HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 3 January 2020
THE SITUATION NOW
Hong Kong began the year of 2020 with violent clashes between protesters and police occurring in and around key business districts. As forecast, while the demonstrations on New Year’s Day drew a massive and largely peaceful crowd, it descended into confrontations during the late afternoon and evening. Central and Mong Kok areas were two flashpoint areas that saw the most severe clashes. HSBC, which was allegedly pressured by the government to close the accounts of Spark Alliance, a fund that supports those detained during protests, was targeted and vandalised by demonstrators.
Police subdued protesters at Landmark North Plaza in Sheung Shui, 29 Dec 2019
On Saturday 28 December, unrest first broke out in the afternoon at Landmark North Plaza in Sheng Shui when around 300 anti-government demonstrators protested against shoppers from mainland China. Protesters marched through the mall, shouting, harassing and chasing mainland Chinese visitors. Around 1600 local time, riot police intervened and used pepper spray and baton charges to subdue and disperse protesters. In the evening, unrest broke out at Telford Plaza mall in Kowloon Bay, where plain-clothes police made at least five arrests after activists confronted officers.
On the afternoon of Sunday 29 December, hundreds of protesters staged a rally in Edinburgh Place, Central on Hong Kong Island to encourage people to continue the protest movement. On Monday 30 December, hundreds gathered at the same place to show solidarity and to grieve for the injured and detained protesters. The rally lasted around two and a half hours and ended without any violence.
On New Year’s Eve, 31 December, protesters rallied at multiple shopping malls such as Times Square in Causeway Bay, Harbour City and Elements in Tsim Sha Tsui in an attempt to disrupt shopping and area retail business operations. Unlike the violent unrest that occurred during Christmas day, no severe damages inside the malls were reported. Activists also formed human chains in several districts including Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, Tai Po, Mong Kok, Tuen Mun and Wong Tai Sin to show their resolve in pusuing democratic reforms in the territory. People also gathered at Lan Kwai Fong in Central and Victoria Harbour for the New Year’s Eve countdown rallies.
The most intense violence occurred in Mong Kok area. Protesters had been present around the Prince Edward MTR station since the afternoon to commemorate the four-month anniversary of the 31 August clashes in which police allegedly attacked passengers indiscriminately at the station. Around 1900, riot police first used pepper spray to disperse the crowd, who dispersed and then occupied parts of Nathan Road and Prince Edward Road West and set up barricades and started fires. At around the same time, a crowd that had previously gathered at Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront marched along Nathan Road. Riot police used pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and a water cannon in a bid to control the protesters. In the nearby Yau Ma Tei, police reportedly fired multiple rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters on Waterloo Road.
A huge crowd joining the New Year’s Day rally marched from Victoria Park, 01 Jan 2020
On 1 January 2020, the ‘New Year’s Day March’ organised by the pro-democracy democracy Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), who has organised most of the largest marches ever seen in Hong Kong, drew tens of thousands of people for a mass gathering and march. The march started peacefully at Victoria Park but escalated into violence near Wan Chai bar district where protesters vandalised an HSBC branch and smashed a glass window of a China Life Insurance building. Soon afterwards police fired volleys of tear gas, pepper spray and pepper balls at protesters, who retaliated by hurling objects at the officer.
Tear gas fired in Wan Chai after HSBC was targeted, 01 Jan 2020
Barricades set alight, Wan Chai, 01 Jan 2020As night fell, unrest spread to Central, where protesters set makeshift barricades alight, vandalised two HSBC ATMs and sprayed graffiti on the wall of the High Court. Police deployed water cannon to end the clash.
THE WEEK AHEAD
CHRF estimated that turnout for the New Year’s march was over one million while the police reported that there were around 60,000 participants at its peak. Regardless of the discrepancy, the huge turnout highlights the opposition towards the local and central governments remains a potent force. It also signals that after almost seven months of often highly disruptive rallies, there is still strong public support for the pro-democracy and anti-government movement. This support is critical for the sustainability of future demonstrations.
On Sunday 5 January, protesters plan to march from Sheng Shui Garden No. 1 to Sheng Shui MTR station. Sheng Shui has become a frequent area of protests against the so-called ‘parallel traders’ from mainland China, who are accused of earning profits by smuggling goods from Hong Kong to mainland. While the march is intended to be peaceful there remains the possibility of violence in the form of vandalism against the MTR station as well as disruption to business operations and confrontation with the police.
