Hong Kong Protests: A Peaceful and Violent Weekend

While standing to form the Hong Kong Way on Aug. 23, Protesters cover their right eye in reference to a woman who received a serious injury to her face, which was allegedly caused by police shooting a rubber bullet at her head. One woman (R) holds a sign urging the U.S. government to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was introduced by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ.) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Credit: Laurel Chor/IPS

By Laurel Chor
HONG KONG, Aug 24 2019 – As protests in Hong Kong continue over the weekend, thousands of people joined hands to form a human chain that stretched across the city on Friday. It was yet another demonstration – this one entirely peaceful – in a series of protests that have rocked the former British colony for the past 12 weeks. 

The “Hong Kong Way” protest was inspired by the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way, a 600-km human chain formed across Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which at the time were a part of the Soviet Union. Two million people stood hand-in-hand that day to protest Soviet rule.

Yesterday on Aug. 23, organisers estimated that 135,000 people participated in the Hong Kong version, which stretched 60 kilometres across both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Hundreds even made their way up the iconic Lion Rock Mountain, lighting up the peak with cell phone lights. 

The human chain marked a shift in tone in the protests, which were often violent. Today, on Aug. 24 protestors reportedly hurled objects and gasoline bombs at police, with police firing tear gas in response.

On Saturday, Aug. 24 protestors reportedly hurled objects and gasoline bombs at police, with police firing tear gas in response.Courtesy: Studio Incendo

The Hong Kong protests were sparked by a proposed extradition bill that would allow suspects to be sent to China and possibly face an unjust trial system, making people fearful that Beijing would exploit the law for political reasons. The demonstrations have been further fuelled by anger towards the police for its excessive use of force and protesters’ key demands now include complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill, as well as genuine universal suffrage. 

Earlier this month, two mainland Chinese men were held and beaten at the Hong Kong airport, where protests had disrupted flights for two days in a row. After the incidents, Beijing strongly condemned the protesters and compared the attacks to “terrorism”. On the other hand, organisations including Amnesty International and the United Nations have repeatedly criticised the Hong Kong Police Force for its violent methods to control the protests.

Mindful of public opinion, protesters took a decidedly more peaceful direction after those incidents. First, they apologised for the airport protests. Then, a peaceful march was organised last weekend, with an estimated 1.7 million attending, echoing two similar marches in June that had attracted one million, then two million a week later – an impressive feat in a city of only 7.4 million residents. 

Organisers of the Hong Kong Way issued a statement highlighting Hong Kong protesters’ solidarity: “We are no longer divided into ‘peaceful’ or ‘frontline’ protesters – we are joined as one in our resolve to fight for our freedom.” 

Protests were scheduled for the weekend and are set to continue for the rest of the month. The Hong Kong government has yet to meet with protesters and has not caved in on any of their demands, leading the city to wonder how its biggest political crisis will ever be resolved. 

The Hong Kong protests were sparked by a proposed extradition bill that would allow suspects to be sent to China and possibly face an unjust trial system, making people fearful that Beijing would exploit the law for political reasons. This dated photo is from a protest rally last month. Courtesy: Studio Incendo/CC By 2.0

Standing in front of the famous Victoria Harbor on Aug. 23, protesters cover their right eye in reference to a woman who received a serious injury to her face, which was allegedly caused by police shooting a rubber bullet at her head, as they hold their cell phone lights in the other hand. Credit: Laurel Chor/IPS

A protester hugs a stranger standing in Sham Shui Po on Aug. 23 as part of the Hong Kong Way, the participants of which included families with children. Credit: Laurel Chor/IPS

Protesters stand in front of the Hong Kong Space Museum as part of the Hong Kong Way, a 60-kilometre human chain on Aug. 23. Credit: Laurel Chor/IPS

Protesters – often not knowing those standing next to them – link up to form the Hong Kong Way in Sham Shui Po on Aug. 23, while chanting slogans encouraging Hong Kong protesters and demanding the “liberation” of the city. Credit: Laurel Chor/IPS

Protesters forming the Hong Kong Way hold up their cell phone lights while standing on a busy road in Sham Shui Po, where double decker buses often passed through, on Aug. 23. Credit: Laurel Chor/IPS