HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 24 January 2020
THE SITUATION NOW
Clashes between protesters and police on Sunday 19 January were the first serious confrontation in Hong Kong for some weeks. During the unrest, police used pepper spray and fired tear gas as activists blocked roads, started fires and defaced businesses perceived as opposed to the protest movement.
A fire blocked traffic on a street in the central business district of Hong Kong, 19 January 2020 (Sandra Sanders/Shutterstock)
In the early morning of Saturday 18 January, a dozen people reportedly gathered near Lung Mun Road in Tuen Mun, New Territories, in an attempt to post anti-government posters on the area’s footbridges. The police quickly arrived and made several arrests. Later that morning, around a hundred pro-Beijing activists gathered outside Broadcasting House in Kowloon Tong to protest against what they perceived as biased programming on government-owned Radio Television Hong Kong.
On Sunday 19 January, thousands of people gathered for a police-approved rally at Chater Garden in Central to call for international sanctions on Hong Kong government officials they accuse of undermining human rights. The event organiser, the pro-democracy Hong Kong Civil Assembly Team, initially proposed a march from Chater Garden to the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay. However, the police only approved a static rally inside the garden which resulted in a large crowd seeking to enter a small space. The rally started peacefully but soon became violent as people were forced into the surrounding roads outside the designated protest area and the police sought to contain them. Activist quickly set up barricades, damaged traffic lights and lit fires. After two plainclothes officers were attacked by protesters the police used pepper-spray and later fired tear gas against the protesters and members of the media, leading many activists to withdraw towards Admiralty and as far as Causeway Bay. A water cannon and an armoured vehicle were deployed but not used.
Police subdued a man during the rally in Chater Garden, Central, 19 January 2020 (Sandra Sanders/Shutterstock)
That evening activists in Mong Kok district, Kowloon, blocked sections of Nathan Road and Dundas Road with debris and verbally abused police officers. A man who reportedly tried to intervene was attacked by several protesters. Police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd and made several arrests.
The same evening four petrol bombs were reportedly thrown at Tai Po police station in the New Territories; one hit a reporting centre that was open to the public, but the police did not report any casualties.
In the early hours of Tuesday 21 January, around 50 police officers were reported to have destroyed a makeshift shrine in Tseung Kwan O, Kowloon, to commemorate Chow Tsz-lok, a second-year University of Science and Technology student who died following clashes between protesters and police on 4 November 2019. Dozens of activists quickly gathered and blocked roads with debris as others sought to repair the memorial.
Multiple rallies were held later that day to mark the six-month anniversary of an attack by suspected organised criminal groups (‘triads’) on members of the public in Yuen Long, New Territories, on 21 July 2019. Other related events included a lunchtime rally at Lai Chi Kok Hong Kong Industrial Centre in Cheung Sha Wan, New Territories, a sit-in at mass transit railway (MTR) stations in Yuen Long (New Territories) and Chai Wan, Causeway Bay and Heng Fa Chuen (Hong Kong island). Around 1930 hundreds of people gathered near the Yuen Long MTR station, and around an hour later about 50 activists entered the nearby Yoho Mall. Around 2230 police reportedly entered Yuen Long MTR station where they claimed they were confronted by protesters and members of the public. Police used pepper spray inside the station and near the Yuen Long Jockey Club Town Square, where several journalists were allegedly targeted.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The police said they discovered and defused an improvised explosive device (IED) in a flat in Kowloon’s Mong Kok district on the night of 14 January. Three men, including two the police linked to what they term ‘radical protest groups,’ were detained in connection with the discovery – described as a ‘pipe bomb’ – which destroyed in a controlled explosion. A senior police officer said the IED was viable and sufficiently powerful to injure or kill. This is the third publicised case where the police have arrested individuals for allegedly constructing explosive devices since violent protests began in June 2019. While the charges against any suspects allegedly involved in constructing or deploying IEDs have yet to be tested in court, we warn there is a clear risk that radical or other elements will seek to use such devices either against the police or in an attempt to increase tension and apply pressure on the government. As a result, companies should reassess their security plans and identify potential vulnerabilities that may be exploited by extremists or others prepared to use IEDs for political or criminal purposes. They should also ensure their insurance coverage specifically includes terrorism.
