HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 15 May 2020

15 may 2020

THE SITUATION NOW

The monitoring period (8-14 May) saw numerous pro-democracy, anti-government demonstrations across the territory, with most of them carried out peacefully and taking place in shopping malls.

Late on Friday (8 May), activists held demonstrations at the International Finance Centre (IFC) and Pacific Place shopping centres on Hong Kong Island for ‘Sing with You’ protests. Police deployed to the malls to disperse the activists, citing violations of social distancing rules and public gatherings. These events were precursors to a weekend and week of similar protest activities.

On Sunday (10 May), the police arrested more than 250 people during the evening after some protesters blocked roads in Kowloon’s Mong Kok district. Protests were held at MOKO mall and at the junction of Nathan Road and Xiyang Cai South Street. Some activists set fires out of debris on Nathan Road, Nielsen Street, Western Food Street, Shandong Street and Soy Street. There were no reports of any damages or casualties from the unrest. This protest followed a series of largely peaceful demonstrations at 10 shopping malls across the territory, and was the third major display of public opposition to the authorities in the past two weeks.

On Tuesday (12 May) dozens of activists gathered inside the atrium of Tza Wan Shan Shopping Centre to hold a ‘Sing with You’ protest. At approximately 2020 hrs, more than 100 riot police entered the mall, wielding riot guns, shields and pepper spray. They then cordoned off the atrium as they ushered demonstrators out of the mall and towards the Ciyun Mountain Centre bus terminal. Police also fanned out across the mall and moved to the upper floors where they detained protesters and some suspected activists.

On Wednesday (13 May), there were pro-democracy protests at approximately eight shopping malls across the territory. Activists at smaller gatherings at some malls were forced to move to venues with larger demonstrations. See list below.

Events began promptly at around 1930 and were mostly peaceful, with activists unfurling banners, chanting slogans (‘Five demands, not one less,’ Disband the police force, immediately!’) and singing pro-democracy, anti-Beijing songs with some participation from patrons. There were cake presentation ceremonies used to mockingly commemorate the birthday of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, whose birthday was on the same day. Activists dubbed the mass gatherings ‘Happy Birthday Fuck You’.

 Protests took place in:

  • New Town Plaza in Sha Tin (New Territories)
  • Tai Po Mega Mall (New Territories)
  • Tsuen Wan Plaza (New Territories)
  • Tuen Mun Town Plaza (New Territories)
  • Langham Place in Mong Kok (Kowloon)
  • Olympian City in Mong Kok (Kowloon)
  • Cityplaza in Tai Koo Shin (Hong Kong Island)
  • Times Square in Causeway Bay (Hong Kong Island)

 Demonstrators inside Langham Place, Mong Kok 13 May/Benjamin Yuen

Events in New Town Plaza in Sha Tin garnered the most attention due to an incident entailing an attack on a tea shop and the subsequent arrest of a 16-year-old activist. There have been multiple reports, accompanied by images on social media of the police subduing the activist with claims that such incidents highlight police brutality. There have also been several messages about police using pepper spray against journalists covering these protests. 


THE WEEK AHEAD

More demonstrations are planned for the week ahead and the likelihood of ad hoc rallies is assessed as high. What is likely going to generate a significant levels of condemnation on social media and calls for further rallies is the recent release of a report by Hong Kong’s Independent Police Complaints Council’s (IPCC) that concluded that the police acted lawfully during the 2019 unrest. Despite receiving 1,755 complaints of police brutality that attracted widespread criticism from activists, human rights watchdogs and opposition political parties, the IPCC largely found no wrongdoing but acknowledged that improvements in police conduct were needed.

Police brutality is a frequent topic propagandised on social media aimed at generating more opposition to the government and used effectively as a rallying call. The IPCC’s report has incited a significant amount of anger and condemnation that is circulating widely on social media platforms and message boards.

In recent weeks, the police appear to be making mass arrests on the grounds that individuals are transgressing rules linked to social distancing and assembly rules introduced to counter the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Apart from politicising a public health measure, the use of intimidatory tactics that include reports of journalists and at least one local politician being targeted, point to a change in policing philosophy far more in line with China’s absence of tolerance of almost any dissent than Hong Kong’s more nuanced traditional public order methodology.

If this interpretation is correct then future protests and the police response are set to become potentially far more violent in the three-month outlook, adding to the already deep economic and social damage caused by last year’s unrest and this year’s pandemic.

 

UPCOMING PROTESTS

Friday 15 May

2100: Demonstrators are planning a vigil to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the death of a 70-year-old cleaner, who passed away from injuries sustained during a protest that occurred on Lung Wan Street in Sheung Shui in November 2019. Luo Changqing was accidently struck in the head with a brick allegedly thrown by a protester. He was not taking part in the unrest, but was there cleaning the streets of debris left by protesters. An event is scheduled to take place at Pacific Place shopping mall in Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island.

Saturday 16 May

1400: Activists are calling for multiple demonstrations at shopping malls for ‘Sing with You’ protests to take place at Shopping malls in Tseung Kwan O and Sha Tin New City, New Territories.

1500-1700: A gathering is planned at Tin Shui Wei station, New Territories.


PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 8 MAY – 14 MAY

Friday 8 May

2000: Activists held demonstrations at the International Finance Centre (IFC) and Pacific Place shopping centres on Hong Kong Island for ‘Sing with You’ protests.

Sunday 10 May

1500: Multiple activist groups held pro-democracy, anti-government demonstrations at shopping malls, including Sha Tin New City Plaza, Tsuen Wan Plaza, Yuen Long Shape Point and Tuen Mun V City, where they were met by police and subsequently escorted away without any significant instances of violence.

1900: Protests were held at MOKO mall and at the junction of Nathan Road and Xiyang Cai South Street. Some activists set fires out of debris on Nathan Road, Nielsen Street, Western Food Street, Shandong Street and Soy Street in Mong Kok, Kowloon.

Tuesday 12 May

2000: Dozens of activists gathered inside the atrium of Tza Wan Shan Shopping Centre in Kowloon to hold a ‘Sing with You’ protest.

Wednesday 13 May

1930: Multiple demonstrations were held at area shopping malls at:

  •  New Toiwn Plaza in Sha Tin (New Territories)
  • Tai Po Mega Mall (New Territories)
  • Tsuen Wan Plaza (New Territories)
  • Tuen Mun Town Plaza (New Territories)
  • Langham Place in Mong Kok (Kowloon)
  • Olympian City in Mong Kok (Kowloon)
  • Cityplaza in Tai Koo Shin (Hong Kong Island)
  • Times Square in Causeway Bay (Hong Kong Island)

END REPORT