun, New Territories
2100: Protesters blocked sections of Tai Wo Road in Tai Po and threw bricks at the police, who responded with rubber bullets and other crowd control munitions. Local residents also staged a rally in front of Tai Po Centre.
2345: Protesters returned to Nathan Road and police used pepper spray and other crowd control munitions to disperse them.
Tuesday 10 December
‘Lunchtime protests’ occurred at the following locations around 1300:
- One Island East, Taikoo Place, Quarry Bay
- Kowloon Commerce Centre, Kwai Chung, New Territories
1830: Around 200 people joined the ‘Human Rights Day Assembly’ at the north pedestrian side of Harcourt Road and the west pedestrian side of Tim Mei Avenue.
Wednesday 11 December
‘Lunchtime protest’ occurred at the following locations:
- Times Square, Causeway Bay
- InPARK, Kwun Tong, Kowloon
- Kowloon Commerce Centre Entrance, Kwai Chung
1900: Around 500 participants joined the ‘Healthcare Sector Union’ rally in Edinburgh Place, Central.
2000: Over a hundred protesters gathered in front of the British Consulate-General, Admiralty, to call for the UK to terminate the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
2100: Protesters blocked the intersection of Nathan Road and Argyle Street, Kowloon, and set fire to with debris. Four buses emergency brakes activated.
2300: Branch of Genki Sushi in Un Chau Shopping Centre, Cheung Sha Wan, was petrol bombed.
Thursday 12 December
0050: A Maxim’s Cake Shop and an escalator inside Ngau Tau Kok MTR station, Kwun Tong were damaged by petrol bombs.
‘Lunchtime protest’ occurred at the following locations:
- Exchange Square, Central
- Metro Plaza, Kwai Fong, New Territories
1700: Over a hundred students rallied in San Hui Playground in Tuen Mun, New Territories.
2000: Thousands of people gathered at Edinburgh Place to mark the six-month of the first major clashes between protesters and police outside Legco.