First appeared in Globe Post: https://theglobepost.com/2019/06/13/hong-kong-last-stand/
International media describe the recent protests in Hong Kong against the extradition bill as the “last stand.” Martin Lee, the father of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, also refers to “the last fight for Hong Kong.”
There was the air of the “last stand” during the clashes between protestors and the police outside of the Legislative Council building on Wednesday, June 12. Some young protestors seemed to set aside their personal safety and possible long jail terms as they dashed at riot police in full gear marching forward to clear protestors.
It also sounded like the “last stand” when protestor after protestor repeated the message that “we don’t think the government will withdraw the extradition bill, but we are not going to let Hong Kong die without a fight.”
However, protestors should make sure that the recent protests do not mean the last stand, but the beginning of another chapter in Hong Kong’s decades-long struggle for democracy and freedom.
Keeping up Pressure
The Civil Human Rights Front called for a general strike so that supporters could turn out at the Legislative Council building on Wednesday. However, the Front requires a permit from the police and the police would not issue another permit for more protests. What should determined protestors do to keep up the pressure? Equally important, given that the police fired rubber bullets as well as tear gas on Wednesday, what could ordinary people do to continue to protest without risking physical injuries and arrests?
Studies of civil disobedience point out that “methods of dispersal,” when protestors launch stay-aways, strikes, and boycotts, can be as effective as “methods of concentration,” when protestors gather at central locations.
The best payoff of mass demonstrations is to demonstrate people power. The 1-million strong demonstration on Sunday, June 9, has already galvanized local and international support. For next steps, protestors should think more about “methods of dispersal.” People on strike do not necessarily have to come to the Legislative Council building to make an impact.
Targeted Economic Boycott
Hong Kong’s business elites are overwhelmingly pro-Beijing for that is where the money is. But the “follow the money” logic also gives Hong Kong’s humble citizens some ability to sanction tycoons, since these figures make their fortunes not only from lucrative contracts with Beijing but also from the everyday purchases of millions of ordinary Hong Kong citizens. A targeted consumer boycott might make businesses rethink their continued collusion with the government.
During the Umbrella Movement of 2014, protestors circulated a list of pro-establishment businesses for boycott and urged supporters to go to local mom-and-pop shops instead. It was unfortunate that this potentially more effective tactic was not taken seriously then. Occupation of busy streets captured the world’s attention, but it was not sustainable for long because many people had to go back to work or to school.
[See my discussion of targeted boycott during the Umbrella Movement.]
Now that the government is determined to clear protestors to prevent Occupy 2.0, protestors have to find other civil disobedience tactics to keep the momentum. Gene Sharp, the architect of nonviolent action, listed 198 noncooperation methods.
The general strike could be expanded. It could be more effective if civil servants can be convinced to join. It would be particularly helpful if individual police officers could be persuaded by relatives and friends to not fire at protestors. Protestors themselves could also update the list of pro-establishment businesses for targeted boycott and pro-democracy businesses for targeted support.
When young people feel that there are alternative nonviolent methods to keep the fire burning, they do not have to hurl bottles and barricades at the police, which only gives the government the perfect excuse to crack down harder. It is also bad optics when international media show pictures of clashes rather than disciplined people power.
The current fight against the extradition bill does not have to be the “last stand” if protestors find alternative methods of civil disobedience to keep up the pressure.
A riot on June 12?
The police and the Chief Executive called the protest on Wed, June 12 a riot. The police chief has since walked back to say that they have charged only 5 people for rioting. What violence did protestors commit?
This video shows that, at multiple locations around the Legco building, the police retreated to lure protestors to storm forward. Once protestors were trapped, the police marched forward and fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protestors trying to run away. https://hk.news.appledaily.com/local/realtime/article/20190616/59719041
Some protestors were seen collecting bricks Wed morning. This NYT story “Bricks, Bottles and Tear Gas: Protesters and Police Battle in Hong Kong” mentions bricks but the embedded video does not show protestors throwing bricks. This account in Chinese suggests that 3-4 bricks were thrown at the police outside the Legco building:【6.12 再定性．2】一場事先張揚的升級行動 衝擊者們：我們目標是進佔立法會
There are pictures of protestors putting off teargas canisters that landed near them. We still have to see evidence that protestors threw teargas canisters back at the police. See Water on the Smoke ; Hong Kong protestors putting out tear gas canisters with water bottles as a team is almost metaphorical ; No, this photo does not show a Hong Kong protester hitting away a tear gas canister with a tennis racquet.
