Tensions rise between Hong Kong protestors and police.
Pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong have been going on for months now, and have recently picked up to a fever pitch. This past week Hong Kong has been effectively shut down due to protesters flooding roads and causing havoc on public transport. Universities across Hong Kong have also found themselves at the center of the protests, with students and activists taking control of and fortifying them.
According to Axios, more than a third of the over 4,000 protestors arrested are 20 years old or younger. The youngest of which is only a mere 11 years old. Beijing has released comments that show they hold the school systems accountable for failing to instill a “strong sense of Chinese national identity” in the students and people of Hong Kong.
The violence in Hong Kong really picked up on Monday, when a 21-year-old man was injured after police opened fire on protesters. One of the starting points for conflict in Hong Kong was an extradition bill that the people felt was stripping away the freedoms they had enjoyed since being returned to the country. Hong Kong was a British Colony until 1997.
The bill was withdrawn in October in hopes of ending protests but the flames were only fanned higher by the people’s concern over losing their autonomy. The protests have been rampant for this past week, and Friday marks the fifth consecutive day of protests. Tensions are reaching incredible levels, and the students holed up in the universities have begun turning them into fortresses.
Bricks have been stacked and lathered with mortar to make roadblocks and walls, and trash piled up to form what resemble makeshift strongholds. Some universities even have students creating weapons like makeshift catapults and petrol bombs while also arming themselves with bows and arrows. Chunks of bricks and rubber hoses spiked with nails litter the ground outside of the barricades and petrol douses the floor.
All of these measures are directed at the police in order to protect the university, according to CNN. Paranoia is running rampant at the Universities and they have to go to measures like bag checks and separate entrances for each gender where they are searched. The press are told not to take pictures of the individuals faces as it could lead to arrest and no protesters will give their full name. The bag checks and cautiousness are actually being used as a method to identify police “spies” among the students.
The police claim that the recent conflict all stems from them trying to stop the protesters from blocking traffic, and that the protesters that have responded in tandem with violence, are criminals and rioters. The students and protesters, on the other hand, claim that the police and their operations have been unwarranted and unwanted encroachments and threats to academic freedom.
The protesters have been purposefully shutting down the highways and roads as they want the economy to stop so that the government will give in to their demands. The government claims that such thoughts are wishful in nature, but the students claim that when faced with the government’s inaction, they have no other choice. Two of such demands extended by the protests are a greater scope of democracy and independent police inquiry.
The underlying fear that is driving the movement is that they fear the Chinese government is overstepping their bounds and will take away the freedoms that Hong Kong already has. A protester interviewed by CNN stated, “I fear China greater than the Hong Kong police. China does not have democracy and freedom.”
The protesters claim that they have no leader, and while this is likely true to a degree, it is also a tactic used to protect the organizers that help keep the movement alive from legal action. With the protesters set on riding out this storm and remaining unyielding, no one knows when the protests will end or what will come about.