SPECIAL ALERT: HONG KONG PROTEST MONITOR 6 September 2019

Hong kong protest monitor

THE SITUATION NOW

Hong Kong experienced further violent clashes between police and protesters last week in which protesters resorted to increasingly extreme tactics, including the expanded use of petrol bombs. Over the weekend 31 August -1 September the police arrested 159 people and, for the second time, fired live warning shots into the air.

 

Protesters attacked by tear gas were throwing canisters back at police on Harcourt Road outside the central government complex on 31 August 2019

A 31 August march organised by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) called to mark the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s rejection of full universal suffrage for Hong Kong was banned by the police and, citing an inability to protect participants from police violence, the CHRF subsequently cancelled the rally. However, amid widespread anger at a series of arrests of protest leaders, tens of thousands of people marched through Hong Kong Island’s Wan Chai, Admiralty and Central districts in defiance of the ban. Some protesters besieged the local government’s main administrative building, throwing petrol bombs and bricks into the complex, while setting ablaze makeshift barricades across nearby Hennessey Road. Other clashes occurred in Kowloon’s Kwun Tong, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Shui districts. Police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and water cannons. For the first time police used coloured dye in the water cannon in bid to subsequently identify protesters, with apparently limited effect.



Protesters set fire on barricades near the central government complex on 31 August 2019

Later that night members of the police’s elite Special Tactical Squad stormed Prince Edward mass transit rail (MTR) station, where they were filmed using pepper spray and beating protesters and it appeared ordinary passengers. In two separate incidents that night individual police officers fired live rounds into the air after protesters attempted to snatch their firearms.

 On Sunday 1 September protesters blocked road and rail routes serving Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), causing severe disruption to access and resulting in a small number of flight cancellations. Airport Express trains were suspended as protesters threw bricks and metal rods onto tracks and the main access road was blocked, forcing passengers and air crews to walk to the airport. Some protesters attempted to gain access to the airport but were prevented from doing so by the police. Protesters subsequently dispersed as riot police arrived, causing considerable damage to nearby Tung Chung station and Tsing Yi MTR station when it became clear mass transit rail services had been suspended as a measure seemingly intended to prevent their movement around the territory.



Protesters blocked the main access road to the Hong Kong International Airport on 1 September 2019

On Monday 2 September thousands of university and secondary school students throughout Hong Kong, due to return to their respective institutions after the summer break, boycotted classes. This action coincided with the start of a far less well observed two-day ‘general strike’ that had been intended to mirror the city-wide general strike held on 5 August. Violent clashes between police and protesters, including the use petrol bombs and tear gas, occurred on the evenings of 2-3 September.

Also on 2 September an audio recording of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam addressing local business leaders in which she was heard apparently wishing she was able to resign was made public. The recording served to confirm for many the widely held assumption that Lam has extremely limited autonomy and the government response to the protests is being directed largely by Beijing.

On Wednesday 4 September Lam announced the formal withdrawal of the previously suspended extradition bill. The withdrawal of the bill is a significant concession from the Hong Kong authorities and one undoubtedly sanctioned by Beijing. However, the government refused to meet the remaining four of the protesters’ five demands. These relate to the creation of an independent commission to investigate police conduct during the protests, amnesty for those arrested during protests, an end to characterising the protests as riots and the reform Hong Kong’s political structure. Few observers believe either the local or central governments can or will accede to these demands, while protest leaders swiftly declared Lam’s announcement as ‘too little, too late.’

A2 Global Risk assesses the concession is likely an attempt to isolate radical elements of the protest movement from broader Hong Kong society, which the government calculates remains primarily concerned with the removal of the extradition bill. It is notable, however, that the CHRF - which is more closely associated with moderate rather than radical wings of the protest movement - rejected the government’s proposals as they fail to provide for a fully independent enquiry into alleged police brutality. Meanwhile, more radical elements focussed on the demand for full democratisation.

On Thursday 5 September, following widespread rejection of her announcement, Lam warned what she termed ‘stern law enforcement’ would be used against any further violent protests. Lam gave no indication how this would differ from present police tactics, which have included the widespread use of tear gas, rubber bullets, baton charges and more recently water cannon. The government had earlier indicated that, if necessary, it was prepared to enact emergency laws that would give the executive wide ranging powers that would in effect suspend the normal function of the territory’s laws. 

 

THE WEEK AHEAD

While the formal withdrawal of the extradition bill may mollify some moderate sections of Hong Kong society, A2 Global Risk does not expect any significant reduction in violent protests in the week ahead.

