The Washington Post - 13.08.2019

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professor at the School of Ad-
vanced Studies in Social Sciences
in Paris.
“The aim is to turn public
opinion against the protests by
drastically raising the cost of
The new police tactics came
after former deputy police com-
missioner Alan Lau was called
out of retirement last week to
help the embattled force.
Lai credited the new ap-
proach, in part, to Lau’s return.
“He is coming back with a mis-
sion,” the former superintendent
Hospital officials said that 45
people were injured in weekend
protests and that 25 remained
hospitalized. Two were in serious
One police officer who has
worked on the front lines over
the past month said officers’ new
ploy of disguising themselves as
protesters — wearing masks, yel-
low hard hats and black civilian
clothes — was a deliberate tactic
from the police Special Duties
Unit, nicknamed the “Flying Ti-
gers,” to sow mistrust among
This is a tactic they will contin-
ue to use, the officer said, speak-
ing on the condition of anonym-
ity because he was not author-
ized to talk to reporters. Police on
Monday also displayed trucks
mounted with water cannons
that they could deploy to dis-
perse crowds.
One 22-year-old protester who
has been on the front line for
weeks admitted that the more
aggressive moves by police had
caught some demonstrators off
guard and yielded results.
“It was quite effective for
them; they are changing their
strategy,” he said. “We know now
the police have no limits. They
will not follow the rules and the
The government, in what has
become a weekly ritual, con-
demned protesters Monday and
said a police officer was injured
after being hit with a firebomb
tossed by a demonstrator.

Anna Fifield, Shibani Mahtani and
Tiffany Liang contributed to this

eos and photos had to be verified
and that they could not confirm
“the reasoning behind this lady’s
But the incident provided the
latest rallying point for protest-
“The police have had enough,
to be honest. They feel like they
have been bullied for two months
now, and they knew themselves
more than capable to use real
force and tactics to control the
situation,” said Clement Lai, a
former police superintendent
who now runs his own security
“If the order was given that
they need to escalate their action
and their force, these guys are
more than happy to do that.”

The police actions appear to be
part of broader efforts by the
Hong Kong government, with the
support of officials in Beijing, to
end the political crisis, through
an approach that includes ramp-
ing up pressure on businesses,
leveling heavy charges against
arrested protesters and using
state-controlled media to pump
out increasingly shrill, conspira-
torial claims about who is orga-
nizing the demonstrations.
“After a period of several
weeks of uncertainty as to who
was coordinating the govern-
ment response, last week saw the
rollout of Beijing’s multipronged,
comprehensive strategy to deal
with the protests,” said Sebastian
Veg, a historian of China and a

pating in dealing with rebellions,
riots, serious violent and illegal
incidents, terrorist attacks and
other social security incidents,”
the newspaper elaborated in an
accompanying story.
And China’s state broadcaster,
CCTV, issued a commentary
Monday night in which it
warned: “No country can accept
terrorist acts in its own country
... Hong Kong has reached an
important juncture. ‘End vio-
lence and restore order’ is the
most important, urgent and over-
riding task of Hong Kong at
Some of the protesters who
had been occupying the airport’s
arrivals hall swarmed into the
departures area Monday,
prompting authorities to cancel
all flights and advise travelers to
leave one of the world’s busiest
hubs. Airport operations re-
sumed Tuesday morning, though
there were some delays and can-
cellations stemming from the
previous night’s disruption.
Monday’s protest came in re-
sponse to a sharp increase in the
level of force employed by Hong
Kong’s embattled police. Hours
before the airport shutdown, two
police officers elsewhere in the
city pinned a black-clad demon-
strator to the concrete, one offi-
cer’s knee pressing the young
man’s face into a pool of his own
“I’ve already been arrested,”
the man yelled as he cried for
help. “Don’t do this, I’m begging
The scene, captured Sunday
night by a cameraman from the
Hong Kong Free Press, was jar-
ring even in a city now accus-
tomed to weekends awash with
tear gas. It unleashed a fresh
wave of anger toward Hong
Kong’s police force and the gov-
ernment more broadly, spurring
thousands of demonstrators to
respond by occupying the air-
At the airport Monday, offi-
cials had halted all departures by
late afternoon, affecting tens of
thousands of passengers.
Hong Kong’s airport authority
said all flights were suspended
Monday at about 3:30 p.m. local
time (3:30 a.m. Eastern time).
After sitting in the arrivals hall
for much of the day, many pro-
testers began leaving the airport
in the evening amid rumors on
social media and messaging apps
that police were preparing for a
large clearance operation.
On Sunday night, Hong Kong
police intensified their crack-
down with new and more aggres-
sive tactics after more than two
months of sustained protests and
more than 600 arrests.
Officers disguised themselves
as protesters to arrest suspects,
launched tear gas inside a sub-
way station and fired on protest-
ers at close range with less-than-
lethal ammunition. One young
woman was shot in the face with
what appeared to be a bean bag
round, severely injuring her eye.
Police said Monday that the vid-



Protesters effectively shut
down Hong Kong’s airport on
Monday with a sit-in that forced
officials to take the extraordinary
step of canceling all flights.
The fresh action has catapulted
Hong Kong’s months-long protest
movement into new territory
amid growing concern that China
will take a more active — and
potentially violent — stand to
quell the unrest. Here are some
key questions, answered.

