|2019–20 Hong Kong protests|
|Part of democratic development in Hong Kong,|
the Hong Kong–Mainland China conflict
and the protests of 2019
A collection of various protest scenes in Hong Kong
|Methods||Diverse (see tactics and methods)|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
|Deaths, injuries and arrests|
|Arrested||7,165 (as of 1 March 2020)[b]|
|2019–20 Hong Kong |
|Part of the Democratic development in Hong Kong|
|Tactics and methods|
|Deaths and serious injuries|
The 2019–20 Hong Kong protests are an ongoing series of protests triggered by the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill by the Hong Kong government. Had it been enacted, the bill would have allowed the extradition of wanted criminal fugitives to territories with which Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements, including Mainland China and Taiwan. This led to concerns by some that the bill would subject Hong Kong residents and visitors to the jurisdiction and legal system of Mainland China, thereby undermining the region's autonomy and people's civil liberties, and infringe on privacy and freedom of speech laws. As the protests progressed, the protesters laid out five key demands, namely the withdrawal of the bill, investigation into alleged police brutality and misconduct, the release of all arrested protesters, retraction of the official characterisation of the protests as "riots", and Chief Executive Carrie Lam's resignation along with the introduction of universal suffrage for election of the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive.
Despite a demonstration attended by hundreds of thousands on 9 June 2019, the government persisted with the bill. Protesters gathered outside the Legislative Council Complex to stall the bill's second reading on 12 June 2019, resulting in an intense standoff between the protesters and the police who deployed tear gas and rubber bullets. An even bigger protest took place on 16 June 2019, just one day after the suspension of the bill, as protesters insisted on the complete withdrawal of the bill and reacted to the perceived excessive use of force by the police on 12 June 2019. The anniversary of the handover on 1 July 2019 saw the storming of the Legislative Council Complex, and subsequent protests throughout the summer spread to different districts. Police inaction when suspected triad members assaulted protesters and commuters in Yuen Long on 21 July 2019, the police storming of Prince Edward station on 31 August 2019, and the large-scale demonstrations during the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China on 1 October, caused further escalation of the protests.
Lam eventually withdrew the bill on 4 September 2019, but still refused to concede on the other four demands. Claiming to curb further protests, Lam invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance on 4 October 2019 to implement an anti-mask law, to counterproductive effect. As the protests dragged on, confrontations escalated as both sides became increasingly violent. The number of police brutality and misconduct allegations increased. In response, some protesters escalated their use of radical methods such as throwing petrol bombs, conducting vigilante attacks against perceived provocateurs, and vandalising supposed pro-Beijing entities. Rifts within society widened as activists from both sides assaulted each other, with lawmakers from both sides and protest organisers being attacked or intimidated. Two student deaths as well as the shooting of an unarmed protester in November further intensified the protests. Protesters' occupation of two university campuses to block key thoroughfares, ended by sieges and resulted in many of injuries and arrests.
The government and the police have received the lowest approval ratings in public opinion polls since the 1997 handover. Their performance contributed to the unprecedented landslide victory of the pro-democratic bloc in the 2019 District Council election, which was widely viewed as a de facto referendum on the protest movement. The Central People's Government has characterised the protests as the "worst crisis in Hong Kong" since the handover in 1997 and alleged that foreign powers were instigating the conflict, though the protests, which continued through to 2020, have been largely described as "leaderless". The United States passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on 27 November 2019 to support the protest movement; solidarity rallies were held in dozens of cities abroad. Counter-protesters have held several pro-police rallies.
There have been two deaths associated with the protests: Chow Tsz-lok, a student who died after a fall inside a car park in Tseung Kwan O, and Luo Changqing, an elderly man who died as a result of reportedly being struck on the head by a brick thrown by a protester during a confrontation between two opposing groups. In addition, protesters have linked the protests to at least nine suicides.
The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 was first proposed by the government of Hong Kong in February 2019 in response to the 2018 murder of Poon Hiu-wing by her boyfriend Chan Tong-kai in Taiwan, where the two Hong Kong residents were visiting as tourists. As there is no extradition treaty with Taiwan (because the government of China does not recognise its sovereignty), the Hong Kong government proposed an amendment to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance (Cap. 503) and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance (Cap. 525) to establish a mechanism for case-by-case transfers of fugitives, on the order of the Chief Executive, to any jurisdiction with which the city lacks a formal extradition treaty. One such jurisdiction would be mainland China.
The inclusion of mainland China in the amendment is of concern to different sectors of Hong Kong society. Pro-democracy advocates fear the removal of the separation of the region's jurisdiction from mainland Chinese laws administered by the Communist Party, thereby eroding the "one country, two systems" principle in practice since the 1997 handover. In addition, Hong Kong citizens also lacked confidence in China's judiciary system and human rights protection due to its history of suppressing political dissidents. Opponents of the bill urged the Hong Kong government to explore other avenues, such as establishing an extradition arrangement solely with Taiwan, and to sunset the arrangement immediately after the surrender of the suspect.
A Reuters report claims that the Beijing officials had been pushing for an extradition law for 20 years. Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese billionaire residing in Hong Kong, was allegedly abducted by Chinese agents across the border in January 2017 as a spillover of China's paramount leader and general secretary Xi Jinping's mass anti-graft campaign. The incident was widely reported in Hong Kong, sparking fear among residents. That same year, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the Chinese Communist Party's internal anti-corruption body, began pressing Beijing officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs about the urgent need for an extradition arrangement, which it thought to be less damaging politically than kidnapping for snaring fugitive mainlanders in Hong Kong.
The 2019–20 Hong Kong protests came four and a half years after the Umbrella Revolution of 2014. It had begun after the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) regarding proposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system, which were largely seen as restrictive. However, the movement ended in failure as the government offered no concessions. Since then, democratic development has stalled: only half of the seats in the Legislative Council remain directly elected, and the Chief Executive of Hong Kong continues to be voted by the small-circle Election Committee. The 2017 imprisonment of Hong Kong democracy activists further dashed the city's hope of meaningful political reform. Citizens began to fear the loss of the "high degree of autonomy" as provided for in the Hong Kong Basic Law, as the government of the People's Republic of China appeared to be increasingly and overtly interfering with Hong Kong's affairs. Notably, the Legislative Council oath-taking controversy ended with the disqualification of six lawmakers following a ruling by the NPCSC; the Causeway Bay Books disappearances sparked concerns over state-sanctioned rendition and extrajudicial detention. Another example considered representing Hong Kong losing its freedoms is its steady fall on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index. Despite universal suffrage being part of Hong Kong's basic law, in the 2019 report Hong Kong was scored 6.02/10, classing it in the index as a "flawed democracy", being only 0.02 points off a hybrid regime. Hong Kong was only scored 3.59/10 for Electoral process and pluralism. This was the lowest score in the category for a flawed democracy and lower than some authoritarian countries. Of 167 countries, Hong Kong ranked 75th while mainland China ranked 153rd.
The rise of localism and the pro-independence movement was marked by the campaign for the 2016 New Territories East by-election by activist Edward Leung. As fewer and fewer youth in Hong Kong identified themselves as Chinese, pollsters at the University of Hong Kong found that the younger respondents were, the more distrustful they were of the Chinese government. By 2019, almost no Hong Kong youth identified themselves as Chinese. The Moral and National Education controversy in 2012 severely shook young people's confidence in the systems which they believed protected their rights. With the approach of 2047, when the Basic Law is set to expire along with the constitutional guarantees enshrined within it, sentiments of an uncertain future have driven youth to join the protests against the extradition bill. For some protesters, the Umbrella Revolution was an inspiration that brought about a political awakening. Others, who felt that peaceful methods were ineffective, resorted to increasingly radical methods to express their views. Media have noted that unlike the 2014 protests, protesters in 2019 were driven by a sense of desperation rather than hope, and that the aims of the protests had evolved from withdrawing the bill to fighting for greater freedom and liberties.
Unaffordable housing prices were also cited as an underlying cause of anger among Hong Kongers. Hong Kong is "the world's most expensive city to buy a home". This is because, unlike the comparable city-state of Singapore, Hong Kong has not secured affordable or public housing for the city's population. That is because since the colonial period, the city's politics have been ruled largely by the business elite. That has meant a few powerful families have significant influence over property development, with the construction of commercial properties on key real estate with limited competition. Furthermore, a significant amount of the local government's revenue comes from land sales to developers.
Initially, protesters only demanded the withdrawal of the extradition bill. Following an escalation in the severity of policing tactics against demonstrators on 12 June, the protesters objective has been to achieve the following five demands (under the slogan "Five demands, not one less"):
A sit-in by the pro-democracy group Demosistō held at the Central Government Complex on 15 March was the first protest against the extradition bill. The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), a platform for 50 pro-democracy groups, launched a protest march against the bill on 31 March 2019 and another on 28 April 2019. The anti-extradition issue attracted more attention when pro-democratic lawmakers in the legislative council launched a filibuster campaign against the bill. In response, the Secretary of Security John Lee announced that the government would resume second reading of the bill in full council on 12 June, bypassing the Bills Committee, whose role would have been to scrutinise it.