While no other large-scale rallies are schedule over the next week at the time of writing, indicating Hong Kong may expect a relative calm period. Nevertheless, we warn that ‘flash-mob’ protests may occur in key business and retail districts. Although instances of vandalism against ‘blue’ shops, those perceived as pro-Beijing or anti-protest movement, have fallen, we warn protesters are likely to continue to deploy tactics to intimidate customers, notably those from mainland China. As China’s Spring Festival is approaching, the number of shoppers visiting Hong Kong is likely to increase, which make more incidents probable.
Radicals in the past week reportedly threw petrol bombs in Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan, damaging multiple police cars. The police presence continued to be significant with officers usually stopping and checking the identification of pedestrians and suspected activists randomly and responding quickly to any disruptive protested-related activities. We believe that increased use of force and more aggressive attempts by Hong Kong police to arrest protesters are therefore likely, which will be met by protesters responding with extreme and violent tactics. These will present a critical threat to anyone caught in the vicinity of the inevitable confrontations.
Friday 03 January
The ‘Unite and Protect Professions, Fight Against White Terror’ – Teacher’s Union Assembly is scheduled at Edinburgh Place, Central, from 1900 to 2100.
Sunday 05 January
The ‘Walk with You in the New Years’ march is scheduled from Sheung Shui Garden No.1 to Sheung Shui MTR Station, both in New Territories, from 1500. Letters of No Objection pending.
Monday 06 January
The ‘Non-cooperation movement’ sit-in is scheduled at Revenue Tower, Wan Chai, from 1200.
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 28 DECEMBER 2019 – 02 JANUARY 2020
Saturday 28 December
1500 – 2000: Landmark North, Sheung Shui. Protesters seeking to disrupt shoppers clashed with police, who responded with batons and pepper spray.
2000: Telford Plaza, Kowloon Bay. Protesters seeking to disrupt shopping clashed with police, who made at least five arrests.
Sunday 29 December
1400 – 1800: Edinburgh Place, Central. Hundreds of protesters rallied. No violence reported.
2000: MOSTown, Ma On Shan. Protesters staged a ‘Sing with You’ rally. No violence reported.
Monday 30 December
1720 – 2000: Edinburgh Place, Central. Hundreds of protesters rallied to mourn for those injured and those who have died. No violence reported.
Tuesday 31 December
Lunchtime rallies occurred at the following places:
1330 – 1400: Exchange Square, Central
1330 – 1350: Cheung Sha Wan, Lai Chi Kok
1315 – 1330: Kowloon Commerce Centre, Kwai Chung
‘Suck the Eve’ rallies occurred at the following places:
1830 – 2030: Times Square, Causeway Bay. Protesters marched in the mall and formed human chains from Golden Square to Wan Chai. No damage reported.
1830 – 2100: Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui. No violence reported.
1900: Elements, Tsim Sha Tsui. No violence reported.
2000: Tai Po Market MTR station. Protesters formed human chain. No violence reported.
2030: Wong Tai Sin. Around 300 participants formed human chains from Hsin Kuang Centre to Po Kong Village Road and Fung Tak Road
2330: Lan Kwai Fong, Central. No violence reported.
Mong Kok region. (Prince Edward Road West, Nathan Road, Portland Street, Argyle Street, Langham Place, Sai Yeung Choi Street, Soy Street ).
Protesters rallied at the Prince Edward MTR station around 1900 to commemorate the four-month anniversary of the 31 August clashes. Violence extended to most parts of the Mong Kok around 2100. Protesters smashed traffic lights, blocked roads with debris, set fires and threw petrol bombs. Police responded with pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.
Wednesday 1 January 2020
0400 – 0500: Tong Tak Street, Tseung Kwan O. Protesters throw petrol bombs and sprayed graffiti on a restaurant in Sheung Tak Plaza.
1400: Central. Tens of thousands of people joined the ‘Civil Human Rights Front New Year’s Eve’ rally. Violence was reported throughout Wan Chai, Central and Causeway Bay after dark. Protesters smash traffic lights, blocked roads with debris, set fires and threw petrol bombs. Police responded with tear gas, pepper spray, water cannon and made arrests.
Thursday 2 January 2020
1300: Statue Square, Central. Protesters rallied for the lunchtime protest. No violence reported.