On Saturday, thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets, defying a government ban on a planned march that marked the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s interpretation for democracy in Hong Kong. Which was nothing more than saying you can choose as long as you make our choice. Beijing generously offered the opportunity to vote for a selection of candidates they vetted. Hong Kong rejected the proposal and the Umbrella Movement began in 2014. The Umbrella Movement may represent the first and only peaceful chapter of this fight for basic human rights. In other news on the eve of the banned march several prominent pro-democracy activists and legislators were rounded up and arrested on various charges, some were even beaten by masked men while eating lunch and another beaten just after being released from the police. Masked men of allegedly South Asian descent seem to frequently appear out of nowhere to conduct pre-planned beatings of legislators and protestors. The men are rumored to work with Triads which are rumored to collude with the government, which is another rumor circulating amongst many other unsubstantiated facts. A police officer was viciously wounded in a knife attack on his way home from work. This is a fact. Rumor has it that he was stabbed by anti-government protestors and a conflicting rumor circulated that he was stabbed by mysterious men of South Asian descent. If I was a man of South Asian descent I would not like where this was headed. Although I’ve been told, Nepalese, Pakistani, Indians, and now Africans from various African countries make up the lower ranks or enforcers for the Triads. So who really knows? Who someone is determines their truth now in Hong Kong and the trend is worrisome.
Before I get to what I think I witnessed on Saturday, an admission of sorts, I want to refer to confrontations between police and protestors as pitched battles and the scene was a war zone but while it was certainly intense and dangerous there were no mortars or machine gun fire to dodge. No one was killed. So I will refer to them as clashes as that term seems dramatic enough but not over the top. There were helicopters being used by the police for the first time over head which gave the day an added sense of drama and doom.
I hiked from Central to Sai Ying Pun to see the fortified section of Des Vouex and Connaught Rd protecting the Beijing Liaison Office. While I was there clashes broke out at LegCo, the governments headquarters in Admiralty so I hoofed it there, two kilometers to the east. As I approached Legco from Harcourt Rd. I could hear the continuous popping of tear gas and other projectiles being fired by police. I was not prepared for the scene I witnessed, protestors directly confronting police fortified behind 8 ft tall water barriers who were shooting projectiles down on them from elevated platforms and the roof of the complex. Protestors were taking cover behind the water barriers while lobbing petrol bombs up and over the barriers. Not soon after I arrived a police water canon was brought from the rear and began spraying a blue dye over the area I was covering. I managed to dive behind a column and take a big wipeout but avoided the blue dye completely. The air was filled with a blue mist, turning the sky blue, and left behind swirling blue puddles on the road. The water canon seemed to push the western flank of the protestors east towards Wan Chai. Protestors began to retreat a few blocks back towards Pacific Place onto Queensway but a group of protestors remained behind to what seemed like guard the rear of the protestors retreat. As riot police approached from the east threatening to hem in the protestors, a small contingent of protestors took an overpass above the cops and began raining petrol bombs and bricks down onto police. The police responded with the only means currently available to them; tear gas guns and grenades and rubber bullets. There were only about two dozen protestors and journalists on the overpass. This seemed effective at stalling the police’s advance. I did not see any protestors being arrested at this point. For the next several hours clashes continued between protestors retreating east down Hennessey Rd all the way to Tin Hau. When they reached Southorn playground, bleachers were torn from the park and used as barricades which were then lit on fire. It created a spectacle for the media who were drawn to it like moths. Firemen eventually arrived to put out the fire and the clashes continued. At times, the water canon truck was brought forward which hastened the protestors retreat and at other times hand to hand fighting broke out between elite cops known as the raptors and protestors with pipes and sticks. I did see protestors successfully fighting off raptors and evading capture. At one point in the evening petrol bombs were rolling around on the street amongst my feet. They were coming from all over and they were not well placed. I even saw protestors attempting to use a bamboo catapult which never was fired successfully but successfully conjured up images of ancient warfare. A riot cop swung his shotgun in my direction, after ducking, I noticed a protestor moving away who had been hiding behind me with a brick. Newscasters from major media outlets conducted on air updates as chaos reigned around them adding to the already surreal spectacle that was unfolding.
News reported that undercover police officers posing as protestors were recognized and attacked. They fired live rounds into the air to warn off protestors. Later in the evening police stormed MTR stations throughout the city beating and arresting suspected protestors but are accused of beating innocent bystanders as well.
That concludes my update and as my son now says to me before I leave the house, “ Dada don’t let the police shoot you…especially in the face.”