With the possibility of a second reading of the bill, the CHRF launched their third protest march on 9 June. While police estimated attendance at the march on Hong Kong Island at 270,000, the organisers claimed that 1.03 million people had attended the rally. Carrie Lam insisted second reading and debate over the bill be resumed on 12 June. Protesters successfully stopped the LegCo from resuming second reading of the bill by surrounding the LegCo Complex. Riot police dispersed protesters using controversial methods such as kettling, firing tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets, and allegedly assaulting journalists in the process. Police Commissioner Stephen Lo declared the clashes a "riot". The police were subsequently criticised for using excessive force, such as firing tear gas at a crowd peacefully protesting near CITIC Tower, and for the lack of identification numbers on police officers' uniforms. Following the clashes, protesters began calling for an independent inquiry into police brutality; they also urged the government to retract the "riot" characterisation.
On 15 June, Carrie Lam announced the bill's suspension but did not fully withdraw it. A 35-year-old man committed suicide in protest of Lam's decision. CHRF claimed a record-breaking "almost 2 million plus 1 citizens" had participated in the 16 June protest, while the police estimated that there were 338,000 demonstrators at its peak.
Protesters surrounded police headquarters on 21 and 24 June for several hours and dispersed peacefully at night; on 24nbsp;June, they also blockaded other government buildings. Protesters began to call for international support and visited the consulates of member states of the G20 expected at the 2019 Osaka summit on 28 and 29 June.
The CHRF claimed a record turnout of 550,000 for their annual march on 1 July, while police estimated around 190,000 at the peak; an independent polling organisation estimated attendance at 260,000. The protest was largely peaceful. At night, protesters stormed the Legislative Council; police took little action to stop them. Partly angered by several more suicides since 15 June, protesters smashed furniture, defaced the Hong Kong emblem, and presented a new ten-point manifesto.
After 1 July, protests spread to different areas in Hong Kong. The first anti-extradition protest in Kowloon was held on 7 July, from Tsim Sha Tsui to West Kowloon station. Clashes occurred later in Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. Once again, police officers' failure to display their warrant cards was a source of contention. A peaceful protest on 14 July in Sha Tin escalated into intense confrontations with the police when the protesters were kettled inside New Town Plaza. Mall owner Sun Hung Kai Properties drew criticism from protesters for allowing the police to enter the shopping centre without due authorisation.
CHRF held another anti-extradition protest on 21 July on Hong Kong Island]. Instead of dispersing, protesters passed the police-mandated endpoint, and headed for the Liaison Office in Sai Ying Pun, where they defaced the Chinese national emblem. While a standoff between the protesters and the police occurred on Hong Kong Island, groups of white-clad individuals, suspected triad members, appeared and indiscriminately attacked people inside Yuen Long station. Police were absent during the attacks, and the local police stations were shuttered, leading to suspicion that the attack happened in co-ordination with police. Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho was later seen greeting members of the group which led to accusations that he approved of the attack. Yuen Long residents largely stayed indoors the following day in fear of further violence.
On 27 July, protesters marched in Yuen Long, despite opposition from rural groups and the police. The protest escalated into violent clashes inside Yuen Long station. The next day, protesters again defied the police ban and marched to Sai Wan and Causeway Bay. To support the arrestees charged with rioting, protesters rallied near the police stations in Kwai Chung, and Tin Shui Wai, where protesters were attacked by fireworks launched from a moving vehicle.
Protesters returned to Mong Kok on 3 August, though some marched to block the Cross-Harbour Tunnel toll plaza in Hung Hom. Protests escalated into clashes between the police and residents in Wong Tai Sin near the disciplined services quarters. Marches in Tseung Kwan O and Kennedy Town on 4 August and in Tai Po on 10 August escalated into citywide conflicts as protesters dispersed wherever the riot police were deployed. A call for a general strike on 5 August was answered by about 350,000 people according to the Confederation of Trade Unions; over 200 flights had to be cancelled. Protests were held in seven districts in Hong Kong. To disperse protesters, the police used more than 800 canisters of tear gas. Protesters in North Point were attacked by a group of stick-wielding men, leading to violent clashes.
Various incidents involving alleged police brutality on 11 August—police shot bean bag rounds that ruptured the eye of a female protester, the use of tear gas indoors, the deployment of undercover police as agents-provocateurs, and the firing of pepper ball rounds at protesters at a very close range—prompted protesters to stage a three-day sit-in at Hong Kong International Airport from 12 to 14 August, forcing the Airport Authority to cancel numerous flights on those days. On 13 August, protesters at the airport cornered, tied up and assaulted two men they accused of being either undercover police or agents for the mainland, who were later identified as a tourist and a Global Times reporter. A peaceful rally was held in Victoria Park by the CHRF on 18 August to denounce police brutality. The CHRF claimed attendance of at least 1.7 million people. The police put peak attendance in the Victoria Park football areas at 128,000.
On the evening of 23 August, an estimated 210,000 people participated in the "Hong Kong Way" campaign, in which participants formed a 50-kilometre (31 mi) human chain stretching along both sides of Victoria Harbour to draw attention to the movement's five demands. The chain extended across the top of Lion Rock.
Starting from the Kwun Tong protest on 24 August, protesters began to target railway operator MTR after it closed four stations ahead of the legal, authorised protest. During the protests of 25 August in Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing Districts, hardline protesters threw bricks and gasoline bombs toward the police who in turn responded with volleys of tear gas; police water cannon trucks were deployed for the first time. During the protest, one officer fired an upward warning shot, marking the first use of a live round since the demonstrations broke out in June.
Ignoring a police ban, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong Island on 31 August following the arrests of high-profile pro-democracy activists and lawmakers the previous day. At night, the Special Tactical Squad stormed Prince Edward station, where they beat and pepper-sprayed the commuters inside. Protesters rallied outside the Mong Kok police station in the following weeks to condemn police brutality and demanded the MTR Corporation release the CCTV footage of that night as unfounded rumours began to circulate on the internet that the police's operation had caused death, which they have denied.
Protesters again targeted Hong Kong International Airport on 1 September. With transport suspended by MTR, some protesters walked 15 km (9.3 mi) on the North Lantau Highway back to the urban area. On 2 and 3 September, thousands of secondary school and university students boycotted classes on the first two days of the new term to join the protests.
On 4 September, Carrie Lam announced the formal withdrawal the extradition bill once Legco reconvened in October and the introduction of additional measures to calm the situation. However, protests continued to insist on all five demands being met. On 8 September, the protesters marched to the US consulate to call for the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. During this month, protesters organised various flashmob rallies to sing the protest anthem "Glory to Hong Kong". They continued their attempts to disrupt the airport's operations, and held pop-up mall protests, which targeted shops and corporations perceived to be pro-Beijing.
A mass protest on 15 September descended into chaos in North Point as a group of locals, which allegedly included a sizeable number of people of Fujianese origin, physically assaulted protesters. A sit-in in Yuen Long on 21 September escalated into conflicts between protesters and the police. Brought to an alley and surrounded by numerous officers in riot gear, a man was kicked by an officer. The police later denied the accusation, saying that videos only showed kicking of a "yellow object". The police response was widely derided.
Carrie Lam held the first public meeting in Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai with 150 members of the public. Protesters demanding to talk to her surrounded the venue and trapped her inside for four hours. On 28 September, the CHRF held a rally to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Umbrella Revolution. The next day, there was an anti-Chinese Communist Party rally in defiance of a police ban. Solidarity protests were held on the same day in over 40 cities around the world.
On 1 October, mass protests and violent conflict occurred between the protesters and police during the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in various districts of Hong Kong, leading to the first usage of live rounds by police, with one 18-year-old student protester shot in the chest by police in Tsuen Wan while trying to hit a policeman with a rod. Police said the officer had acted in self-defence. The police fired around 1,400 tear gas canisters and made 269 arrests on one day, setting a new record for both since the protests began in June.
On 4 October, Carrie Lam invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to impose a law to ban wearing face masks in public gatherings, attempting to curb the ongoing protests. The enactment of the law was followed by continued demonstrations in various districts of Hong Kong, blocking major thoroughfares, vandalising shops perceived to be pro-Beijing and paralysing the MTR system. In Yuen Long, a 14-year-old teenager was shot in the leg by police, after a plain-clothed officer came under attack by protesters, who accused him for bumping into a person with his car. The officer shot the teenager's leg. Protesters retaliated by throwing two petrol bombs at him. Protests and citywide flashmob rallies against the anti-mask law and the invocation of the emergency ordinance persisted throughout the month. The ban was declared unconstitutional by the High Court on 18 November.
On 14 October, thousands of protesters rallied at Chater Garden to support the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was subsequently passed unanimously by the US House of Representatives. Ethnic minorities stood in solidarity with protesters outside Chungking Mansions after the protest organiser, Jimmy Sham was attacked allegedly by South Asians. Lam and the police issued an apology to the Muslim community after the gates of the Kowloon Mosque were sprayed with blue-dyed water by a water cannon truck during a police clearance operation.
