Hong Kong’s reckoning: In a swift and forceful crackdown, protesters face Beijing’s stiff resolve

Posted by

The methods were familiar but the speed and determination of police is what shocked protesters in Hong Kong the most.

Key points:

  • Heavily armed riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets while students flung water bottles and umbrellas during protests
  • Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is under tremendous pressure from Beijing not to buckle on extradition changes
  • Protesters expressed frustration that peaceful protest was increasingly falling on deaf ears

Street by street, block by block, heavily armed riot police fired tear gas, used capsicum spray, fired rubber bullets and used batons to push demonstrators back. 

Less than 24 hours after protesters — led by student and Christian groups — surrounded Hong Kong’s legislative building, police were making it clear they would not tolerate another Occupy-style protest.

And so late into the evening, the police were still pushing. Not to clear the students from the legislative council building, but from streets several blocks away.

Riot police fire tear gas

As of 10:00pm on Wednesday, 72 people had been hospitalised, including two classed as serious.

Protesters like 24-year-old Becky Ho were rattled by police methods. 

“I’m heartbroken by what the police did today,” she said.

Others, like 26-year-old Hale So, vowed to stay.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.VIDEO 1:22

Protesters and police clash in Hong Kong protestsABC NEWS

“We love our city, we have to protect it, so maybe if I don’t come back tomorrow, I’ll come back on the weekend,” he said. 

“We have to try everything possible.”

Hong Kong’s Government said police acted to thwart a riot, blaming protesters for storming the legislative council building.

Certainly some protesters spent much of Wednesday building barricades in preparation for clashes with police.

Protesters occupy two main highways near the government headquarters in Hong Kong.

One protester was seen collecting bricks, though it was mainly water bottles and umbrellas they ended up flinging at the riot squad.

But many protesters believed a confrontation with police was needed.

Police officers use water cannon on a lone protester near the government headquarters in Hong Kong.

They expressed a frustration that peaceful protest was increasingly falling on deaf ears in the former British colony.

They lamented how hundreds of thousands, perhaps even a million, protesters on Sunday could stop a city to raise concerns about the extradition plan only to see Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam dismiss their worries and vow to pass the changes even more quickly.

A group of young people, some wearing backpacks and face masks, sit in a circle and look at their smartphones.

And so many demonstrators openly acknowledged the futility of stopping the amendment.

‘Everyone is feeling more despair’

'Everyone is feeling more despair'

A look back at Hong Kong’s handover to China 21 years later.

Beijing firmly backs the plan, which Ms Lam said was about ensuring Hong Kong did not become a haven for fugitives.

As the recent 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown showed, Chinese leaders feel tough decisive measures are needed for good governance.

Ms Lam is under tremendous pressure from Beijing not to buckle to protester demands. 

In a tearful interview, she said she would never “sell out” Hong Kong and violence would not be tolerated.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.VIDEO 0:50

Hong Kong Chief Executive says she would never “sell out” the cityABC NEWS

She is trying to strike a conciliatory tone but it is clear she wants the changes passed and has the backing of China’s Government to get it done.

And 22 years since Britain handed Hong Kong back to Chinese rule, it appears the protesters’ youthful optimism has given way to a clear-eyed understanding of what they are up against. 

Despite that, they say they will be back out on the streets.

Advertisements