On Saturday 7 September protesters plan to demonstrate at Government House, the Chief Executive’s residence, in Central. While times and details remain unconfirmed, A2 Global Risk warns if this demonstration goes ahead there is a significant risk of violence in the vicinity of Government House and along Cotton Tree Drive leading to the Central Government Complex on Connaught Road throughout Saturday afternoon and evening.

Demonstrations are also planned at HKG and on transport routes linking the airport to the rest of the territory between 1300 and 0000 on 7 September. This is likely to cause severe disruption and has the potential for violence should protesters attempt to gain access to the airport. Travellers are advised that travel to and from the airport after 1230 may be both seriously disrupted and potentially hazardous. Where possible incoming passengers should seek to arrange private transport from the airport, while departing passengers should ensure they arrive at HKG before 1230 regardless of their scheduled flight time. Arriving passengers should be aware that it may not be possible to be met inside the arrival hall by transfer drivers due to increased security at the airport.

Disruption to the MTR network, including station and line closures, is possible throughout the weekend, with incidents of vandalism and violence likely on Friday and Saturday evenings. Confrontations between police and protesters in confined spaces such as MTR stations present particular threats to all passengers. Hong Kong residents and visitors are, where possible, advised to avoid using the MTR after 1900 on weekends. Passengers who find themselves on an MTR train with large numbers of protesters should immediately move as far away as possible and alight at the next available stop. In the event of any police action within an MTR station passengers should seek to move as far away as possible from any confrontation and be aware such actions as filming events may be viewed as provocative by individual police officers and increase the risk of assault or arrest.

Large numbers of armed anti-riot police and military formations are deployed both just across the border in China and in garrisons within Hong Kong. While their presence remains both a symbol of China’s intention to ensure stability in Hong Kong and a warning to those who seek to challenge Beijing’s authority, A2 Global Risk continues to assess a largescale paramilitary or military deployment against local protesters to be highly unlikely unless there was a significant deterioration of security far beyond the recent violent unrest. Any such deployment would likely be preceded by an official announcement that emergency regulations were to be implemented.

 

INTERNATIONAL INCIDENTS

Following the detention of several prominent opposition figures on Friday 30 August, US Senator Chuck Schumer commented the arrests were a sign of ‘weakness and fear’ and condemned Beijing for breaking its promises.

On the same day Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said the situation in Hong Kong was extremely worrying and urged the authorities to respect freedoms and people’s rights to demonstrate peacefully.

Beijing issued statements condemning such comments, saying were ‘disrespecting the strict law enforcement by the Hong Kong police’ and ‘confusing right and wrong’ to allow criminals to destroy the rule of law in Hong Kong. The Chinese authorities and state-controlled media now also routinely, and without evidence, attribute the unrest in Hong Kong to unnamed foreign powers.

 

UPCOMING PROTESTS

Friday 6 September

The ‘MTR Super Cooperation Movement’ is scheduled at Lai King, Kwai Tsing District, Kowloon Tong, Kowloon, and North Point, Eastern District from 0700 to 1200.

The ‘Medical Field Assembly’ is scheduled at Hospital Authority, Argyle Street, Kowloon from 1630 to 2000.

The ‘North District Walking with You Music Appreciation and Sharing Rally’ is scheduled at Choi Yue Estate Theatre, Sheung Shui from 1930 to 2230.

Protesters plan to rally at all MTR stations from 1900 to 0000 on Saturday 7 September.

The ‘No White Terror No Chinazi’ rally is scheduled at Chater Garden, Central from 1930 to 2200. It has gained police approval.

The ‘Bye Buy Day HK’ campaign continues 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.’

The ‘Tertiary Education Student Strike’ plans to last till Friday 13 September.

Saturday 7 September

The ‘Anti-ELAB 907 Demonstration around Government House’ is planned at Government House, Central, although timings remain unconfirmed. Letters of No Objection Pending.

Two sit-ins are scheduled at Telford Plaza, Kowloon Bay and Citylink Plaza, Shatin respectively.

The ‘Airport Transportation Stress Test’ is scheduled from 1300 to 0000 on Sunday 8 September. 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.

Sunday 8 September

The ‘Prayer Meeting for Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy’ is scheduled from 1330 to 1830. Demonstrators plan to assemble at Chater Garden, Central. The organiser claims that protesters will not march but are encouraged to walk at their free will to the US Consulate, Central. Letters of objection is pending.

The ‘Bye Buy Day HK’ is expected to continue.

A public forum scheduled at Chater Garden, Central from 1900 to 2100 is cancelled but protests around the area are likely to occur.