On 23 October, Secretary for Security John Lee officially withdrew the extradition bill. Protesters surrounded the Tai Hing Operational Base in Tuen Mun on 28 and 30 October after it allegedly leaked tear gas into the surrounding residential area. 30 October saw the police conducting forceful arrests inside private areas and breaching the lobby of a building in Siu Hin Court, ordering residents inside to kneel down with their hands in the air or behind their backs, allegedly for more than half an hour.
On 2 November, a mostly peaceful but unapproved election rally at Victoria Park saw police quickly responding with tear gas. Later that day, protesters attempted to block major roads, and vandalised pro-Beijing businesses, including the premises of Xinhua, the state news organisation of China.
Due to doxxing, details of a police officer's wedding in Tseung Kwan O were leaked. Protesters intending to crash the event set up roadblocks around Sheung Tak Estate and clashed with the police late at night on 3 November. Alex Chow Tsz-lok, a 22-year-old student of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), was later found unconscious on the second floor of the estate's car park. He was suspected to have fallen from the third floor. The student died on 8 November following two unsuccessful brain surgeries. After the death of Alex Chow, protesters engaged in flashmob rallies against the police and attended vigils in various districts of Hong Kong where they accused the police of obstructing the ambulance on the way to the car park for at least 20 minutes, causing a delay in treatment. The police denied this accusation.
In response to Chow's death, protesters planned a city-wide strike starting from 11 November, and disrupted transport in the morning in various districts of Hong Kong. That morning, a policeman fired live rounds in Sai Wan Ho; wounding an unarmed 21-year-old. The police defended the officer and alleged that the protester was trying to grab his gun. On 11 November, the police also fired tear gas in Central during a lunchtime protest, causing businesses to close early. On 14 November, an elderly man died from a head injury which he had sustained the previous day during a confrontation between protesters and government supporters in Sheung Shui.
For the first time, during a standoff on 11 November, police shot numerous rounds of tear gas, sponge grenades and rubber bullets into the campuses of universities, while protesters threw bricks and petrol bombs. Student protesters from the Chinese University (CUHK) confronted the police for two consecutive days. Following the conflict, protesters briefly occupied several universities, which became their strongholds as they crafted various improvised offensive weapons inside. Several universities reported that protesters had taken some dangerous chemicals.
A major conflict between protesters and police took place in Hung Hom on 17 November after protesters took control of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and blockaded the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters, while a media liaison officer for the police was hit by an arrow fired by protesters during a standoff. Thus began the siege of PolyU by the police, which concluded with the police storming into the campus and arresting several protesters in the early morning on 18 November. Among those arrested while leaving were many volunteer medics. There were multiple attempts by the remaining protesters to escape from the university, including abseiling down a bridge and crawling through sewers. Other escape attempts were thwarted by the police.
With PolyU under complete lockdown by the police, and students inside running short of supplies, protesters outside the campus attempted to penetrate police cordons to break through to those trapped inside but were repelled by tear gas and pepper balls. The police's action in Yau Ma Tei resulted in a stampede, which was denied by the police but confirmed by firefighters. On subsequent days, more protesters from PolyU surrendered to police, with around 50 protesters remaining on campus by 23 November. Hygiene on campus quickly deteriorated, and the protesters inside reported being mentally and physically weak. More than 1,100 people were arrested in and around PolyU over the course of the siege. The siege was ended on 29 November.
The 24 November District Council election, considered a referendum on the government and protests, attracted a record high voter turnout. The election results saw the pro-democracy camp winning their biggest-ever electoral landslide and the pro-Beijing camp suffering their biggest electoral defeat in Hong Kong history. The unprecedented electoral success, the mass arrests during the PolyU siege, and the police's faster response contributed to a decrease in intensity and frequency of the protests in December 2019 and January 2020.
Protesters returned to the streets on 1 December in Tsim Sha Tsui to reiterate their five demands. The police fired volleys of tear gas into the crowd and revoked the Letter of No Objection one hour after the march began, as the police alleged that protesters were throwing smoke bombs. This prompted the protesters and the police to confront each other in Mong Kok and Whampoa Garden at night. The organiser reported 380,000 people attended the march, while the police put the estimate at around 16,000 people at the peak. In an 8 December mass march held to maintain pressure on the government, more than 800,000 protesters came to the streets, according to the organiser CHRF. Meanwhile, the police reported the peak turnout at 183,000. The CHRF-organised march was its first in nearly four months that had been given police permission.
The rest of December saw the return of pop-up mall protests, with clashes occurring in several major shopping centres around the city including New Town Plaza, which has been a site of clashes throughout the protests. On Christmas Eve and over the festive period, protesters answered calls online to go on a city-wide "Shopping With You" protest across major shopping centres and districts in the city to stall businesses' operations during the Christmas season. On 22 December, a rally to support the Uighurs which are placed in the Xinjiang re-education camps by the PRC government turned chaotic as protesters and the police began confronting each other after a Chinese flag was torn down.
On 1 January a protest called "Stand shoulder to shoulder" was held by the CHRF in support of the protesters' demands. Organisers claim over one million and thirty thousand participated in the protest. Police said 60,000 people attended the march at its peak. The police cut the march short and responded with tear gas after protesters vandalized HSBC's headquarters in retaliation for the bank and the police seizing over HK$70 million (US$9 million) of donations for the protests from Spark Alliance in December.
In the following weeks, protests continued throughout the city, their size being considerably smaller than previously. The vast majority of protests were peaceful, with police clamping down on violence and firing tear gas and pepper spray and making arrests on occasion. Protestors gathered to commemorate the half-year anniversary of the 2019 Yuen Long attack, the four-year anniversary of the 2016 Mong Kok riots and the five-month anniversary of the Prince Edward station attack.
Since the outbreak of coronavirus in mainland China, the number of large-scale rallies has further dwindled due to fears that it may facilitate the spread of the virus. Despite this, tactics of the pro-democratic movement have been repurposed to pressure the government to take stronger actions to safeguard Hong Kong's public health in the face of the coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong. Protesters have demanded all mainland travellers to be banned from entering Hong Kong, and from 3 to 7 February, hospital staff (members of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance) launched a labour strike with the same goal. On 3 February, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that while only three of the 14 crossing points with mainland China, including the airport, would be left open, she rejected a full border closure, on the grounds of the "very close relationship" between the people on both sides which entailed "very legitimate and genuine cross-border traffic".
Civilians have responded negatively to the government's attempt to set up quarantine and clinical centres in neighbourhoods close to residents and have marched to express their discontent or blocked roads to thwart the government's plans across the territory. Between late January and early February, improvised explosive devices were found in various locations at the Caritas Medical Centre in Cheung Sha Wan, Shenzhen Bay Control Point, on a train at Lo Wu station, and petrol bombs were thrown at four police stations and a patrol car, in a wave of action over the government's failure to close the city's border and supply protective gear. As the coronavirus crisis further escalated in February and March 2020, the scale of the protests further dwindled. Protests activities continued regularly in Tseung Kwan O, Yuen Long and Mong Kok every month.
Clashes between protesters and counter-protesters became frequent since the movement began in June. During a pro-police rally on 30 June, pro-police protesters began directing profanities at their opposition counterparts and destroyed their Lennon Wall and the memorial for Marco Leung, resulting in intense confrontations between the two camps. Pro-Beijing citizens, wearing "I love HK police" T-shirts and waving the Chinese national flag, assaulted people perceived to be protesters on 14 September in Fortress Hill. Lennon Walls became sites of conflict between the two camps, with pro-Beijing citizens attempting to tear down the messages or removing poster arts. Some protesters and pedestrians were beaten and knife attacked near Lennon Walls by a single perpetrator or by suspected gang members. A reporter was stabbed and a teenager distributing pro-protest leaflets had his abdomen slashed in the Lennon Tunnels near Tseung Kwan O and Tai Po respectively. Suspected gang members also attacked protesters in Sheung Shui with retractable batons on 14 November 2019, sparking fears that they are police officers in disguise.
Some civilians also allegedly attempted to ram their cars into the crowds of protesters or the barricades set up by them. In one instance, this caused a female protester to suffer severe thigh fractures. Protest organisers, including Jimmy Sham from the CHRF, and pro-democratic lawmakers such as Lam Cheuk-ting and Roy Kwong were assaulted and attacked. On 3 November, politician Andrew Chiu had his ear bitten off by a Chinese mainlander who had reportedly knifed three other people outside Cityplaza. Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho was stabbed and his parent's grave was desecrated.
The 2019 Yuen Long attack occurred following a mass protest organised by the CHRF on 21 July. Suspected gangsters[who?] vowed that they would "defend" their "homeland", and threatened all anti-extradition bill protesters not to set foot in Yuen Long. Perpetrators were indiscriminately attacking commuters in the concourse and on the platform of Yuen Long station, as well as inside train compartments, which resulted in widespread backlash from the community. The Department of Justice have since been criticised by some lawyers for making "politically motivated" prosecutions, since the Yuen Long attack assailants have not been charged several weeks after the attacks while young protesters were charged with rioting several days after the protests. The protesters were attacked with fireworks in Tin Shui Wai on 31 July, and then attacked by knife-wielding men in Tsuen Wan and suspected "Fujianese" gang members wielding long poles in North Point on 5 August, though protesters fought back the attackers.
|The 31 July incident in which protesters were attacked by fireworks launching out of a moving vehicle (BBC News)|
|The 11 November incident in which a man was set on fire by a protester (Bloomberg)|
Amidst frustration that the police have failed to prosecute the pro-government violent counter-protesters and being increasingly distrustful toward the police due to the allegations, protesters began clashing with counter-protesters more frequently. They clashed with each other inside Amoy Garden on 14 September and then in North Point on the next day. Hard-core protesters also began to carry out vigilante attacks—described as "settling matters privately" (私了) by protesters—targeting individuals perceived to be foes. Both pro-Beijing actress Celine Ma, and a taxi driver who drove into a crowd of protesters in Sham Shui Po on 8 October, were attacked.
