We have witnessed something quite extraordinary in these past few weeks. Since the change-over, we had 2003 protest which was said to have attracted over half a million and brought down Mr Tung. Since then, the next important event was Occupy Central which was not really Occupying Central and it lasted 79 days and ended with defeats and despair for most attendees. It was large scale and widespread. Then we had the Mong Kok riots where one of the most promising young leaders in Hong Kong Edward Leung was sent to jail for six years. Now we have something quite different. All these events are linked in the mentality of the protestors and in the history of Hong Kong protest.
(Note- I try to use more neutral language here in order to avoid more controversies than it already is. At the moment, there is an argument on whether or not what happened on 12th June was a riot or a mere protest. Or put it more bluntly, could you have a peaceful protest when others were rioting if they were rioting?)
9th June 2019
It has been a momentous two weeks since 9th June 2019. On 9th June 2019, it was said that one million people came out to the streets of Hong Kong against the Fugitives Amendment Bill.
The procession finished around eleven pm at night, but a large number of youngsters remained in Admiralty areas, as if waiting for something to happen. Some remained in the Legco designated protest areas and skirmishes occurred. A few people were arrested. Tear gas was fired and the dispersed crowd went to block the roads at Lung Wo Road and when these were also dispersed they scattered into central areas and some went to block Gloucester Road. Some of these protestors were later cornered outside the old Wan Chai police station and the police stated over three hundreds people were stopped and had their ID cards checked. They were later released without any charges.
The astonishing thing is that most of these people who blocked Lung Wo Road and then Gloucester Road were secondary school students. They were very very young.
That night the government said that they heard the peoples voice but the Fugitives Amendment Bill will be tabled on Wednesday 12th June 2019. The Commissioner of Police went to hospital to visit the few police officers injured in the skirmishes at Legco and condemned the violence there. He condemned the violence that occurred.
12th June 2019
The next important event was naturally that of 12th June 2019.
In the morning, a large number of people occupied Harcourt Road. They also tried to surround the Legco building to prevent people coming and going into the Legco building. All along it was peaceful gathering and police did not do anything to disperse the crowd. No news from Legco as to the commencement of any meetings on the Bill and the atmosphere was very tense. Then something happened around three pm in the afternoon. Now it is in much contention as to who started the commotion.
I think the evidence is that protestors started to charge at the police small cells just outside the Legco buildings. Things including plastic bottles, bricks, umbrellas, sticks were thrown at the police riot columns. The police retreated and then regrouped. Then rounds of tear gas began. The protesters retreated. Plastic bullets were also fired and there were new rounds of bean bag fired.
At this juncture, it is also fair to say that the police were firing at the protestors, especially those around Legco areas, including Citic building, Harcourt Road, Arsenal Street, certain parts of Central near City Hall etc.
The complaints from the media, the protesters, the pan-democratic Legco members are that indiscriminate rounds of tear gas and plastic bullets were fired at peaceful protestors. Further, the police targeted the press, the youngsters without weapons for attacks, humiliations and random discriminate beatings. Lots of videos now in YouTube show such incidents. Arguments are now raging as to whether you can have riots at only a certain limited areas and peaceful gatherings as to other areas. That is another matter warrants more detailed examinations.
A lot of people were injured as a result of the 12th June incident.
What was quite disturbing and unprecedented (as far as I know) the police officers went into the hospital to arrest the injured protestors. There was a Liberal Studies teacher at DBS college who got hit on the eye with a plastic bullet. He went to hospital for his treatment and he was arrested there and put into detention ward. Others were arrested likewise.
Nothing happened in Legco after 12th June incident. If the purpose was to stop the meetings at Legco, it was very successful.
In fact, nothing happened for two to three days and people were wondering what was going on. Rumours on Friday 14th June were that Carrie Lam our CE was under a lot of pressure from her supporters that the Bill had to be withdrawn to prevent people dying in the street and more bloodshed. Nobody wanted a June 4th Tiananmen Square in Hong Kong. Further, it was said that the pro-establishment parties were furious that Carrie Lam had let them down in stirring this matter up when it was not totally necessary and they are now worried about their votes.
On 13th June, a number of police officers went to HKU Simon KY Lee Hall to arrest to HKU students.
15th June 2019
As all rumours in Hong Kong turn out to be true, Carrie Lam met the press on 15th June to declare that her government was to suspend any further tabling of the Bill until the public was better consulted. She also regretted that her government had not done a better job in explaining to the public of the Bill. In short, what she was saying was we would do it again but this time we would explain it better to the public. No apologies from Carrie Lam was the first complaint. She was still forceful in taking the press to task about her actions. Her image as the Hong Kong Iron Lady was still intact.
On the night of 15th June, around nine pm, a man who was standing on the construction area outside Marriott Hotel for a few hours in the afternoon, fell to his death. This is a significant event as he had left his dying words as demands that the government should meet. His demands were Carrie Lam to step down, the release of all prisoners in custody without charge, the event of 12th June to be declared not a riot and the complete withdrawal of the Bill not suspending it.
16th June 2019
Then came the Fathers’ Day procession. From all protesters and especially those who have been walking these processions throughout the years, it was a protest like no other protest before. Over two million Hong Kong people came out. A lot of them did not even start from Victoria Park, which was the traditional starting point. Hennessy Road, Lockhart Road and even Johnston Road were fully occupied. Never before was the latter two roads need to be used. No or minimum police force was seen at all throughout the procession and although the protest walk was slow, it was peaceful.
A lot of people laid wreaths and flowers on the spot where that man who fell. A large number of people who could not lay wreaths on that spot had to lay their flowers on the other side of road. They vowed to continue the man’s fight against the government.
The crowd occupied Harcourt Road, the areas surrounding Legco, as well as parts of Gloucester Road near Legco. That continued until Monday morning. At some time in the morning the roads were clear due to the protesters left the roads. However, it is noteworthy that the police didn’t take any action on this day.
After this momentous day in the protest history of Hong Kong, demands were made for Carrie Lam to meet. There were five of them. A complete withdrawal of the Bill, resignation of Carrie Lam, declaration that 16th June was not a riot, not to charge any arrested persons and to investigate and charge the police officers who use excessive force.
17th June 2019
In the early parts of 17th June, crowds gathered outside the CE office next to Legco to demand her appearance and answer those demands. The crowd later dispersed themselves without any police action.
The Commissioner met the press that night and said that only five people were arrested on possible riot charge and he reassured the general public that if they did not throw bricks or other things at police officers, they would not be charged.
18th June 2019
Rumours were spread that Carrie Lam would see the press and all said that she would apologize to the Hong Kong public for the recent events and withdraw the Bill. However, when Carrie Lam did appear to see the press, she only expressed her regrets to the public and did not answer any of the five demands of the protestors.
People were very disappointed and now the next step is the ultimatum issued by these protestors that the government should meet the five demands as stated above, by 21st June which is the coming Thursday. Otherwise, there will be escalation.
As to what kind of escalation, I tremble to imagine.