HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 6 March 2020
THE SITUATION NOW
The violent clashes that occurred in Mong Kok on Saturday 29 February were the most intense since the COVID-19 outbreak began in late January and serve to emphasise that the anti-government protest movement remains a potent and disruptive force.
In the evening of Saturday 29 February, a significant number of pro-democracy demonstrators gathered near the Prince Edward Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Station to commemorate the six-month anniversary of 31 August 2019 clashes in which police allegedly attacked passengers indiscriminately at the station. Protesters constructed barricades across key roads in the Mong Kok region and some radical activists set fires and hurled bricks and petrol bombs at police officers, who responded with multiple volleys of tear gas and pepper spray.
Fire ignited on street in Mong Kok, 29 February 2020
Around 2300 at the intersection of Nelson Road and Nathan Road, one police officer reportedly drew his gun on protesters as he was left isolated and surrounded by a large group of protesters, who throw bricks and other objects at him. The officer sustained injuries to his head and limbs but did not open fire. The clashes extended late into the night and police made at least 115 arrests.
In a separate incident in the early hours of Sunday 1 March, police reported that a petrol bomb was thrown at an outpatient clinic in South Kwai District in the New Territories. The clinic is one of 18 medical facilities designated for screening patients with suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms. No injuries were reported and no arrests were made. The case is still under investigation.
The attack was followed during the daytime of Sunday 1 March by small-scale demonstrations outside three other clinics in Shau Kei Wan on Hong Kong Island, and Yau Ma Tei and Kowloon Bay in Kowloon, in which protesters demanded that the government provide alternative medical facilities away from residential neighbourhoods. While no major violence was reported at these marches, one petrol bomb was thrown into the gardens of the Richland Gardens estate in Kowloon Bay that night. Riot police were present and conducted a preliminary investigation of the petrol bomb and fire but did not identify a suspect.
Protesters hold US national flag and banners with images of US President Donald Trump during the march in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon. 1 March 2020/ Shutterstock: HUI.
The following weekdays were peaceful with two calm and small-scale lunchtime rallies reported. On Monday 2 March a group of civil servants rallied at Immigration Tower in Wan Chai to protest against the resumption of work amid COVID-19 outbreaks. On Thursday 5 March a pro-democracy gathering occurred at Landmark Atrium in Central.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The large number of arrests during last weekend’s Mong Kok protests suggests that police are actively seeking to detain as many protesters as possible in a bid to deter further demonstrations while their numbers remain relatively low due to concern over the coronavirus. However, further anti-government protests can be expected in the coming week. Protests against clinics and government-designated isolation centres are also expected to continue and have the potential to exhibit violence.
In the afternoon of Sunday 8 March protesters plan to gather at Tin Hua Temple, Fung Shui Square to oppose government plans to designate the Tai Po Jockey Club Clinic as a coronavirus centre. In the evening, two memorial gatherings, one in Kwun Tong Promenade and the other around Sheung Tak Estate in Tseung Kwan O, New Territories are scheduled to mark the four-month anniversary of the death of Chow Tsz-lok who died following clashes between protesters and police on 4 November 2019. Chow reportedly fell from the third floor of an estate car park while trying to escape either the police or tear gas. He suffered serious injuries and died on 8 November. We warn that these events may attract a significant number of people as many demonstrators were angered by the police’s perceived use of extreme tactics during the Mong Kok clashes last weekend. There is therefore the potential for violence and we advise against travel to or through the regions noted above.
Monday 9 March 2020 marks the nine-month anniversary of the first demonstration attended by hundreds of thousands of people against the now-withdrawn extradition bill on 9 June 2019. Pro-democracy protesters are calling for demonstrations to mark the event but have not scheduled any specific activities for the day. We warn that ‘flash-mob’ style protests may occur throughout the territory, increasing the risks of localised violence.
On Thursday 12 March protesters plan to rally at Kwun Tong MTR Station Exit A and Sha Tin MTR Station Exit B to mark the nine-month anniversary of the first violent clashes between protesters and police over the anti-extradition bill movement on 12 June 2019. Given the continued strength of anti-police and anti-government sentiment, the likelihood of these events descending into clashes between protesters and police is significant. Major roads in the area are likely to be blocked and disruption to the MTR is also likely.
Sunday 8 March
1430: Protesters plan to rally at Tin Hau Temple Fung Shui Square in Tai Po, New Territories and then march to Tai Po Jockey Club Clinic to protest against designating it as a coronavirus centre.
1900: Memorial of Chow at Kwun Tong Promenade, Kwun Tong, New Kowloon.
1930: Memorial of Chow at Sheung Tak Estate in Tseung Kwan O, New Territories.
Monday 9 March
Rally to commemorate the nine-month anniversary of the pro-democracy protests. Time and locations remain unconfirmed.
Thursday 12 March
1300 – 1700: Rally to commemorate the nine-month anniversary of the first violent clashes between protesters and police over the anti-extradition bill movement 12 June 2019 Sha Tin MTR station Exit B and Kwun Tong MTR station Exit A.
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 28 FEBRUARY – 5 MARCH
Saturday 29 February
1800 – Midnight: Protesters gathered outside the Prince Edward MTR station and Mong Kok police station to commemorate the six-month anniversary of 31 August 2019 clashes in which police alleged attacked passengers indiscriminately at the Prince Edward MTR station. Violence broke out and spread to nearby Nathan Road, Prince Edward Road, Portland Street, Argyle Street and Dundas Street, where police fired multiple volleys of tear gas and pepper spray to protesters who set makeshift barricades, hurled petrol bombs and set fire.
Sunday 1 March
0100: South Kwai Chung Jockey Club General Out-Patient Clinic was reportedly petrol bombed.
1500: Protesters gathered at Yau Ma Tei Community Centre Rest Garden in Kowloon to protest against Yau Ma Tei Jockey Club Clinic as a designated COVID-19 quarantine centre. Police were present and made at least three arrests. No violence was reported.
1600: Around a hundred people gathered at Shau Kei Wan Bus Terminal in Hong Kong Island and marched to Sai Wan Ho via Shau Kei Wan Road to oppose designating the Shau Kei Wan Jockey Club as a coronavirus quarantine centre.
2030: Around a hundred people gathered at Richlands Gardens Badminton Court in Kowloon and marched towards Keihui Kaiye Sports Ground to protest Kowloon Bay Health Centre as a designated COVID-19 quarantine centre. One petrol bomb was thrown into the gardens of the Richland Gardens estate. Riot police were present and conducted a preliminary investigation of the petrol bomb and fire but did not identify a suspect. No other violence was reported.
Monday 2 March
1300: Dozens of people gathered at Immigration Tower in Wan Chai to join a sit-in to protest against resumption of work amid COVID-19 outbreaks. Riot police were present. No violence was reported.
Thursday 5 March
1300: Lunchtime rally at Landmark Atrium in Central.