A middle-aged man was doused with flammable liquid and set on fire by a protester when he confronted the protesters at Ma On Shan station on 11 November. On 14 November, an elderly man died from a head injury sustained earlier during a confrontation between a group of protesters and several pro-government Sheung Shui residents. On 1 December, a 53-year-old man clearing a roadblock near the Mong Kok police station was hit with a drain cover by a demonstrator, and suffered severe head injuries.
A Guardian article dated 22 October 2019 reported that "protesters have tracked at least nine cases of suicides that appear to be directly linked to the demonstrations" since June. In five of these cases, the victims left suicide notes related to the protests, and three were attributed to events following the extradition bill. One note even stated: "What Hong Kong needs is a revolution."
The first suicide took place on 15 June 2019, when 35-year-old Marco Leung Ling-kit climbed the elevated podium on the rooftop of Pacific Place in Admiralty, and hung banners on the scaffolding with several anti-extradition slogans. Wearing a yellow raincoat with the words "Carrie Lam is killing Hong Kong" in Chinese written on the back. After a five-hour standoff, during which police officers and Democratic Party legislator Roy Kwong attempted to talk him down, Leung fell to his death, missing an inflatable cushion set up by firefighters. A shrine appeared at the scene soon afterward.
A 21-year-old Education University of Hong Kong student jumped to her death from Ka Fuk Estate in Fanling on 29 June. She had left two notes written on a stairwell wall with red marker. The next day, a 29-year-old woman jumped from the International Financial Centre. On 4 July, a 28-year-old woman died after jumping off a building in Cheung Sha Wan. A fifth suicide occurred on 22 July, when a 26-year-old man died after jumping from Kwong Yuen Estate after an argument with his parents about his political stance and being driven from the house.
Two British citizens, one with a Hong Kong identity card, who stayed at the hotel K11 ARTUS were found dead in the morning of 15 January 2020. The police found white powder thought to be cocaine and suicide notes in English and Chinese, expressing support for the protesters, opposition to the by-then-withdrawn bill, and sadness over the protests.
On 8 November 2019, a HKUST student Chow Tsz-Lok died from severe head injuries sustained early 4 November after he had fallen from the third floor onto the second storey of a car park in Tseung Kwan O, close to an area of confrontation where police was dispersing protesters attempting to disrupt a policeman's wedding. The cause of his fall remains unknown, but protesters blamed the police for the fall, which the police have denied. Video footage also shows that Chow was walking alone and that there was no police presence in the car park when Chow fell. Investigators ruled that Chow could not have fallen due to tear gas as no person in the area was affected and no smoke filled the area. Protesters also accused the police of obstructing ambulance access to Chow and thereby delaying his treatment, the police in turn said that roadblocks set up by protesters had prevented vehicles from passing. The Fire Services Department stated that the ambulance assigned to Chow was blocked by buses and private vehicles and that the ambulance had not come in contact with the police that were on duty. Chow's death was the first fatality linked to a scene where police officers and protesters clashed. The incident has been the subject of unsubstantiated claims, widely spread online, about police responsibility for Chow's death. Amnesty International and others demanded independent investigation of the incident.
|The 13 November Sheung Shui clash, including the fatal throw (SCMP)|
On 14 November, Luo Changqing, a 70-year-old man, died from head injuries sustained the previous day, when he was hit in the head by a brick thrown at him by a protester. His death is the first fatality directly attributed to the violent protests. The prior day, on 13 November, in Sheung Shui, a violent clash erupted between a group of anti-government protesters and pro-government residents, in which both groups hurled bricks at each other. The latter group were trying to clear the bricks left in the street by protesters. The man was a bystander recording the conflict using his mobile phone and was one of the locals who were clearing the bricks earlier. The victim, identified as an outsourced worker of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, was hospitalised in a critical condition. The police classified his death as a murder case as they believe that the attacker "maliciously [and] deliberately" carried out the act. Five people have been arrested.
The protests have been largely described as "leaderless". Although no group or political party has claimed leadership over the movement, civic groups and prominent politicians played a supportive role, such as applying for Letters of No Objection from the police or mediating conflicts between protesters and police officers. Protesters commonly used LIHKG, an online forum similar to Reddit, as well as Telegram, an optionally end-to-end encrypted messaging service, and AirDrop to communicate and brainstorm ideas for protests and make collective decisions. Unlike previous protests, the 2019 protests spread over 20 different neighbourhoods, the entire territory witnessing protests. Protesters and their supporters remained anonymous to avoid prosecutions or future potential retaliation from the authorities.
There are mainly two groups of protesters, namely the "peaceful, rational and non-violent" (Chinese:和理非) protesters and the "fighters" group (勇武). Nonetheless, despite difference in methods, both groups have refrained from denouncing or criticising the other. The principle was the "Do Not Split" (不割席) praxis, which was aimed to promote mutual respect for different views within the same protest movement. While Carrie Lam has been calling the public to condemn and cut ties with the violent protesters, the movement has been able to maintain public support despite the violence, with 59% of the respondents agreeing that it was understandable for protesters to escalate their actions as large-scale and peaceful demonstrations have failed to force the government to concede, according to pollsters from CUHK in October.
The moderate group participated in different capacities. The peaceful group held mass rallies, flash mobs, and engaged in other forms of protest such as hunger strikes, forming human chains, launching petitions, labour strikes, and disrupting traffic. A protest anthem was composed, its lyrics crowdsourced in the LIHKG online forum, and sung by flash mobs in shopping centres. That song was also released with a video on YouTube, as were several other songs with protest-related themes. There were also religious gatherings, where protesters sang hymns. Some of them volunteered as first-aiders, while others supported the hardline protesters by providing supplies and logistical support. Lennon Walls were set up in various districts and neighbourhoods in Hong Kong to spread messages of support to the protesters and display various protest arts. Protesters have set up pop-up stores that sold cheap protest gadgets, provided undercover clinics for young activists, and crowdfunded to help people in need of medical or legal assistance. A mobile app was developed to allow crowdsourcing the location of police.
To raise awareness of their cause and to keep citizens informed, supporters of the protests, working under pseudonyms, created various protest arts and derivative works, many of which mock the police and the government. A major project was to raise funds to place advertisements in major international newspapers. At events, they waved the national flags of other countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom to call for their support. Twitter and Reddit were used to deliver information about the protests to users abroad to raise awareness. Protesters held "civil press conferences" to counter the police's and the government's conferences. Protesters also attempted to inform tourists about the protests of Hong Kong by staging sit-ins at Hong Kong International Airport; Apple's AirDrop was used to broadcast anti-extradition bill information to the public and mainland tourists. An #Eye4HK campaign, in solidarity with a female whose eye was allegedly ruptured by a beanbag round shot by the police, gained momentum around the world. The Lady Liberty Hong Kong statue was also crowdfunded by citizens to commemorate the protests.
Efforts were made to transform the protests into a long-lasting movement. Protesters called for consumer boycotts against businesses supporting or owned by mainland Chinese interests. From August, protesters have advocated a "Yellow Economic Circle" (黃色經濟圈). Supporters of the protesters labelled different establishments based on their political stance and chose to only consume in "yellow-ribbon" shops, which are sympathetic to the movement, while boycotting companies who have expressed an anti-protest view. Flashmob rallies were held in the central business districts as office workers used their lunch break to march on the street. The protests have also prompted various professions to set up labour unions that compete with pro-Beijing lobbies to further pressurize the government. Newly elected District Council members put forward motions to condemn the police and used their power to meet with the detained protesters. Pro-democratic lawmakers also put forward a motion to impeach Lam, though it was rejected by the pro-Beijing lawmakers in December 2019.
The radical protesters adopted the "be water" strategy, inspired by Bruce Lee's philosophy, often moving in a fluid and agile fashion to confound and confuse the police. Protesters often retreated when the police arrived, only to reemerge somewhere else. In addition, protesters adopted black bloc tactics to protect their identities. Frontliners wore mostly black, their "full gear" consisting of umbrellas, face masks, helmets and respirators to shield themselves from projectiles and teargas. Furthermore, protesters used laser pointers to distract police officers and damaged surveillance cameras to protect their identity. When they were arrested, they would, in many cases, shout out their names as they feared that they would not be able to be reached by lawyers and family in detention, and some would even yell that they were not "suicidal". At protest scenes, protesters used hand gestures for nonverbal communication, and supplies were delivered via human chains. Radical protesters have shifted to organising extemporaneous flashmob protests. Different protesters adopted different roles. Some were "scouts" who share real-time updates whenever they spot the police, while some were "firefighters" who extinguished tear gas with kitchenware and traffic cones.