Monday 9 September

Secondary school student plans to strike for one day each week from 2 September onwards. They will rally by districts and schools. 


PROTEST CHRONOLOGY 30 AUGUST – 5 SEPTEMBER

Friday 30 August

Dozens of social workers protested outside the Social Welfare Department in Hong Kong island’s Wan Chai district, demanding support and protection for colleagues attending protests.

Saturday 31 August

Protesters occupied the streets in the Wan Chai district during the late afternoon, with some joining a Christian march while others demonstrated in the nearby Causeway Bay district, defying a police ban.

Protesters occupied Harcourt Road in Admiralty district. Some gathered outside the local government’s administrative complex, the local headquarters of China's People's Liberation Army and the Legislative Council. They threw petrol bombs and bricks at the government buildings. Some also set fire to barricades near the Police Headquarters in Hennessy Road. Police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and deployed water cannon, which sprayed protesters with blue dye for possible future identification. 

Many protesters withdrew to Causeway Bay and Tin Hau in Wan Chai district. Other disturbances occurred in Kowloon’s Kwun Tong, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui districts. Undercover police fired live ammunition into the air inside Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, after being threatened. 

Police, commuters and protesters clashed inside Prince Edward MTR station, Mong Kok, Kowloon. Protesters were observed spraying fire extinguisher and throwing objects towards passengers in the carriage. A group of police Special Tactical Squad officers were filmed in the station and on a MTR train attacking protesters and passengers, seemingly at random, with batons and spraying pepper-spray. Police officers were also filmed beating passengers inside Yau Ma Tei MTR station in Kowloon.

A group gathered outside the Mong Kok police station to protest against the police action against passengers inside various MTR stations. Others gathered at the Chai Wan Police Married Quarters. Protesters also caused damage to facilities within Hang Hau MTR station.

Sunday 1 September

Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside HKG, blocking roads and rail tracks with luggage trolleys, bicycles, bricks and metal rods. One group of protesters blocked emergency exits and set off fire extinguishers outside the airport terminals. All transport links to the airport were suspended for hours until police cleared the protesters.

Hundreds of protesters then headed to Tung Chung, New Territories, where they erected barricades and caused damage at Tung Chung and nearby Tsing Yi MTR stations.

Around 500 protesters rallied for a peaceful demonstration outside the British Consulate in Admiralty, calling for British National (Overseas) passport holders the same rights as British citizens.

Monday 2 September

Thousands of students joined the protest outside the Chinese University of Hong Kong while a group of secondary school students gathered at Edinburgh Place, Central.

In the afternoon, thousands gathered at Tamar Park in Admiralty in support of a general strike. The Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU), which called for the strike, claimed an estimated 40,000 people joined the rally.

Later in the evening some protesters aimed laser pointers at the People’s Liberation Army building in Tamar, Admiralty. Police fired pepper spray after protesters refused to leave and blocked Lung Wo Road in Admiralty.

At night, protesters gathered at Prince Edward MTR Station and blocked some lanes of Prince Edward Road West and Nathan Road near Mong Kok Police Station. Riot police fired pepper spray and tear gas at protesters, who responded with petrol bombs.

Tuesday 3 September

Around 80 alumni of the Diocesan Girls’ School rallied outside the school on 1 Jordan Road, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon, in support of students boycotting class.

The ‘general strike’ continued at Tamar Park in Admiralty. Protesters blocked Lung Wo Road. They aimed laser pointers at the People’s Liberation Army barracks and threw petrol bombs and iron rods at the police.

Wednesday 4 September

A crowd built barriers in Sai Yeung Choi Street South, opposite Mong Kok Police station, following Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s announcement that her administration had formally withdrawn an extradition bill permitting suspects being sent to China for trial. Many protesters continued to call for the government to meet their remaining four demands regarding the conduct of the police, an amnesty for those arrested, rescinding the charge of ‘riot’ for those detained and a more general reform of Hong Kong governance.

Riot police were deployed to Po Lam MTR station, New Territories, where a group of protesters damaged ticket gates and ticket machines and sought to prevent access to the trains.

Thursday 5 September 

Around 2100, a group of protesters formed a human chain near Tin Shui Wai station, Yuen Long District.

At night, a crowd gathered at Hang Hua MTR station, Sai Kung District twice, shouting anti-police slogans and pointed lasers outside the station. No serious clashes were reported.

A group of protesters set paper on fire and shone lasers at officers at Mong Kok Police Station. They dispersed around 0100 on Friday 6 September.