HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 15 November 2019
THE SITUATION NOW
As predicted in last week’s Protest Monitor, there was a significant escalation in violence and a widening of unrest in the week starting 8 November following the death of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) student, Chow Tsz-lok, during a police operation. Protesters targeted the city’s transport infrastructure and staged daytime hit-and-run attacks on the police and property they considered supportive of the local and central governments. In the Central business district thousands of office workers demonstrated daily in support of the pro-democracy movement’s demands, adding a further layer of anti-government opposition.
Protesters construct defensive positions at Hong Kong University on 14 November 2019
Demonstrations following the announcement of Chow’s death began around midday on Friday 8 November when protesters, including many office workers, marched in the Central, Kwun Tong, Kowloon Tong and Tai Po districts. By that evening tens of thousands of people gathered on the streets to pay tribute to Chow and condemn police actions. Violent clashes occurred in Mong Kok, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, Tseung Kwan O – all in Kowloon or the New Territories – and in Aberdeen on Hong Kong island. Police used tear gas against protesters after some threw petrol bombs and bricks, blocked roads, set up burning barricades and damaged shops and public facilities. In Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon, a police officer reportedly fired a live round into the air after being surrounded and threatened by protesters.
On Saturday 9 November, a large crowd gathered at Tamar Park in Hong Kong island’s Admiralty district for the first authorised public gathering related to Chow’s death. While it ended peacefully, clashes resumed in Mong Kok and Tuen Mun after dark, with the police using pepper spray against local residents.
Following a relatively peaceful Saturday, fresh protests broke out on Sunday 10 November in multiple districts throughout the day. Once again protesters stormed and demonstrated in popular shopping centres – notably New Town Plaza in Sha Tin, Citywalk Mall in Tsuen Wan and Sogo department store in Causeway Bay – attacking shops and facilities and setting fires on the streets. The most serious disturbance occurred in Festival Walk, Kowloon Tong, where plainclothes police officers were beaten by protesters after trying to detain demonstrators.
On Sunday evening after a prayer meeting for Chow at Chater Garden in Central ended peacefully, protesters again set up roadblocks and started fires in Mong Kok district. They were encountered by the police with tear gas and water cannon. In Tin Shui Wai, in the New Territories, local residents challenged plainclothes police officers who were reinforced by uniformed personnel using pepper spray and batons to disperse the crowd.
Monday 11 November witnessed some of the worst violence since the anti-extradition protests began. For the first time police used tear gas and rubber bullets and made arrests at the campuses of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), after protesters blocked entrances and occupied nearby transport routes.
Office workers protested during lunchtime in Central, 14 November 2019
The unrest began early in the morning when protesters sought to block key roads, the mass transit rail (MTR) network and cross harbour tunnels as part of efforts to impose a territory-wide general strike. At around 0800 at the intersection of Shau Kei Wan Road and Tai On Street in Sai Wan Ho on Hong Kong island an unarmed protester was shot and seriously wounded by a police officer in an incident that was filmed and widely disseminated. The incident, followed closely by video showing a police motorcyclist deliberately riding into a small crowd of protesters, triggered serious clashes in Wong Tai Sin, Hung Hom, Kwai Fong and Tsueng Kwan O districts.
Violence spread to Central by lunchtime, where police used tear gas to disperse office workers protesting during their lunch break. That afternoon a man in Ma On Shan, who had apparently confronted protesters, was doused with flammable liquid and set on fire, causing serious injuries. During the remainder of the day and into the evening violent confrontations between police and protesters were reported in Hung Hom, Tai Po, Mong Kok and Tseung Kwan O.