Starting in August, radical protesters have escalated their controversial use of violence and intimidation. Protesters have dug up brick paving and have thrown these at police; others have used petrol bombs, corrosive liquid and other projectiles against police. Petrol bombs were also hurled by protesters at police stations and vehicles. A police officer had two petrol bombs thrown at him by the protesters after he had accidentally shot a 14-year-old teenager in self-defence, in Yuen Long on 4 October. A reporter from RTHK suffered burns after a petrol bomb mistakenly hit him despite protesters rushing to extinguish the flames. During the sieges of the universities, protesters created makeshift catapults to launch petrol bombs, thousands of which were found inside the school campuses after the siege was ended. As a result of clashes, there have been multiple reports of police injuries and assault of officers throughout the protests. One officer was slashed in the neck with a box cutter, and a medial liaison officer was shot with an arrow during the PolyU siege. The police also accused the protesters of intending to "kill or harm" police officers after a remote-controlled explosive device detonated on 13 October near a police vehicle. Protesters have also directed violence towards undercover officers as agents-provocateurs (捉鬼). On 23 December, a man fired a pistol at the police in Tai Po and was arrested for illegal firearms possession. The courts heard that he had been part of a group of five that was involved in a conspiracy to slaughter policemen with firearms and explosives in a rally.
Corporations protesters accuse of being pro-Beijing, such as Best Mart 360,[c] Yoshinoya and Maxim's Caterers, mainland Chinese companies such as Bank of China, Xiaomi and Commercial Press, and shops engaging in parallel trading, were also vandalised, subject to arson or spray-painted. Protesters also directed violence at symbols of the government by vandalising government and pro-Beijing lawmakers' offices, and defacing symbols representing China. The MTR Corporation has become a target of vandalism after protesters accused the railway operator of kowtowing to pressure by Chinese media, and as a result, a large proportion of stations were vandalised and subjected to arson. Several stations were closed for consecutive days due to severe damage. Protesters also disrupted traffic by setting up roadblocks, damaging traffic lights, deflating the tires of buses, and throwing objects onto railway tracks. Local terrestrial broadcaster TVB and local news outlet, HK01, were accused of pro-government bias, and protesters have as a result, physically assaulted their news crew and damaged their equipment and vehicles. Protesters have occasionally intimidated and assaulted mainlanders. The assault on reporter Fu Guohao, who was suspected to be a mainland agent by the protesters at the Airport on 13 August, was acknowledged to be a "setback" in maintaining public support.
The government, the police and state-run media often labelled the radical group of protesters as "masked rioters", while The Guardian noted that there was "little of the random smashing and looting that characterises most riots", quoting a statement from an academic at the Education University of Hong Kong to the effect that vandalism of demonstrators was focused on what they perceived to be targets that embodied injustice.
Doxing and cyberbullying were tactics used by both supporters and opponents of the protests. Some protesters doxed and cyberbullied some police officers and their families, and uploaded their personal information online. By early July, an estimated 1,000 officers' personal details had been reportedly leaked online, and 9 individuals arrested. Affected officers, their friends and families have been subject to death threats and intimidation. Hong Kong Police have since obtained a court injunction prohibiting anyone from sharing any personal information of police officers and their families. Some protesters who found their personal information and photos circulating on pro-Beijing circles on Facebook and other social media platforms after they had been stopped and searched by police, suspected the leaked photos were taken during the stop-and-searches. In a response, the police said they had procedures to ensure that their members comply with privacy laws. HK Leaks, an anonymous website based in Russia and promoted by groups linked to the Communist Party of China, has doxed about 200 people seen as supportive of the protests. An Apple Daily reporter who was doxed by the website was targeted by sexual harassment via "hundreds of threatening calls". University student leaders also received death threats. According to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, as of 30 August 2019, the proportion of doxing cases involving police officers comprised 59% of all reported and discovered cases of doxing, while the remaining 41% involved other people such as protesters, those holding different political views, citizens and their family members. The proportion of cases involving non-police officers increased from 28% two days prior.
Both sides of the protests have been spreading unverified rumours, misinformation and disinformation, which has caused heightened reactions and polarisation among the public. This has included tactics such as using selective cuts of news footage and creating narratives. The prevalence of conspiracy theories originated from people's distrust towards the government and the lack of accountability for the police. Following the Prince Edward station incident, pro-democracy protesters laid down white flowers outside the station's exit to mourn the "deceased" for weeks, after rumours being circulating on the Internet alleging that the police had beaten people to death during the operation. The police, fire service, hospital authority and the government have all denied the accusation. Several death cases, most notably, the death of Chan Yin-lam, a 15-year-old girl whom the police suspected had committed suicide, were the subject of a conspiracy theory that alleged that the police murdered them for participating in the protests and covered-up the death. Rumours suggesting that gang members would launch another attack on the day following the attack on 21 July left Yuen Long as a "ghost town" for a day. The pro-Beijing camps spread rumours that female protesters were offering "free sex" to their male counterparts, and that the CIA was involved in instigating the protests after photographs of Caucasian men taking part in the protests were shared online. The police were also accused of lying to the public by several media outlets and prosecutors. According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Hong Kong's spread of misinformation was the result of the deep mutual distrust between both camps, and that as the protests escalate, existing beliefs galvanised, causing people to become more inclined to share unverified news.
On 19 August, both Twitter and Facebook announced that they had discovered what they described as large-scale disinformation campaigns operating on their social networks with Facebook discovering that those posts had altered images and taken them out of context, often with captions intended to vilify and discredit the protesters. According to investigations by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, some of the attacks were coordinated, state-backed operations that were traced to the Chinese government. A report by the ASPI found that the purported disinformation campaign promoted three main narratives: condemnation of protesters, support for Hong Kong Police, and "conspiracy theories about Western involvement in the protests." Google, Facebook, and Twitter have since banned these accounts. After having videos banned on YouTube, some of China's online commentators instead upload their videos via platforms such as Pornhub. State-run media China Daily have spread fake news suggesting the protesters would launch a terrorist attack on 11 September. In September, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the International Federation of Journalists and the Centre for Law and Democracy released a joint statement urging key social media platforms to take steps to stop the disinformation campaign orchestrated by the Chinese government to disrupt public narratives.
China has launched several cyberattack attempts against Telegram and LIHKG, protesters' key platforms for online communication, with both suffering from several distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks during key moments of the protests. Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram called the attack a "state actor-sized DDoS" and suggested that the attacks were orchestrated by Chinese IP addresses. The DDoS attacks coincided with the protest on 12 June. Anonymous LIHKG moderators also suggested that the DDoS attack on 31 August, which was the date for a mass protest, was launched by Chinese websites including Baidu Tieba.
|The 1 October Tsuen Wan shooting incident (HKFP)|
|The 11 November Sai Wan Ho shooting incident (HKFP)|
Hong Kong police were accused of using excessive and disproportionate force and not following both international safety guidelines and internal protocols while using their weapons. According to Amnesty International, the police have aimed horizontally while aiming, targeting the heads and torsos of protesters. Its use of bean bag rounds and rubber bullets have allegedly ruptured the eyes of several protesters and one eye of an Indonesian journalist. The police were found to have been using tear gas as an offensive weapon, firing it indoors inside a railway station, and using expired tear gas, which could release toxic gases upon combustion. The usage of tear gas sparked public health concerns after a reporter was diagnosed with chloracne in November. Between June and November, approximately 10,000 volleys of gas had been fired. Chemical residues were found on different public facilities in various neighbourhoods.[d]
Several police operations, in particular in Prince Edward station, where the Special Tactical Squad (STS) assaulted commuters on a train, were thought to have disregarded public safety by protesters and pro-democrats. The police were accused of using disproportionate force after an officer shot two young protesters with live ammunition in Tsuen Wan and Sai Wan Ho on 1 October and 11 November respectively.[e] An off-duty officer also accidentally shot and injured a 15-year-old boy in Yuen Long on 4 October when he was assaulted by protesters who accused him of bumping into people with his car. The siege of PolyU, which was described as a "humanitarian crisis" by democrats and medics, prompted Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres to intervene as the wounded protesters trapped inside ran out of supplies and lacked first-aid care.
The kettling of protesters, the operations inside private areas, the deployment of undercover officers who were suspected of committing arson and vandalism, the firing of pepper ball rounds at protesters at a near point blank range, the suspected evidence tampering, the dyeing of Kowloon Mosque and the usage of the water cannon trucks against pedestrians, insufficient protection for police dogs, accessing patients' medical records without consent, and how the police displayed their warning signs have also been sources of controversy. Some police officers wore face masks, did not wear uniforms with identification numbers, or failed to display their warrant cards, making it difficult for citizens to file complaints. The police was also accused of driving dangerously. A police officer was suspended after he hit one protester and dragged him in the process on 11 November with a motorcycle, while a police van suddenly accelerated into a crowd of protesters, causing a stampede as STS officers exiting from the van chased after protesters in Yau Ma Tei on 18 November. The police defended the latter action as an appropriate response by well-trained officers to attacks by protesters, and that "[driving] fast doesn't mean it is unsafe".
