Thousands of people block the Hong Kong airport; police officers use teargas against the protesters; China calls the protests terrorism. What is happening in Hong Kong? Why did all this begin? What do these people demand?
On Monday, August 12, the airport in Hong Kong was forced to cancel more than 200 of their flights due to the current protest actions. Thousands of people flooded the area to show their discontent. This wave of resentment started back in March after the Parliament’s attempt to introduce a bill concerning extradition.
The Hong Kong airport strike
The protests at the airport started several days before the full blockade. Still, as neither of the sides of the conflict seemed to give signs of backing down, citizens decided to take more serious steps. Thus, due to the number of people blocking normal airport activities, check-in services have been suspended for many hours.
Tuesday morning came with a short renewal of the operation, but later the work of check-ins was suspended again. What is more, it was recommended to the public to avoid coming to the airport. On Tuesday afternoon, thousands of people chanted, sang and waved their placards inside the airport. The management of the airport promised to resume departures and arrivals on Tuesday evening.
Closer to Tuesday evening, police clashed with the people inside the airport and made use of their pepper spray and batons. The incident happened after a mob of the sit-in participants captured a man and did not let paramedics give him help until he lost consciousness.
The airport blockade followed a chain of disturbing statements made by officials and authorities. Since the Chinese side starts to speak about ‘terrorism’ emerging within the city; since Chinese state mass media show armoured troop carriers getting closer to the border, it is time for action. Local law enforcement authorities also demonstrated a range of water cannons that can supposedly be used to control the crowds in the streets.
How the protests began in Hong Kong
In accordance with the misfortunate bill, the citizens of the former British colony that are under suspicion of crimes should be sent to mainland China. The worst thing about all this is the fact that the legislation can be used against both criminals (suspects and proved ones) and those who are dissatisfied with the cultural and political system of the People’s Republic of China.
This is how the actions began. What started as mere dissatisfaction of the population in March has not died out but only grew in strength within the four months that have passed. Now, people protest against the whole system and Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngo, the current Chief Executive.
As the organisers of meetings claimed, the very first one gathered 12 thousand people. The second one was more crowded: about 130 thousand people visited it. Police reports reduce the numbers by several times.
Still, in spite of the enormous audience the events managed to gather, the acutest phase was reached only in June. Thus, on Sunday, June 9, a massive convoy of protesters marched through the centre of the city. It was 3 kilometres long, and the march lasted for 7 hours.
The evening of that day gave a start to the very first fights between police officers and citizens. The latter ones were dispersed with the help of teargas and rubber bullets. Nineteen persons were arrested. People went to the streets again on June 12, inspired by the unexpected cruelty of the law enforcement officers. The latter, again, used teargas, pepper solution, batons and rubber bullets. Official representatives of the local police attempted to justify such actions labelling the situation in the city as a riot.
The Hong Kong escalation
On June 15, Carrie Lam informed the population on the suspension of the bill consideration for an indefinite period of time. This used to be the primary demand of the protesters. Still, after the controversial actions of the police, they brought forth new requirements.
Among them, there is indefinite removal of the bill from the agenda. This is the only really worthy step after which the matter will never be revived again. In addition, the protesters demand the dismissal of Carrie Lam, the investigation of the actions of police officers, and the release of all those who have been arrested within the months of the protests. Finally, people want the government to stop labelling their actions as a ‘riot’.
Still, conflicts between people and police officers keep on happening. During the months of the protests, there have been several very acute events. On July 1 (the 22nd anniversary of the reestablishment of Chinese control in Hong Kong) a group of protesters entered the building of Legco (the Legislative Council) and replaced the Chinese flag with another one that had a Hong Kong emblem on it. The group was thrown away from the building with the help of teargas.
On July 22, a group of young people dressed in all white attacked the protesters that were returning from another march. The attack was cruel: 45 protesters were injured and 7 needed hospitalisation after being beaten with metal clubs. The police did not seem to hurry to the place of the fight on that day. Later, a video was found, in which a pro-Chinese official shakes hands with one of the attackers.
On July 27, many people went to the streets, created barricades and threw bottles and rocks at the police. In return, the police attacked them with teargas. On July 31, more than 40 participants of the meeting were accused of rioting. Such a charge foresees ten years in prison. As reported, there are several teenage students among the arrested.
On August 5 and 6, the city was seized by a massive strike. The participants demanded that the government of China respected the agreement regarding the semi-autonomous status of the region. Within these two days, 148 persons were arrested, 15 police departments were sieged, more than 250 flights were cancelled in the airport, and 21 cases of arson were registered.
The video or armoured troop carriers published by the Chinese side recently resembles disturbingly the tanks that were used to suppress activities on the Tiananmen square many years ago. This fact makes many people think that Chinese authorities may attract military forces.
Still, the protesters also use modern technologies and strategies to avoid being caught. For instance, laser rays directed at police cameras make it impossible to identify faces. In August, new tactics have appeared. They are based on the unpredictability of actions and leave the police no chances of catching the participants of meetings and marches. They escape with the help of subways and emerge in another district of the city.
The results of the ongoing Hong Kong protests
As for today, the government has agreed to complete only one of the demands: to remove the bill from the agenda for an indefinite period of time.
It is clear now that the situation is critical. The protesters claim that they fight for the freedom of their homes, for the freedom of Hong Kong. Local authorities claim that the violent protests bring the region to the brink of no return; Carrie Lam assumes that it will take ‘a long time for Hong Kong to recover’ after all this. At the same time, the Chinese side needs to overcome one of the biggest challenges it is facing over many decades.