The security situation deteriorated further on Monday as the level of violence increased and the number of rallies and protests multiplied (see details below). Clashes on university campuses began on Tuesday 12 November, with the most notable occurring at the Chinese University Hong Kong (CUHK) in Sha Tin in the New Territories. Student protesters blocked entrances to the campus and clashed with police at a key bridge for much of the day and into the evening. Ignoring attempts by senior university staff to negotiate a settlement with the police, the protesters used makeshift catapults to launch bricks and petrol bombs at the police, who responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon. Multiple universities have cancelled on-campus classes for the rest of the term and the Education Bureau announced the closure of all schools until Monday 18 November, when the situation is due to be reviewed. Some mainland Chinese students were evacuated from the territory with help from the local police and the Beijing government’s Hong Kong liaison office.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Hong Kong police force’s ability to maintain order using existing methods and tactics has evidently deteriorated and has again led to concerns the Beijing government may order China’s military to directly intervene in Hong Kong. On Wednesday 13 November, China’s Foreign Ministry reiterated Beijing would not compromise and harshly criticised violence and what it called vandalism.
On Thursday 14 November, China’s President Xi Jinping, speaking at a summit in Brazil, urged Hong Kong to ‘end violence and restore order’ and pledged Beijing’s support to the territory’s government and police. Nevertheless, we continue to assess direct military intervention by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or China’s People’s Armed Police (PAP) remains unlikely given the substantial diplomatic, reputational and economic costs such an action would incur for China. Increased use of force and more aggressive attempts by Hong Kong police to arrest protesters are therefore likely. These will be met by increasingly extreme actions by protesters, presenting a critical threat to anyone caught in the vicinity of the inevitable confrontations.
While only a limited number of large-scale rallies are scheduled over the coming week, activists have altered their protest tactics to focus on more violent acts targeting infrastructure as well as the police. We anticipate early morning disruption of transport network and hit-and-run attacks will continue in the coming week. Such actions increase the threat to the wider public of being caught in potentially dangerous incidents, and we advise businesses to factor this into their crisis management planning.
Police clearance operations to remove protesters from occupied university campuses are likely to occur in the coming week and are certain to result in serious violence. We advise against all travel to occupied university campuses.
On Sunday 17 November, a prayer meeting to mourn Chow Tsz-lok is scheduled to be held at Chater Garden, Central, from 1530 to 1645. It is expected to be followed by the formation of human chains around Government Hill and a well-attended rally in Edinburgh Place. We warn clashes between protesters and police are almost inevitable with a high possibility of violence. Central, Causeway Bay, Admiralty and Tsim Sha Tsui should be avoid where possible on Sunday afternoon and night.
On Thursday 21 November, at 1900 a sit-in is scheduled at Yuen Long MTR Station to mark the four-month anniversary of the 21 July attack. Previous similar events on the 21st of each month since August have all ended in serious violence within and damage to the MTR station. Therefore, similar clashes are widely anticipated. We advise against all travel to or thorough Yuen Long district after 2000.
On Tuesday 12 November, the European Union called on all sides involved in the protests to exercise restraint.
On Wednesday 13 November, several universities in Sweden, Norway and Denmark urged their exchange students in Hong Kong to consider leaving the territory due to the increased threat of violence and the suspension of on-campus classes.
On Thursday 14 November, US Senator Marco Rubio and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jim Risch initiated a process to accelerate the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
On Thursday 14 November, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission passed its 2019 annual report that included the recommendation Hong Kong’s trade privileges be withdrawn if Beijing sends military forces into the territory to restore order.
In the evening of Thursday 14 November, Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng was injured during a confrontation in London with pro-democracy demonstrators while on an official visit to Britain.
Sunday 17 November
A prayer meeting is scheduled at Chater Garden, Central, from 1530 to 1645.
Protesters plan to form human chains around Government Hill, Central, from 1700 to 1930.
A demonstration to remember ‘The Revolutions of 1989’ is scheduled at Edinburgh Place, Central, from 1900 to 2130.
Thursday 21 November
A ‘Yuen Long Terrorist Attack Two-Month Anniversary Sit-in Assembly’ is scheduled from 1900 to 2300 at Yuen Long MTR Station in the New Territories.
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 8-14 NOVEMBER
Friday 8 November
Hundreds of protesters marched through Central, blocking traffic to mark the death of Chow Tsz-lok. Protesters also gathered in Kwun Tong, Kowloon Tong and Taikoo Shing.
Protesters on HKUST campus attacked and damaged a number of facilities.
Violent incidents occurred in multiple locations, including Yau Ma Tei, Aberdeen, Tsuen Wan, Mong Kok, Whampoa and Tseung Kwan O. Crowds also gathered in Kwun Tong, Causeway Bay, Central, Tsim Sha Tsui and Sha Tin.