The police have also been accused of locking down Prince Edward Station, thereby preventing medical personnel from treating the wounded inside, and of obstructing paramedics from helping Alex Chow Tsz-Lok, thereby delaying treatment, a claim that the police denied. Its arrest of voluntary medics during the siege of PolyU was condemned by medical professionals. The police were also accused of using excessive force on already subdued, compliant arrestees. Video footages show the police kicking an arrestee pressing one's face against the ground, using one as a human shield, and stomping on a demonstrator's head. The police was also accused of sitting on a protester's head, though the police defended the action, saying that the officer was using "minimum necessary force". Protesters reported suffering brain haemorrhage and bone fractures after being violently arrested by the police. Amnesty International has stated that the police had used "retaliatory violence" against protesters and mistreated and tortured some of the detainees. Detainees reported being forced to inhale tear gas, being beaten and threatened by officers, and police officers shining laser lights directly into one detainee's eyes. They were also accused of using sexual violence on female protesters. A female has alleged that riot police officers gang raped her in Tsuen Wan police station, while the police reported that their investigation did not align with her accusation. Some detainees reported the police have denied them access to lawyers and delayed their access to medical services. Many of these allegations were believed to have taken place in San Uk Ling Holding Centre.
The police have been accused of interfering with freedom of the press and of injuring journalists during various protests. The police was also accused of spreading a climate of fear by conducting hospital arrests, arresting people arbitrarily, banning requests for demonstrations, and arresting high-profile activists and lawmakers. Some bystanders caught up in the protests were beaten, kicked, pushed, or pepper sprayed by officers. Its inaction during the storming of the Legislative Council Complex was divisive. Its slow response towards the Yuen Long attack sparked accusations that the police had colluded with triad members. Lawyers have pointed out that police inaction, such as shutting the gates of the nearby police stations during the Yuen Long attacks might be an offence of misconduct in public office, while IPCC reported that the jamming of the emergency hotline during the attack was also a common criticism. The police were also accused of applying double standards by showing leniency towards violent counter-protesters. The police have denied all of these accusations.
Some uniformed officers used foul language to harass and humiliate protesters and journalists, insulted mediators, and provoked protesters. The slur "cockroach" — whose dehumanising qualities have been recognised in the social sciences and psychology – was frequently used by frontline officers to insult protesters; police sought to counter this development, and suggested that in several instances, verbal abuse by protesters may have led officers to use the term. An officer was reprimanded by the police for shouting derisive comments to protesters about the death of Chow Tsz-lok. The police's description of a man wearing a yellow vest, who was taken to an alley, surrounded by police officers and apparently physically abused by one of them, as a "yellow object" due to supposedly impossible recognition of a person in the video footage, was widely criticised.
The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) has launched investigations into alleged police misconducts in the protests, although the protesters demand an independent commission of inquiry instead, as the members of the IPCC are mainly pro-establishment and IPCC lacks the power to investigate, make definitive judgements and hand out penalties. Carrie Lam has rejected this demand and insisted that the IPCC was able to fulfill the task. On 8 November, a five-member expert panel, headed by Sir Denis O'Connor and appointed by Lam in September 2019 to advise the IPCC, concluded that the police watchdog lacked the "powers, capacity and independent investigative capability necessary" to fulfill its role as a police watchdog group and suggested the formation of an independent commission of inquiry given the current protest situation. Members of the panel quit after negotiations to increase the IPCC's powers fell through. The panel reiterated their criticisms of the IPCC, while the IPCC chairman Anthony Neoh said that the suggestions by the expert panel have exceeded the "statutory functions" of the police watchdog.
The police modified the Police General Orders by removing the sentence "officers will be accountable for their own actions" ahead of the 1 October confrontation. Police commanders reportedly ignored the wrongdoings and the unlawful behaviours of frontline riot police and refused to use any of the disciplinary measure to avoid upsetting them. As of December 2019, no officer has been suspended for their actions. The lack of prosecution against officers sparked fears that the police cannot be held accountable for their actions and that they are immune to any legal consequence; as of 24 December 2019, no police have been charged or prosecuted over protest-related actions.
Official total statistics showed that Hong Kong had slipped into recession as its economy had shrunk in the second and third quarters of 2019. Retail sales have declined and consumers' appetite for spending has decreased. During the days of protests, protesters brought "mixed fortunes" to the businesses according to the South China Morning Post. Some restaurants saw their customers cancelling their bookings and some banks and shops were forced to shut their doors. Supplies for goods were also halted and obstructed due to the protest. Meanwhile, some shops prospered as nearby protesters bought food and other commodities. Due to lower consumer spending, several luxury brands delayed the opening of their shops. Protest supplies such as gas masks were running low in stock in both Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The protests also affected property owners. Fearing the instability in Hong Kong, some investors abandoned the purchases of land. Desire to purchase properties also declined, as overall property transactions declined by 24% when compared with the Umbrella Revolution. Property developers were forced to reduce the selling price. Trade shows reported decreased attendance and revenue, and many firms cancelled their events in Hong Kong. The Hang Seng Index declined by at least 4.8% from 9 June to late August. As interest in trading waned, companies that had already applied for initial public offerings (IPO) in Hong Kong urged their bankers to put their listing on hold. August 2019 recorded only one IPO, which was the lowest since 2012, and two large IPOs were shelved respectively in June and July. Fitch Ratings downgraded Hong Kong's sovereignty rating from AA+ to AA due to doubts over the government's ability to maintain the "one country, two systems" principle; the outlook of the city was similarly lowered from "stable" to "negative".
Tourism was also affected. The number of visitors travelling to Hong Kong declined by 40% in August 2019 compared to August 2018, while the decline was 31.9% for the days during and after National Day. As a consequence, both the tourist sector and the food and beverage industry saw an increased unemployment rate. Flight bookings also declined, with airlines cutting or reducing their services. During the airport protests on 12 and 13 August 2019, the Airport Authority cancelled numerous flights, which resulted in an estimated US$76 million loss according to aviation experts. Hong Kong Disneyland also revealed that there were fewer guests visiting. Many mainland tourists avoided travelling to Hong Kong due to safety concerns. Various countries have since issued travel warnings to Hong Kong.
Lam's administration received criticisms for its performance during the protests. Carrie Lam's perceived arrogance, her extended absence, reluctance to engage in dialogue with protesters, and subpar performance at press conferences, were believed to have enabled the protests to escalate. At a press conference on 5 August, Lam explained her absence from the public eye in the preceding two weeks by the risks for organisers regarding possible disruption of public events and press conferences by protesters. According to polls conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, Lam's approval ratings declined to 22.3 in October, lowest among all chief executives, and her performance was categorised as "disastrous" alongside Secretary for Security John Lee and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, prompting institute director Robert Chung to describe the situation as "dire". Ma Ngok, a political scientist, remarked that the government "has lost the trust of a whole generation" and predicted that the youths would remain angry at both the government and the police "for years to come". According to The Diplomat, there was also the emergence of the concept of "mutually assured destruction" (攬炒) where protesters became more radical to compel the administration to concede, while the establishment waited for their increase in aggressiveness so that they can justify the greater militarisation of the police and dismissed the protesters as "insurgents" and their demands. Rifts within the government were also formed with Lennon Walls being set up in government offices and civil servants organising rallies.
The reputation of the police has taken a serious drubbing following the heavy-handed treatment of protesters. In October, a survey conducted by CUHK revealed that more than 50% of the respondents were deeply dissatisfied with the police's performance. According to some reports, the police's aggressive behaviours and tactics have caused them to become a symbol that represented hostility and suppression and police's actions on the protesters has resulted in a breakdown of citizens' trust towards the police. Citizens were also concerned about the police's ability to regulate and control itself and feared about its abuse of power. The suspected acts of police brutality have turned some politically neutral citizens to become more sympathetic with the young protesters. Fearing Hong Kong changing into a police state, some citizens were actively considering emigration. For the police, some lower-ranking officers reported feeling "lost and confused", citing "a lack of leadership" during important moments, and was reportedly discontent with the government, as its extended absence left the police to be the only group to clash with the protesters, resulting in the two groups developing immense mutual hatred for each other. The police has cancelled foot patrol due to fear that they may be attacked, and issued extendable batons to off-duty officers. Frontline officers and protesters have insulted each other with degradative terms. Police officers also reported being "physically and mentally" tired, as they faced the risks of being doxed, cyberbullied, and distanced by their family members. The police's relations with journalists, social workers, medical professionals and members from other disciplined forces became strained.
To cope with the ongoing protests, on 15 November 2019, the police had appointed no more than 100 Correctional Services Department officers as special constables to assist the police force. Due to internal redeployment of staff within the force to deal with the protests, anti-crime operations were "smaller and less frequent than in the past". Criminals also had taken advantage of the lowered police presence to commit crimes, leading to certain types of crimes such as home and shop burglaries being committed between June and October 2019 with higher frequency as compared to the same period in 2018. The Hong Kong government has spent nearly HK$950 million for officers' overtime payments during the protests in the period from June to November 2019.