During the rally on 19 January several protesters were arrested for allegedly possessing batons, hammers and steel bars. Imagery widely circulated on mainstream and social media also appeared to show numerous individual officers exceeding their authority, targeting media workers and using gratuitous force on unresisting members of the public, suggesting police have adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward any failure to comply with their orders. A statement issued by the local administration on 19 January made it clear it would not yield to the protesters' key demands regarding the introduction of universal suffrage, ensuring unrest is set to continue with no obvious credible solution to the divisions that continue to deepen and widen among the territory’s population.
The Chinese lunar new year, which formally begins on the evening of 24 January, is a holiday traditionally associated with family-orientated gatherings and festivities. Online activity indicates that protesters plan to stage multiple ‘Suck the Lunar Year’ flash-mob rallies (see details below) in an attempt to disrupt the holiday festivities. We continue to assess that any disruptive protests during the holiday period would be viewed by mainstream and less radical opponents of the local administration’s policies as harming their evident widespread public support. However, if such actions do occur there is a high probability of clashes between rival groups and the police.
On Tuesday 26 January, a rally is scheduled at 1900 in Mong Kok to commemorate the so-called ‘fishball revolution’ that occurred in the district in 2016 in response to a government campaign against unlicensed street vendors during that year’s Chinese New Year holidays. While information regarding the location of the event has yet to be confirmed, it is likely to end in unrest and violence throughout Mong Kok. We advise against travel to or through Mong Kok, especially after dark, on Tuesday.
Friday 24 January
2000: The ‘Silver Hairs – Supporting Arrested Protesters on Lunar New Year’s Eve’ rally is scheduled outside Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre prison, New Territories.
2300: A ‘Suck the Lunar Year’ rally is scheduled at Wong Tai Sin Temple, New Kowloon.
Saturday 25 January
1600: A ‘Suck the Lunar Year’ rally is scheduled at West Kowloon Cultural District.
Sunday 26 January
1000: A ‘Suck the Lunar Year’ rally is scheduled at Che Kung Temple in Sha Tin and Wong Tai Sin Temple in New Kowloon.
1900: A ‘Remembering Fishball Revolution Assembly’ scheduled in Mong Kok.
Monday 27 January
1300: ‘Suck with You’ rallies are scheduled at the following locations:
- Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
- New Town Plaza, Sha Tin, New Territories
- MOKO, Mong Kok, Kowloon
- Canton Road, Kowloon
Tuesday 28 January
1830 – 2030: The Hotel Union Street Booth is scheduled at Eaton Hotel (intersection of Nathan Road and Gascoigne Road)
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 18 JANUARY – 23 JANUARY
Saturday 18 January
0300: A dozen people gathered at Lung Mun Road in Tuen Mun to post anti-extradition bill material. Police made several arrests.
0900: Around a hundred people rallied outside Broadcasting House in Kowloon Tong to protest against what they claim is anti-government bias in RTHK’s programming.
2000: Activists ran from Fung Yau Street North Sitting-out Area to Yuen Long MTR station, New Territories.
Sunday 19 January
1330 – 1900: Thousands of people gathered at Chater Garden in Central and occupied nearby roads. Violent clashes between protesters and police extended to Admiralty and Causeway Bay.
2130 – 2330: Protesters blocked Nathan Road, Dundas Street, Sai Yeung Choi Street South and Sai Yee Street, all in Mong Kok. Police used pepper spray and made several arrests.
Monday 20 January
1300: Lunchtime rally at Landmark Atrium, Central.
2030:Protesters gathered at Tin Shui Wai, New Territories for the ‘Yuen Long District Petition Assembly’ rally. One man was reportedly beaten at the end of the rally by masked assailants.
Tuesday 21 January
0400: Protesters blocked intersection of Tong Ming street and Tong Chun street in Tseung Kwan O after police tore down altar set in memorial of Chow Tsz-lok who died in November 2019 after clashes with police.
1350 – 1440: Lunchtime rally at Lai Chi Kok Hong Kong Industrial Centre, Cheung Sha Wan, New Territories.
1900: Protesters staged a sit-in at Causeway Bay MTR station in commemoration of half-year anniversary of Yuen Long attack.
1930: Protesters rallied at Yuen Long MTR station and Yoho Mall to commemorate the half-year anniversary of Yuen Long attack. Police reportedly used pepper spray inside the station and Yuen Long Jockey Club Town Square.
Wednesday 22 January
2000: The ‘New Year’s Eve gathering with Arrested Comrades’ occurred outside the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre prison, New Kowloon.
Thursday 23 January
1300 – 1400: Lunchtime rally at International Finance Center mall, Central.