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Letters from a Chaotic Hot Spot

By Bill Stork

Letter #1: Sunday, November 17, 2019


When we think back to the Occupy Central-Umbrella Movement of several years ago, the position of the government was not too retaliatory compared to this year’s events, but the strategy was just to wait for the tide of public opinion to turn.

In the past three days, an elderly gentleman was hit in the head by a thrown brick, and subsequently died; the police deemed it ‘homicide.’ In addition to the student that was shot and the other that fell from an overpass and died, the escalation in the use of petrol-bombs by the protesters has also led to indiscriminate burning of buildings, and in one a mother barely escaped with her young daughter.

Rampant destruction and vandalism of the MTR stations has severely disrupted transportation in a city that is dependent on being able to move large numbers of people often and quickly.

The recent take-over by a number of the university campuses has led to popular alarm, with mainland and foreign students leaving for home.

These campuses becoming fortified and turned into ‘camps’ and ‘armouries’ for protesters has disturbed public opinion, especially when activists were shown firing arrows from archery equipment stolen from university athletic departments.

Police are on edge, and the Correctional Services riot platoon, the Flying Tigers, has been drafted by the HK police to serve as ‘constables’ (these are the ones trained to deal with prison riots).

So, what is new? Jasmine has long been saying that these protesters should stay in school and study on weekends, and not be roaming about causing all this terror and trouble. I have suggested that not all these violent black-clad activists might be students, but just young men out to cause trouble.

So, when the eight university presidents announced that classes were suspended until the next semester (in January), the CUHK was the first to demand that non-students (and others) leave the campus.

And in response, a number of vehicles arrived to pick up black-clads to take them away. Hmmm. That organized? And by whom?

This day also saw Hong Kongers voluntarily coming to clear the streets of barricades and obstructions. One place that was most badly hit was Tolo Highway, but the CUHK president came to the bridge and demanded that all on it depart overnight, and this did happen.

Another area of concern was the area around H K Baptist University, just adjacent to H K Baptist Hospital. With roads blocked, emergency services were badly disrupted.

In addition to volunteers coming out to clear the roads, the Kowloon Garrison of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army came marching out, in khaki T-shirts and black shorts and began clearing bricks off of the nearby streets around Kowloon Station where the hospital is.

Central saw a mass rally ‘support our police,’ organized by a former police officer.

Is the tide of public opinion changing? Well, in some ways it does appear that the violence and vandalism will no longer escalate … but we will need to wait and see.

The better news is that the government did not use the violence as an excuse to cancel the upcoming District Council elections, so that aspect of ‘democracy’ seems to have been preserved.

Jasmine had a major presentation scheduled for the H K Exhibition and Conference Centre on Wednesday, but transportation made it impossible to get there, and getting home was nearly as bad. She leaves tomorrow for two days to Macau, and the US Consulate General has indicated a number of rallies are scheduled. In the past these have often started as peaceful, but violent black-clads have spilled out from these events to cause troubles elsewhere.

The next few days will tell a lot.

Letter #2: Monday, November 18, 2019

Hello Al,

It seems as if I might have been a bit optimistic! I said ‘time will tell …’, but the first thing I saw this morning was this news.

This university, the HK Polytechnic, is just above the Kowloon-side entrance to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, the main link to HK island, and its road is barricaded and the toll-booths vandalized. HK Poly is also situated on a hill, so that it is difficult for the police to enter and engage, as the activists launch petrol bombs and arrows from above. To my mind it appears as if the professional-protesters have all reassembled there. Students are busy fleeing their campus.

On the other side of the news, the rule of law is still firmly in place, as the HK Supreme Court has just ruled that the government’s use of ’emergency power’ to ban face masks is ‘unconstitutional,’ not in compliance with HK’s Basic Law. I have yet to read the details. It will further be interesting to see how this plays out.

In responding to your note “Sunday update,” [I grant] free reign to use whatever I have sent. I thought that the message with photos might give ‘outsiders’ a better ‘picture’ of what is happening as it is more visual and thus more dramatic.

As always! My very best regards!

Did you miss any of Bill’s reports? Find them below.

Hong Kong Heat, Parts 1 and 2
Hong Kong Heat, Part 3
Hong Kong Heat, Part 4
Hong Kong Heat, Part 5
Hong Kong Heat, Part 6

Bill welcomes your comments. Please add them below. Thanks.