The protests have deepened the rift between the "yellow" (pro-democracy) and "blue" (pro-government) camps created since the Umbrella Revolution. People who oppose the protests in a self-dubbed "silent majority", including wavering sideline supporters and moderates who say that they have been driven away by the violence, argued that protesters were spreading "chaos and fear" across the city, causing damage to the economy and harming people not involved in the protests. On the other hand, protesters justified their actions by what they saw as the greater good of protecting the city's freedoms against the encroachment of mainland China. Anti-mainland sentiments also swelled during this period of time. There were more frequent and more violent clashes between people from the two camps. Family relationships were strained, as parents have argued with their children over their attending protests, either because they felt that the protests may cost them their future, or they disagreed with their children's political stance or manners of the protests. Social workers have voiced their concerns for some of the young protesters whose mental health has become unstable. A recent study published by The Lancet states that many Hong Kong residents are experiencing high levels of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, resulting from the ongoing social unrest in Hong Kong. Experts noted the eruption of despair in the city during the protests, though protesters have chanted rallying cries to urge people not to commit suicide.
As the protests continued to escalate, citizens showed an increasing tolerance to confrontational and violent actions. Pollsters have found out that among 8,000 respondents, 90% of them believed that the use of these tactics was understandable because of the government's refusal to respond to the demands. The protest movement enabled the citizens in Hong Kong to become better equipped to challenge the government when its policies were perceived to be controversial, such as those during the Wuhan coronavirus crisis. Unity among the protesters was seen across a wide spectrum of age groups, with middle-aged and elderly volunteers attempting to separate the police and the young protesters in the frontline and providing various forms of assistance. Various professions have organised rallies to stand in solidarity with protesters.[f] To express their support, sympathizers of the protest movement chanted rallying cries from their apartment every night, wrote Christmas cards to injured protesters and those in detention, and rallied outside Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre where the detainees are held. While some moderate protesters reported that the increase in violence alienated them from the protests, public opinion polls conducted by CUHK suggested that the movement was able to maintain public support.
Carrie Lam continued to push the second reading of the bill despite a mass anti-extradition bill protest that attracted 1 million people, (according to the organisers) saying that the government was "duty-bound" to amend the law. Following the 12 June conflict, both Police Commissioner Stephen Lo and Lam characterised the conflict as a "riot". The police later backed down on the claim, saying that among the protesters, only five of them rioted. Protesters have since demanded the government to fully retract the riot characterisation. Lam's analogy as Hong Kong people's mother attracted criticisms after the violent crackdown on 12 June.
Lam announced the suspension of the bill on 15 June, and officially apologised to the public on 18 June two days after another massive march. In early July, Lam reiterated that the bill "had passed away" and reaffirmed that all efforts to amend the law had ceased, though her use of language was thought to be ambiguous. During July and August, the government insisted that it would not make any concessions, and that Lam could still lead the government despite calls asking her to resign. For the demand to set up an independent commission to investigate police misconduct, she insisted that the existing mechanism, the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) would suffice.
After condemning the protesters for storming the legislature on 1 July for their "use of extreme violence" and defacing the national emblem during the 21 July protest, Lam suggested in early August that the protests had derailed from their original purposes and that its goal was to challenge China's sovereignty and damage "one country, two systems". She suggested that the radical protesters were dragging Hong Kong to a "point of no return" and that they had "no stake in society", a remark that received criticisms from some civil servants.
Following a rally on 18 August that was attended by more than 1.7 million people, Lam announced that she would create platforms for dialogue. On 4 September, Lam announced that she would formally withdraw the extradition bill, introduce measures such as introducing new members to the IPCC, engaging in dialogue in a community level, and inviting academics to evaluate the deep-rooted problems of Hong Kong. However, protesters and democrats had previously affirmed that all the five core demands must be answered. Her concession was described as "too little, too late", as the conflicts would not have escalated if she had withdrawn the bill during the early stage of the protest. The first dialogue session was held on 26 September. However, critics doubted Lam's ability to solve the problem in these dialogue sessions since a Chinese envoy has previously affirmed that the HKSAR government would not make any more concessions.
On 5 October, after what Lam referred to as "extreme violence" taking place, an emergency law was enacted to ban face masks in Hong Kong – without declaring a state of emergency – which has sparked criticism from various human rights organisations. Some political analysts warned that invoking the emergency law would be "the beginning of authoritarianism in Hong Kong." The democrats have filed a judicial review to challenge Carrie Lam's decision, and the High Court of Hong Kong ruled that the mask ban was unconstitutional.
The Department of Justice has applied for and was granted an injunction against damaging the disciplined services quarters, and a temporary court order that bans the public from harassing police officers or posting their personal information online. The ban had been criticised for the possibility of producing a chilling effect on free speech; it was also criticised for having an excessively broad scope.
The pro-Beijing camp supported the government in promoting the bill, though U-turned when the government withdrew the bill. They have condemned the use of violence by protesters, including breaking into the LegCo Complex and using petrol bombs and unidentified liquids against the police, and used the term "rubbish youths" (Chinese:廢青p=fèi qīng j=fai3 tsing1) in reference to high school- and university-age participants. They have maintained their support for the Hong Kong Police Force, and have held various counter-demonstrations to support the police. On 17 August, a pro-government rally organised by the Safeguard Hong Kong Alliance occurred in Tamar Park. The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) chairwoman Starry Lee disagreed with setting up an independent commission to investigate police behaviour as she felt that it would "dampen their morale". Felix Chung, a lawmaker from Liberal Party, supported the withdrawal of the bill, though he felt that an independent commission should be set up to investigate the whole incident. Some lawmakers, including the HKFTU's Alice Mak, were said to have vented their anger toward Lam as her decision to suspend the bill may harm their chances in the upcoming elections. Members of the Executive Council, Ip Kwok-him and Regina Ip alleged that there was a "mastermind" behind the protests but could not provide substantial evidence to support their claim.
Many lawmakers from the pan-democratic camp, such as Ted Hui and Roy Kwong, assisted the protesters in various scenarios. Other activists, such as Ventus Lau, organised and coordinated numerous rallies. Responding to the escalation of the protests seen in mid August at the airport, the convenor of the pro-democratic lawmakers, Claudia Mo, while disagreeing with some protesters' actions, asserted that her group of lawmakers would not split with the protesters. Fernando Cheung warned that Hong Kong was slowly becoming a "police state" with the increasing violence used by the police. Pro-democrats also criticised the arrests of several lawmakers before the 31 August protest, saying that such arrests were an attempt by the police to suppress the movement, and condemned the violence directed at its protests organisers, lawmakers and election candidates. Former government executives, including Anson Chan, the former Chief Secretary for Administration, issued several open letters to Carrie Lam, urging her to respond to the five core demands raised by protesters. Joshua Wong, Denise Ho and several other democrats also provided testimonies during the US congressional hearing for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
In August, 17 members from the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong and The Chinese General Chamber of Commerce released statements condemning the escalating protests due to the instability they had brought to the city's economy and business community, besides negative effects on society as a whole. Annie Wu, the daughter of Maxim's founder and also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, condemned the protesters at the United Nations Human Rights Council, and suggested that Hong Kong should give up the "lost" protesters. On 30 October, Abraham Shek, lawmaker representing the Real Estate and Construction constituency supported the formation of an independent commission and said that the problem could not be resolved by addressing the severe housing shortage. Tycoon Li Ka-shing took out a two-page advertisement on newspapers, urging people to "stop anger and violence in the name of love", and quoting a Chinese poem: "The melon of Huangtai cannot bear the picking again".
The 2019 Hong Kong District Council election was held on 24 November, as first poll since the beginning of the protests, and one that has been billed as a "referendum" on the government. More than 2.94 million votes were cast, for a turnout rate of 71.2%, up from 1.45 million and 47% from the election prior. This is the highest turnout ever in the history of Hong Kong, both in absolute numbers and in turnout rates. The results were a resounding landslide victory for the pro-democracy bloc, as they saw their seat share increased from 30% to almost 88%, with a jump in vote share from 40% to 57%. The largest party before the election, DAB, fell to the third place, with its leader's vote share cut from a consistent 80% to 55%, and all three of their vice-chairpeople losing. Among those who are also legislators, the overwhelming majority of the losing candidates were from the pro-Beijing bloc. Commenting on the election results, New Statesman declared it "the day Hong Kong's true "silent majority" spoke".
The Chinese government has expressed their opposition to the protests, while taking measures against the protests and their supporters. The protests have been depicted by Chinese government and media as separatist riots. Beijing has accused the movement of displaying "characteristics of colour revolutions" and "signs of terrorism". The Beijing government and state-run media have accused foreign forces of interfering with domestic affairs, and supporting the protesters. These allegations were criticised by those who were blamed, and CNN noted that China had a record of blaming foreign forces for causing domestic unrest. On 22 October, following similar protests and violence in Catalonia and Chile, the Chinese government accused Western media of hypocrisy for not providing similar coverage and support to those protests. Chinese diplomats and ambassadors in more than 70 countries have broadcast Beijing's position on the protests to shape international opinion, though observers remarked their attempts were unlikely to be successful. After the High Court had ruled that the anti-mask ban was unconstitutional, the spokesperson of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress' (NPCSC) Legislative Affairs Commission suggested that the rights to declare any law in Hong Kong as "unconstitutional" lay exclusively with the NPCSC, and that Hong Kong courts had no rights to do so.