A large crowd gathered peacefully at Tamar Park in Admiralty to remember the dead HKUST student Chow Tsz-Lok.
Clashes occurred in Mong Kok and Tuen Mun after dark. Police fired pepper spray after protesters started fires outside Tuen Mun Town Hall.
Sunday 10 November
At Festival Walk, Kowloon Tong, protesters clashed with plainclothes officers and uniformed police. In Sha Tin, protesters gathered in New Town Plaza and damaged Sha Tin MTR station and a nearby cake shop operated by the Maxim Group. Protesters also gathered in Causeway Bay and staged a demonstration inside the Sogo department store.
In Tsuen Wan protesters occupied major streets, attacked several China-linked shops at the Citywalk Mall and set a fire on Tai Ho Road. Police responded with tear gas.
In the evening, protesters in Mong Kok occupied sections of Nathan Road, Argyle Street and Shantung Street, where they set up makeshift barricades and set fires. Police deployed water cannon, pepper spray and tear gas.
Demonstrators also gathered in Taikoo Shing, Kowloon Bay, Tai Po and Wong Tai Sin; skirmishes with the police occurred in Tin Shui Wai Kingswood Villa and Tseung Kwan O.
Monday 11 November
In the morning protesters disrupted roads, cross harbour tunnels, major highways and MTR stations in a bid to enforce a general strike. Clashes occurred at the intersection of Shing On Street and Tai Shek Street in Sai Wan Ho, where a police officer shot and seriously wounded an unarmed man. The shooting sparked protests in multiple regions, including Hung Hom, Tseung Kwan O, and Wong Tai Sin.
In Kwai Fong a traffic police officer deliberately rode his motorcycle into protesters, injuring two of them.
Clashes occurred at CUHK, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and HKU, prompting the police to use tear gas.
During lunchtime large numbers of people demonstrated in Central and marched towards Sheung Wan. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds.
That afternoon a man perceived as pro-Beijing supporter was set on fire and seriously injured in Ma On Shan following disputes with members of the public.
In Mong Kok protesters again set makeshift barricades on fire at the intersection of Nathan Road and Argyle Street, halting traffic. Tension rose after dark as the police responded with tear gas and water cannon. Other clashes broke out in Tseung Kwan O and Hung Hom.
Tuesday 12 November
The disruption of transport networks and infrastructure continued for the second consecutive day. Sections of Nathan Road in Mong Kok, Upper Albert Road near Government House and parts of Tai Po were blocked. A petrol bomb was thrown on the tracks of East Rail Line near Hung Hom.
Protesters set up barricades blocking the roads around Cornwall Street and Tat Chee Avenue near City University in Kowloon Tong CUHK in Sha Tin and HKU in Pokfulam. Police and protesters clashed on a bridge at CHUK.
Thousands of people blocked the junction of Des Voeux Road Central and Pedder Street and Connaught Road Central in Central for the second consecutive day.
That night clashes occurred in Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, Tai Po, Sheng Shui and Tseung Wan O.
Wednesday 13 November
Traffic was disrupted for the third day. In Yuen Long protesters set up roadblocks at the intersection of Castle Peak Road and Tai Tong Road. Parts of Mong Kok, Kwun Tong and Tseung Kwan O were also blocked. In Tsing Yi police and protesters clashed outside HKU.
A large crowd blocked the junction of Des Voeux Road and Pedder Street in Central.
Late night clashes occurred in Nathan Road in Mong Kok, Cross-Harbour Tunnel entrance in Hung Hom, Sheung Shui, Tseung Kwan O, Sai Wan Ho, Kowloon Tong and Yuen Long.
Thursday 14 November
Many roads near the Polytechnic, Baptist, City, Chinese and Hong Kong universities, as well as the Western and Cross-Harbour tunnels, were blocked by protesters.
Clashes continued near Polytechnic University in Tsim Sha Tsui and CHUK in Sha Tin.
A large crowd of mainly office workers gathered at Edinburgh Place in Central to show support for firefighters and medical workers.