Unrest in Hong Kong continues as Beijing ramps up response . . .
Today, Asia Watch will re-visit the political unrest unfolding throughout Hong Kong, which has been ongoing since June. The large-scale demonstrations began in defiance of the Hong Kong government’s intention to pass an extradition treaty with Mainland China, but have come to encompass broader fears of Beijing’s increasing influence in the special administrative region. While the extradition treaty is now “dead” according to Chief Executive Carrie Lam, demonstrations still persist as activists call for stronger legal assurances beyond that statement, greater democracy, increased social equality, and formal inquiries into police brutality.
Recent developments . . .
Since our last look at the situation in Hong Kong, things continue to deteriorate as demonstrations wreak ongoing havoc throughout the special administrative region. While both Canada and the U.S. were urging travellers last week to exercise a high degree of caution when visiting Hong Kong through upgraded travel advisories, protesters began targeting the Hong Kong International Airport. Demonstrations at the airport were peaceful until this past Monday, when violence erupted between activists and riot police. These violent demonstrations effectively shut down operations at the airport on Monday and Tuesday, leading to hundreds of flights being delayed or cancelled before order was restored on Wednesday.
Beijing begins to stir . . .
Following the airport disruption, officials in Beijing condemned the incident as “near-terrorist acts.” Simultaneously, Beijing is amassing its People's Armed Police in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong. Recent satellite images show dozens of paramilitary police vehicles throughout Shenzhen, seemingly lying in wait at the local sports stadium. This has stoked fears of a repeat of the Tiananmen Square incident in Beijing in 1989, in which after several weeks of demonstrations Chinese troops fired on civilians, with estimates of the death toll ranging from several hundred to thousands.
It’s too late to apologize? . . .
As the narrative from international media has shifted from peaceful demonstrations to violent and disruptive occupations, protesters have increasingly been trying to distance themselves from outbreaks of violence. In a show of solidarity with stranded passengers, activists at the Hong Kong airport held up signs apologizing for the disruptions, while others debated a “code of conduct” over social media platforms for future demonstrations. Looking ahead, a rally is being organized for Sunday in Victoria Park after a peaceful rally took place at the Chater Garden on Friday night. While local police ruled out allowing a march on Sunday, ostensibly due to safety concerns, the organizers of Sunday’s rally are appealing the police’s decision. A similar planned march that would have taken place in Kowloon on Saturday has since been cancelled by police, again citing security concerns.