Chinese state media outlets largely ignored the protests until 17 April. The protests were mostly censored from Mainland Chinese social media, such as Sina Weibo, though state-owned media and Chinese social media users later turned to condemn the protesters, although Western media had accused them of launching a disinformation campaign to disrupt public narratives. State-run media have pressured various companies, including railway operator MTR Corporation, airline Cathay Pacific, and the Big Four accounting firms to take a hardline approach against employees who have taken part in the protests. Cathay Pacific witnessed a huge managerial reshuffling and began firing pro-democratic employees after the Civil Aviation Administration of China threatened to block Cathay's access to Chinese airspace, while the MTR began to close stations and end its service early after being criticised for transporting protesters. Chinese media have also attempted to appeal to the "silent majority", and blame the protests on the education system of Hong Kong. It has also hailed police officers as "heroes", demanded the government to take more "forceful" actions and the court to hand out heavy punishments, and advocated the police to shoot the protesters with sniper rifles during the PolyU siege.
Foreign envoys have reported deployment in late August of a sizeable number of People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops to Hong Kong, going well beyond the usual rotation and bringing the number of PLA troops there to possibly twice the level from before the start of the protests; also in August, drills of the People's Armed Police were observed across the border in Shenzhen. The army itself also filmed and uploaded a video of an anti-riot drill in Shenzhen, which was considered a "thinly veiled warning to Hong Kong" by Time. On 6 October, the PLA issued its first warning to the protesters, who were shining laser lights on the exterior of the PLA garrison in Kowloon Tong. On 16 November, soldiers have appeared publicly for the first time in the streets, in plain clothes and unarmed, to clear roadblocks and other debris left during protests alongside local residents, firefighters, and police officers before marching back to the Kowloon Tong barracks. The government insisted that the soldiers had only been volunteering, and that it had made no request for assistance. The act was criticised by pro-democrats as they deemed it a violation of the Basic Law. The Chinese government has required goods mailed from Mainland China to Hong Kong to be investigated while goods which are believed as related to the protests are forbidden from being mailed.
On 4 January 2020, the State Council dismissed Wang Zhimin from the role of Director of the Hong Kong Liaison Office and elected Luo Huining as his successor. The decision was widely linked with the poor performance of the pro-government candidates at the District Council Elections in November, and Wang's perceived poor judgment of how the protests evolved. Zhang Xiaoming, who held the position of director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, was demoted and replaced by Xia Baolong in February 2020.
As a result of the protests, many nations have issued travel warnings for Hong Kong. Demonstrations in reaction to the protests have taken place in locations around the world, such as Los Angeles, Berlin, Canberra, Frankfurt, Melbourne, London, New York City, Seoul, San Francisco, Paris, Delhi, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Montreal, Toronto, Hanoi, Rome, Barcelona, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Santiago, Vilnius and Vancouver. Solidarity rallies held by Hong Kong international students studying abroad were often disrupted by mainland Chinese supporters. Following the death of Chow Tsz-lok, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng was heckled and jostled by supporters of the protests when she was entering Bloomsbury Square in London to give a lecture. She fell on the ground and injured her arm. Some protesters in the concurrent 2019 Catalan protests have claimed inspiration from, and solidarity with the Hong Kong protests. Journalist Michael Reid saw the 2019 Latin American protests as being inspired by the French yellow vests movement, the Catalan protests and the Hong Kong protests.
Some of the radical protesters fled to Taiwan to avoid prosecution. The Hong Kong protests were considered to be a contributing factor to the landslide victory of Tsai Ing-wen during the 2020 Taiwanese presidential election. Tsai has repeatedly shown a supportive attitude to the protesters of Hong Kong and used Hong Kong as an example to display the threats posed by the "one country, two systems" principle to Taiwan's autonomy and democracy during her presidential campaign.
In the United States, the House of Representatives and Senate both unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in light of the extradition bill and protests, with amendments that differ between the two versions needing resolution before being presented to President Donald Trump for approval. Trump signed the bill on 27 November, alongside a companion bill restricting U.S. exports of crowd control devices to the Hong Kong police forces. Various United States politicians have expressed disapproval of corporate decisions related to the protests.
A former employee of the British consulate in Hong Kong, Simon Cheng, reported in an interview with the BBC that he had been tortured by Chinese officials during his 15-day detention in China in August 2019. He was detained by mainland officials for allegedly "soliciting prostitutes". According to Cheng, his captors, who he believed to be secret police, called him "a British spy and secret agent", and subjected him to torture in what he called a "tiger chair" to make him confess that he had been instigating unrest in Hong Kong on behalf of the British government. Cheng's statements were deemed credible by UK government sources. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab released a statement saying that he was "outraged by the disgraceful mistreatment". In response to the political and media backlash, Chinese state media later released footage of the confession of Cheng, and CCTV footage of him entering and leaving a clubhouse. Cheng stated that he had made the confession after he had been threatened by China's police that he would otherwise not be able to contact his family and be detained indefinitely.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet demanded the Hong Kong government to conduct an investigation on the police's use of force against the protesters, though she subsequently expressed that she was "troubled and alarmed" by the escalating violence used by the protesters. Amnesty International praised the protesters for their dedication despite facing "abusive policing tactics" which include the "wanton use of tear gas, arbitrary arrests, physical assaults and abuses in detention" from the HKPF. Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, was denied entry to Hong Kong at Hong Kong International Airport on 12 January 2020. He had come to the city to release the 2020 World Report by his group. The report features a picture of a mass demonstration in Hong Kong on its front cover. Hong Kong officials insisted that the decision to bar Roth from entry had been made in Hong Kong, not in mainland China.
Norwegian lawmaker Guri Melby announced in October 2019 that she would nominate the Hong Kong people for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, adding that the protest movement deserved recognition "for its brave efforts". On 5 February 2020 the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Chair Marco Rubio and co-chair James McGovern also announced their intention to nominate the Hong Kong protesters for the Nobel Peace Prize, recognizing the protesters who have "risked their lives, their health, their jobs, and their education to support a better future for Hong Kong".
'Stopping violence and restoring order is still the most important work for Hong Kong society, the common responsibility of the city's executive, legislative and judicial bodies, as well as the biggest consensus of the city,' he said.
'[The central government] fully acknowledges the work done by [Lam] and the SAR government, and the dedicated performance of the Hong Kong police force,' he said
In response to the latest clashes between police and protesters in Hong Kong on Saturday night – including one incident where police stormed the platform of Prince Edward metro station and beat people on a train – Man-Kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said: "Violence directed at police on Saturday is no excuse for officers to go on the rampage elsewhere. The horrifying scenes at Prince Edward metro station, which saw terrified bystanders caught up in the melee, fell far short of international policing standards.
At a press conference, Carrie Lam used a Cantonese phrase to say the proposed legislation was 'reaching the end of its life.' Her government suspended the progress of the bill after demonstrations last month ... 'We suspended it and we have no timetable,' Lam said. 'What I said today is not very different from before, but maybe people want to hear a very firm response ... the bill has actually died. So people won't need to worry that there will be renewed discussions on the bill in the current legislature.' Protesters rejected her remarks and promised to continue the demonstrations. Figo Chan Ho-wun of the Civil Human Rights Front said: 'I urge Carrie Lam not to use words to deceive us. Otherwise the Civil Human Rights Front will plan our next action.'
For Friday's 'Hong Kong Way' demonstration, organisers had called for people to gather in single file along routes that roughly matched subway lines, snaking nearly 30 miles (50km) through Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories.
The Hong Kong Way comes just five days after as many as 1.7 million demonstrators took to the streets in a peaceful rally on Aug. 18) — and before city gears up for another weekend of protests. The Chinese territory has seen a rare period of calm, with last weekend the first in more than two months with no tear gas fired by police.
Hardliners confronted police anew after largely holding back the previous weekend. They occupied streets on Saturday and Sunday, erecting barriers across roads after otherwise peaceful marches by thousands of others. Wearing gas masks, they threw bricks and gasoline bombs toward the police, as the latter fired tear gas canisters at them. The return to confrontation signaled their belief that the government would not respond to peaceful protest alone.
Video footage of the incident showed the officer firing directly at the protesters after a group attacked another officer in riot gear with rods at a demonstration in Kowloon. It is unclear whether the rods were made of plastic or metal.
The protesters also use iPhone's AirDrop function to anonymously and rapidly share information.
One of the features of well-planned information operations is the ability to subtly target specific audiences. By contrast, the information operation targeting the Hong Kong protests is relatively blunt. Three main narratives emerge:  Condemnation of the protestors,  Support for the Hong Kong police and 'rule of law',  Conspiracy theories about Western involvement in the protests.
Gijsbert Heikamp was filming with his cellphone at a protest outside a police station in Tsim Sha Tsui. He was outside the station, standing behind a barrier, when officers began firing tear gas from behind a fence. Two of the canisters went through gaps in the barrier, hitting him in the stomach and on the right arm.