SPECIAL ALERT: HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 30 AUGUST 2019
THE SITUATION NOW
There was a significant escalation in violence during the week starting 23 August following the previous period of relative restraint. Protesters adopted aggressive new tactics which the police countered with increased force.
Protesters formed human chains in "The Hong Kong Way" Campaign on 23 August 2019
On Saturday 24 August an unsanctioned protest was held in the low-income neighbourhood of Kwun Tong on the Kowloon Peninsula. The initially peaceful protest was called to oppose the installation of facial recognition cameras attached to existing lamp posts that are now common throughout urban areas in China. Protesters sought to destroy the lamp posts and built barricades outside the Ngau Tau Kok police station before moving on to occupy roads in Wong Tai Sin District, also on the Kowloon Peninsula. The protesters threw a large number of incendiary improvised explosive devices (IIED) and began advancing aggressively towards police lines in a manner not previously observed. The police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper balls and so-called ‘sponge’ rounds.
On Sunday 25 August protesters marched from Kwai Chung Sports Ground to Tsuen Wan Park, in the west of the New Territories. By late afternoon protesters had barricaded and occupied Yeung Uk Road in Tsuen Wan and three IIEDs at the police. The police initially responded with tear gas, but later deployed two mobile water cannons to disperse the protesters. It was the first time the water cannon, obtained from France in 2018, have been used in the unrest and marked a potent symbol of the escalation.
Protesters built barricades and set fire near Nathan Road on 25 August 2019
Later that evening a smaller group of protesters attacked a number of restaurants and private businesses perceived to be connected to pro-Beijing ‘white shirt’ organised crime groups (‘triads’) that had violently attacked protesters in North Point on Hong Kong Island earlier in August. Protesters also used metal rods and bamboo poles to attack small groups of police officers who had remained in the area after the main riot-control contingent had withdrawn. In one incident a police officer drew his firearm and fired a warning shot into the air. It was the first recorded incident of a police officer discharging a firearm since the protests began in early June. No injuries were reported.
On 29 August Chinese authorities confirmed reports of a troop rotation at the Hong Kong People’s Liberation Army (PLA) garrison. Social media imagery indicated the inclusion of a Type WJ-03B armoured riot-control vehicle in the PLA convoy, the first time such a vehicle has been seen in Hong Kong. The timing of the rotation coincides with the similar 2018 event and was assessed by foreign diplomats in Hong Kong as likely routine. However, the inclusion of equipment more suited to the current security environment in the territory than the regular Type 92 infantry fighting vehicle on which the WJ-03B is based, was widely noted. It has also been reported that the Hong Kong police have obtained body armour from mainland manufacturer Guangzhou Wave Science and Technology Development. This is the first time the Hong Kong police have procured equipment from a mainland supplier.
THE WEEK AHEAD
A2 Global Risk expects significant protest-related violence over the coming week. The arrest of three prominent pro-democracy or independence activists on 29-30 August on protest-linked charges is likely to provoke a strong response from many local residents. It may also have been intended by the police to both demonstrate the consequences of continued protests and indicate the local government’s willingness to invoke increasingly stringent legal measures to restore at least surface stability to Hong Kong.
A protest march scheduled for 1500 on Saturday 31 August from Chater Garden in Central to the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Western District has been denied authorisation by police. The CHRF has previously organised the three largest protests in Hong Kong’s history and has demonstrated its ability to mobilise large segments of Hong Kong’s usually conservative middle classes. If the unsanctioned march goes ahead it is likely to serve as a cathartic moment on the crisis. The size of any protest and the conduct of the police will be closely observed as indications of whether support for the movement is waning and how the authorities intend to utilise any such decline in support for direct action. The actions of the small but often violent groups of hard core protesters who invariably appear once a mass rally ends will also serve to point to any change in their tactics and agenda.
A two-day ‘general strike’ has been called for 2-3 September and will coincide with the start of a two-week tertiary education strike for university students due to return to classes on Monday. The action is planned to follow the pattern of a city-wide general strike held on 5 August that was attended by an estimated 300,000 people. It is unlikely the latest strike will garner similar support, not least because many local and international companies are now deeply concerned over China’s policy of linking the actions of their staff with their broader commercial interests, although it is likely to lead to substantial transport disruption. Protests are also planned at Hong Kong International Airport and on public transport serving the airport on 1-2 September. These may cause significant disruption to travel to and from the airport but are unlikely to involve significant violence.
There is now widespread concern over the implications of the accidental death or serious injury of a protester caused by police actions, protester miscalculation or a combination of the two. The death of a protester would lead to widespread public anger and would be extremely difficult for the Hong Kong authorities to effectively manage.