Why did the protests start?

Protests kicked off in June over
concerns that Hong Kong was set
to pass a bill that would allow
individuals to be extradited to Chi-
na. Since the British handover in
1997, Hong Kong and China have
been party to a “one country, two
systems” agreement that offers
residents of Hong Kong a greater
degree of independence than they
would have in the mainland.
Opponents of the bill said it
jeopardized Hong Kong’s semiau-
tonomy and, if passed, would en-
danger Hong Kong-based critics
of Beijing, who could find them-
selves facing the Chinese legal sys-
tem, where human rights groups
have documented arbitrary deten-
tion and torture.
Hong Kong Chief Executive
Carrie Lam insisted the bill would
not apply to issues of free speech.
Protesters were unconvinced.
The movement now has five key
demands for Hong Kong’s govern-
ment: to withdraw the extradition
bill; to officially retract descrip-
tions of the protests as a “riot”; to
drop charges against protesters;
to launch an investigation into

police force during the protests;
and to enact “universal suffrage,”
which would allow Hong Kong
voters to directly pick their lead-
ers rather than the current proc-
ess, which includes Beijing’s in-

How much have the protests
In early June, hundreds of thou-
sands of people took to the streets.
Police responded with force, using
tear gas and batons to disperse the
crowds, which inspired more pro-
tests. In mid-June, 2 million peo-
ple are believed to have joined
what was probably the largest pro-
test in Hong Kong’s history.
In late July, more than 1,
protesters gathered in the airport,
warning travelers they were not
safe in Hong Kong. Early this
month, thousands of people took
to the streets for yet another rally
— the first in which civil servants
joined as an organized bloc, shout-
ing, “Hong Kongers, fight on! Civil
servants, fight on!”
On Aug. 5, a strike shut down
much of the city, with major dis-
ruptions to public transit and air-
line operations.

How did Hong Kong’s
government respond?
In July, Lam partly backed
down from the extradition bill,
saying it “is dead.” That terminolo-
gy wasn’t enough for protesters
who accused her of using “word-
play” to trick them into thinking
the bill was formally withdrawn.
In June, demonstrators called
for Lam to step down. But she has
stood her ground with backing
from Beijing.
Lam went weeks without ap-
pearing in public, but last week,

she reemerged, telling reporters
that Hong Kong had to “set aside
differences and bring back order
and say no to chaos and violence.”
She also said that protesters
were trying to “topple Hong
Kong” and that she had met with
dozens of business leaders who
expressed concerns that the pro-
tests could spark major economic
“This downturn is coming very
quickly,” she told the media last
Friday. “Some people have de-
scribed it as coming like a tsu-

How has China responded?
China has stood firmly behind
Lam. And in late July, a military
spokesman said that, if Hong
Kong officials requested it, China
would mobilize People’s Libera-
tion Army troops to restore order
to the city. On Monday, that pros-
pect began to appear more likely.
The nationalist Global Times re-
ported that the People’s Armed
Police, a Chinese paramilitary
unit, is assembling armored per-
sonnel carriers near Shenzhen, a
city bordering Hong Kong.
Last month, dozens of men
carrying Chinese flags beat anti-
government protesters in Hong
Kong, leaving at least 45 people
hospitalized. Experts cautioned
there was no evidence Chinese
officials ordered the attack.
On Monday, Yang Guang, the
head of the Chinese Cabinet’s
Hong Kong and Macao Affairs of-
fice, described the protests as “ter-
rorism” for the first time.
“We should relentlessly crack
down on such violent criminal
acts without mercy,” he said.

Hong Kong protests: 4 key questions

Beijing warns of crackdown on protest

Protesters lie down at Hong Kong’s international airport. Many left
Monday evening, and some flights resumed Tuesday morning.

“We should relentlessly

crack down on such

violent criminal acts

without mercy, and we

firmly support Hong

Kong police and judicial

authorities in bringing

the criminals to justice.”
Yang Guang,
spokesman for the Hong Kong and
Macao Affairs Office in Beijing
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