HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 27 March 2020
THE SITUATION NOW
Violent clashes between protesters and police returned to Hong Kong’s streets over the weekend. While the level of street violence remains far below previous peaks, political protests and ‘flash-mob’ style activities continue, reflecting the continued, if subdued, momentum of the pro-democracy movement.
Saturday 21 March marked the eight-month anniversary of the attack by suspected organised criminal groups (‘triads’) on members of the public in Yuen Long, New Territories, on 21 July 2019. Around 1900, a small group rallied near Time Square in Causeway Bay and culminated in verbal disputes with riot police, who reportedly pointed pepper spray cans at protesters.
Protesters set debris on fire during Yuen Long protest, 21 March 2020
Elsewhere in Yuen Long, New Territories, more than a hundred activists gathered at Yuen Long Mass Transit Railway (MTR) station and occupied parts of Hop Yick Road, Yau San Street and Tai Tong Road. Some radicals reportedly built makeshift barricades, set debris on fire and threw petrol bombs at riot police, prompting officers to fire tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowd. Tensions continued until after midnight and police made at least 61 arrests. During the clashes it was reported that several media workers were pepper-sprayed.
In the evening of Sunday 22 March memorials for Chan Yin-lam were held at Kwun Tong Promenade in Kwun Tong, New Kowloon, Sheung Tak Estate carpark in Tsueng Kwan O and Hong Kong Design Institute in Tiu Keng Leng, New Territories. Chan, a 15-year-old female student, went missing on 19 September 2019 and her body was found on 22 September 2019. Protesters allege the youth died as a result of police brutality, but officers deny the accusations and claim Chan died from suicide. Police presence was maintained throughout the gatherings and no violence was reported.
In the early morning of Monday 23 March, three petrol bombs were thrown into the car park of the Sheung Shui Police Married Quarters compound in Fanling, New Territories, damaging two cars. No one was harmed and one suspect was arrested. This was the fourth such attack on the compound within six weeks. Police are investigating whether the case was related to the pro-democracy movement.
On Wednesday 25 March, the China Travel Service (Hong Kong) Limited in Jia Hua shopping mall, Tuen Mun, New Territories was set on fire. Police found a petrol bomb at the site and are seeking suspects.
THE WEEK AHEAD
For the first time since August 2019 the MTR kept the Yuen Long station open during the protests, an indicator that the government views the ability or willingness of radicals to mobilise significant numbers to challenge the police as greatly reduced by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and mass arrests conducted over recent weeks. It is highly unlikely that any significant pro-democracy protests will attract anything other than small groups of radical activists that the police will have little trouble in containing during the near outlook. Targeted attacks on police and institutions associated with the police or government are, however, likely to continue and have the potential to present a significant threat to anyone caught in the vicinity. Localised protests against quarantine centres hosting people infected with COVID-19 are also likely to continue on an ad hoc basis.
At the time of writing one political protest is scheduled over the coming week. On Tuesday 31 March a rally is scheduled at Prince Edward MTR station in Mong Kok, Kowloon to commemorate the eight month anniversary of 31 August 2019 clashes in which police allegedly attacked passengers indiscriminately. Prince Edward MTR station has been a frequent flash point for violence since the 31 August incident. Police presence is expected to be significant and there is a potential for clashes between protesters and police. Violence may extend to nearby Nathan Road, Sai Yeung Choi Street and Prince Edward Road.
Tuesday 31 March
2000 The ‘Never Forget 831’ rally is scheduled at Prince Edward MTR station, Kowloon.
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 20 MARCH – 26 MARCH 2020
Saturday 21 March
1930: Activists gathered around Times Square on Matheson Street, Causeway Bay to mark the eight-month anniversary of the Yuen Long attack. Protesters and police ended in verbal disputes. Police made one arrest.
2000 – 0100: Protesters rallied at Yuen Long MTR station, Yau San Street, Hop Yick Road, Tai Tong Road, Kin Yip Street, Wang Fat Path to mark the eight-month anniversary of the Yuen Long attack. Riot police fired pepper spray and tear gas as protesters set fires, blocked roads with debris and hurled petrol bombs. Police made at least 61 arrests.
Sunday 22 March
2000: Memorial gatherings of Chan Yin-lam occurred at the following places. Violence was not reported.
• Kwun Tong Promenade, Kwun Tong, New Kowloon
• Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI), Tiu Keng Leng, New Territories
• Sheung Tak Estate, Tseung Kwan O, New Territories