Hong Kong Protests: City Plays Damage Control, Beijing Ratchets Up the Rhetoric

A day after massive anti-government protests effectively shut down one of the busiest airports in the world, life in Hong Kong had still not returned to normal.  Hundreds more flights were cancelled Tuesday at Hong Kong International Airport, which was still dealing with the effects of the sit-in.  The local authorities defended both the use of plainclothes policemen and their tactics, which viral videos showed turning violent over the weekend and into Monday.  The protests, which have gone on for more than two months, after an extradition bill to mainland China was pulled, show no sign of slowing down.  Meanwhile, Beijing ratcheted up the rhetoric, but remained at the gates.  Waiting.

Demonstrators wore bandages and eye patches Monday in reference to a woman shot by a police projectile.

The South China Morning Post reported that as of 8 AM local time, 160 departing flights and 150 arrivals, which were to either arrive or land in Hong Kong between midnight Monday and 11:55 PM Tuesday, were cancelled.  Long lines were spotted at check-in counters, and airlines were working to secure slots to clear their backlogs.  Some protesters, carrying placards, remained in the arrivals area.  Passengers, who had become unwitting witnesses to history, dealt with the chaos as best they could, sleeping on chairs, or the floor.

Fielding a volley of questions about the conduct of his officers Monday, Deputy Police Commissioner Tang Ping-Keung defended the use of “decoy officers” making widespread arrests.  “I can say during the time when our police were disguised,” Tang said, “they [did not] provoke anything.”  He added, “our operation . . . is targeting extreme violent rioters.”  On Sunday, widespread video showed police using rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters in several districts throughout the city.

Police were also shown storming enclosed railways stations, firing tear gas, and beating people with batons, who were attempting to flee.  Assistant Police Commissioner Mak Chin-ho denied there was any evidence that a woman, shown in another viral video bleeding profusely from her eye, had been shot by a police projectile.  On Monday, several protesters, including those at the airport, wore bandages over their eyes in response.  Mak also defended the use of pepper ball rounds at close range, arguing his officers made a “split-second” decision to fire on the protesters.  Several were injured over the weekend, including one police officer.

A Chinese military convoy is seen building up near the city of Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong.

While the people have kept up demands for inquiries against their actions, the Hong Kong police still have a powerful friend across the Sham Chun River.  Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the communist regime, vowed to crack down on violent crime in the city with an “iron fist.”  Through him, Beijing condemned the “radical protestors,” and warned the attacks against police “have started to show signs of terrorism.” Yang warned that such violent crime “must be routinely combated according to the law, with no hesitation or mercy.”

Beijing also raised alarm Tuesday with footage of a convoy of armed police officers, personnel carriers, and sinister soundtrack massing near Shenzhen, on Hong Kong’s northern border.  Such forces, under the personal command of President Xi Jinping, have been used to crack down, often brutally, on protesters in parts of mainland China.  The clear message, to both demonstrators and the pro-Beijing government in the city, is that a failure to put their own house in order might result in dire consequences.  Hong Kongers hold an annual vigil to commemorate the savagery Beijing unleashed at Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, so they’re well aware of what the Central People’s Government is capable of.  While even Xi might not risk sending in the tanks, the long-deployed weapon of fear of such force is losing its effectiveness among a people demanding their freedom.

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Robert Martin (CN Staff)

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