Police officers have drawn firearms on two occasions during the protests. It is notable that on both occasions firearms were drawn by visibly distressed regular officers and not by more highly trained tactical unit personnel. Most local police have not been intensively trained in tactics linked to civil unrest and have very limited experience in managing violence targeted against them. Police tactics have also raised questions regarding the effectiveness of their use of tear gas and water cannon and their overall ability to manage an escalation of unrest over a sustained period of time. It is also unclear why highly-trained tactical units were withdrawn from Tsuen Wan on 25 August, leaving a small group of regular police officers exposed to violent protesters. Such incidents are viewed by some observers as increasing the potential for the authorities in Beijing to augment the local police with China’s People’s Armed Police (PAP) or the PLA.
A2 Global Risk continues to assess that a mass deployment of mainland paramilitary forces in Hong Kong remains highly unlikely. However, it is now possible PAP officers are, or will be, discretely attached to the Hong Kong police force in an ‘observer’ status that may include a limited command and control function related to the protection of China’s national and commercial assets in the territory. In the event of serious violence over the coming weekend that stretched the Hong Kong police capabilities it is also possible, albeit unlikely, that a token PAP rapid response unit could be deployed to the territory. Such a move would emphasise Beijing’s concerns while serving as warning that far more substantial forces were prepared to cross the border and effectively take active control over Hong Kong’s internal security. Once again, A2 Global does not expect such an outcome as the consequences to both Hong Kong and China would, at a diplomatic and economic level, far outweigh any benefits.
On Monday 26 August, at the G7 summit held in France, the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States issued a joint statement over Hong Kong’s current political crisis. According to the statement, the G7 group ‘reaffirms the existence and importance of the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 on Hong Kong and calls for violence to be avoided’. China said it resolutely opposed the G7 statement on Hong Kong and warned G7 countries to stop interfering in China’s internal affairs.
Friday 30 August
A ‘Social Workers Rally’ is scheduled at 1000 at Wu Chung House, the office of the Social Welfare Department in Hong Kong island’s Wan Chai district. Awaiting police approval.
The ‘Veterinary Groups Say No to Tear Gas’ demonstration is scheduled at Hong Kong island’s Chater Garden, Central from 1945 to 2200, calling for police to cease usage of tear gas and any disproportionate force. Police approval pending.
The ‘Christian Assembly and March’ is scheduled to start at Statue Square, Central and end at the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, Central from 1900 to 2200.
The ‘Stand in Silence for the 74th Anniversary of the Liberation of Hong Kong’ is scheduled at the Cenotaph, Chater Road, Central from 2000 to 2100.
The Bye Buy Day HK’ is expected to continue on Friday. The movement calls for the public to reduce unnecessary spending on Friday and Sunday while limiting shopping to what the organisers call ‘ethical stores.’
Saturday 31 August
The ‘Let the children back to school, let the children back to home’ rally organised by Housing Authority Retired Colleagues and Professionals Association is scheduled on 1500 at Hoi Bun Road, Kwun Tong district.
The ‘Civil Human Rights Front March’ scheduled at 1500 has been cancelled. Protesters planned to march from Chater Garden, Central to Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Western District. Though cancelled, it is expected that some people will rally and march along the route.
Sunday 1 September
The ‘Stuck with You at Airport’ is scheduled from 1300 to 2300. Protesters plan to occupy all public transport between Hong Kong city and Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) and simultaneously drive private cars to HKG in bid to overwhelm the road system.
A rally is scheduled at British Consulate-General, 1 Supreme Court Road, Admiralty from 1400 to 1600. Demonstrators plan to call for the UK government to declare the invalidity of Sino-British Joint Declaration and to give complete civil rights to BN (O) and CUHK holders.
The ‘Tin Shui Wai Family Fun Tour’ is scheduled from 1430 to 1630. Participants will march from Tin Sau Road Park, Yuen Long, New Territories to Tin Shui Wai MTR Station.
The ‘Bye Buy Day HK’ is expected to continue.
Monday 2 September
The ‘MTR Super Cooperation Movement’ is scheduled at Lai King, Kwai Tsing District, Kowloon Tong, Kowloon, and North Point, Eastern District from 0730 to 1300. It plans to continue on Wednesday 4 September and Thursday 5 September.
The ‘Tertiary Education Student Strike’ will start from Monday 2 September and plans to last for two weeks. A rally is scheduled at The University Mall of the Chinese University of Hong Kong but timings remain unconfirmed.
The ‘Cross-Sectoral General Strike’ is scheduled at Southorn Playground, Kowloon Park. Letters of No Objection Pending.
The ‘Anti-extradition Bill and Class Boycott’ assembly is planned at Edinburgh Place, Central on 1030. It has been approved by the police.
The ‘Secondary School Student Strike’ plans to start from 2 September and continue once every week. Students plan to gather by districts and by schools. Details of the campaign has not been confirmed.
The ‘Airport Pickup’ rally is scheduled at 1300 at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG).
Tuesday 3 September
The ‘Cross-Sectoral General Strike’ will continue at Tamar Park, Admiralty. Letter of No Objection Pending.
The ‘Listen to Our Thoughts-Secondary School Students Concert’ is planned at Edinburgh Place, Central from 1500 to 2000.
PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 23 - 29 AUGUST
HONG KONG PROTESTS
Friday 23 August
An estimated 5,000 accountants joined a silent march from Chater Garden, Central to Central Government Complex, Admiralty.
An estimated 135,000 people participated in ‘The Hong Kong Way’ campaign. Participants assembled at 1900 on pavements above the key Tsuen Wan, Kwun Tong and Island MTR lines. They participants joined hands to form a human chain 50km long, stretching across both sides of Hong Kong harbour and over the prominent Lion Rock feature in Kowloon. The event was based on the so-called ‘Baltic Way’ protest used to oppose the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1989. No security incidents were reported.
Saturday 24 August
An illegal demonstration was held in Kowloon’s Kwun Tong district. It started as a peaceful march to oppose the government’s installation of so-called ‘smart’ lamp-posts, which protesters view as a surveillance tool. Thousands of people marched from Tsun Yip Street Playground to the Zero Carbon Building in Kowloon Bay.
Around 1600 the march became chaotic as an estimated 2,000 protesters built barricades from bamboo poles and plastic traffic barriers outside the Ngau Tau Kok police station in East Kowloon. Soon afterwards riot police charged the protesters, who responded with IIEDs and metals poles.
A group of protesters retreated to a location near a residential complex by Ting Fu Street in Nagu Tau Kok, East Kowloon while others moved to Telford Plaza, Kowloon Bay. They threw incendiary explosive devices (IIED), bricks, and steel balls at the police who countered with tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper balls and so-called ‘sponge’ rounds.
Police cleared the Kwun Tong district around 2000, when some protesters moved to the Wong Tai Sin district in New Kowloon and occupied main roads. They surrounded Wong Tai Sin Disciplined Services Quarters, where police fired more tear gas rounds.
Around 2100 the protesters moved to Sham Shui Po, Kowloon where the directed laser pointers at the police; anti-riot personnel confronted the protesters at around 2300 and drove them off.
On the same day a protest against Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) alleged biased reporting occurred outside RTHK headquarters in Kowloon Tong. Politihk Social Strategic, rally organiser, claimed 10,000 people attended to rally while police estimated the number as 1,200.
Sunday 25 August
During the afternoon thousands of protesters marched from Kwai Chung Sports Ground to Tsuen Wan Park. Kwai Fong station, Tsuen Wan station and Tsuen Wan West station were temporarily closed.
At around 1700 protesters occupied a section of Yeung Uk Road, Tsuen Wan and set up barricades of plastic traffic barriers and bamboo poles. They threw IIEDs and bricks at the police and the police responded with several rounds of tear gas and, for the first time, deployed two water cannons.
At around 1900 a group of protesters gathered at Yi Pei Square, Tsuen Wan, where they attacked and damaged restaurants and a mah-jong school they linked to organised criminal groups (‘triads’) who had attacked demonstrators earlier in the month in Hong Kong island’s North Point district. Another group of protesters attacked police officers near the intersection of Chuen Lung Street and Sha Tsui Road with metal rods and bamboo poles. A police discharged his firearm into the air as warning, the first occasion such a weapon had been used since the unrest began in early June; no injuries were reported.
Around 2100 a group of protesters gathered at Tsim Sha Shui and directed laser beams into the Tsim Sha Shui police station, blocked Nathan Road with barricades, cut traffic light cables and set fire to vegetation outside the local police station.
Around 2200 protesters blocked off the northern Kowloon-side end of the harbour tunnel, smashing toll booths, lights and security cameras. At Sham Shui Po, protesters blocked the road from Cheng Sha Wan Road to Yen Chow Street.
A march organised by the Police Relatives Connection group moved from Edinburgh Place to the Chief Executive's Office and the police headquarters in Wan Chai in order to show support for the police. Most police unions denounced the march, claiming it was organised by anti-government groups.
Monday 26 August
Around 1430, hundreds of people rallied around Chater Garden, Central and marched towards Consulate General of the United States in Hong Kong and Macau at 26 Garden Road, Central. The pro-government marchers condemned US interference in Hong Kong’s affairs.
Tuesday 27 August
A group of Democratic Party district workers protested outside MTR headquarters in Kowloon Bay over the closure of several train stations near demonstrations the previous weekend. They also alleged the MTR used for moving riot police.
In the evening, about a hundred protesters gathered outside Sham Shui Po police station. They used rubbish bins and traffic cones in Yen Chow Street to block traffic. Riot police later moved in and the crowd dispersed.
Wednesday 28 August
Around 50 people from Real Hongkongers' View, a pro-Beijing group, assembled outside the Hong Kong government buildings in Admiralty. They appealed for the government to introduce a law banning face masks at protests.
Around 1600 an estimated 2,000 people staged a rally at Edinburgh Place, Central denouncing the dismissal of a number of aviation sector workers for their support for the anti-government protests. The rally was organised by the Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU).
That evening several thousand protesters attended a rally in Chater Garden, Central to protest against alleged police sexual violence towards anti-government demonstrators.
No major rallies related to Hong Kong were reported in other countries.
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