Protestors used barricades to try to break open the doors of CITIC, after the police fired tear gas at protestors outside of the Legislative Council building/CITIC building from both sides. The only escape was to get inside the CITIC building but only half a door was opened. Many participants remarked afterwards that it was a miracle that a stampede didn’t happen. See these videos:
A retired pastor, Rev. Yuen Tin Yau, asked the press: “Who was the one who used violence? Who rioted? I believe it was the government who used its power to hurt the powerless Hong Kong people.”
The impression that protestors had thrown hard objects at the police suggests why it is so important to maintain nonviolent discipline. Even throwing water bottles and umbrellas could create bad optics for the world. What kind of pictures go to the front page? Disciplined nonviolent protests on the two Sundays vs. clashes and protestors throwing things on Wed.
It is said that Carrie Lam backed down because of the clashes with the police. Is that correct?
Lam announced that she was going to suspend the bill on Saturday, June 15. The protest that turned violent happened on Wed, June 12. The violent clashes seemed to hand her the perfect excuse to label the protest a riot and praised the police’s use of force to quell the rioteers. The entire pro-establishment chorus followed the same party line. More likely than not, it was big business folks on the Executive Council and Legislative Council that really convinced Carrie Lam to back down — as suggested by NYT’s Keith Bradsher’s analysis, along with a Reuter story that the super rich were moving money out of HK. The time line suggests that the violent clashes had at most an indirect effect. In contrast, there is a stronger correlation between the disciplined nonviolent demonstration on Sunday, June 16, and her two apologies at the end of the day on June 16 and again on Tue., June 18.
Legislators calling for nonviolence:
Christians initiated a new method to ease the tensions between protestors and the police, and to maintain nonviolent discipline: Praying together and singing Hallelujah nonstop to the police! This is a brilliant method to keep protestors united, calm and hopeful.
Rev. Wu Chi Wai: “We hoped to bring the presence of Christ there. We saw our roles as peacemakers placed between protesters and police to calm emotions.” (‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ becomes the unofficial anthem in Hong Kong https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2019/06/18/sing-hallelujah-lord-becomes-unofficial-anthem-hong-kong)
‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ Has Become the Anthem of the Hong Kong Protests https://time.com/5608882/sing-hallelujah-to-the-lord-protestors-hong-kong-extradition-anthem/
Boycott lists are coming:
Boycott of companies that place ads with TVB + support of companies that pull out: ‘Sweat’-ing Bullets: ‘Biased’ TVB feeling protesters’ pinch after Pocari pulls ads ; mooncakes ; 10廣告商撤回TVB廣告
Calls to show up at the annual dinner of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of HK led to its cancellation
Call to withdraw money from mainland banks:
Over 100 Hong Kong employers pledge strike action against extradition bill, as Chief Exec. warns against ‘radical action’
Hong Kong protests against extradition bill may look like Occupy – but young, leaderless demonstrators have learned lessons from the past https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3014260/hong-kongs-young-protesters-have-learned-lessons-past-they
How Hong Kong’s protesters find ways to outwit the surveillance state https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm
Protest veterans have developed new tactics—but so have the police https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/06/15/how-to-speak-out-and-stay-hidden-in-hong-kong/
Different camps are united this time: 大角咀社區平台
Hong Kong’s extradition bill protesters face challenges deciding their next step https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3014908/how-do-you-follow-record-breaking-march-estimated-2-million
Why did Hongkongers join million-strong march to protest extradition bill? It’s about protecting freedom, and it’s in their DNA https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3013758/why-did-hundreds-thousands-hongkongers-take-streets-protest
For HK’s youth, protests are a matter of life and death https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/17/world/asia/hong-kong-protests-youth.html
Videos and photos of the protests:
How Big Was Sunday’s Protest in Hong Kong? These Aerial Images Show You https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/06/20/world/asia/hong-kong-protest-size.html
a drone video of the protest on June 12: http://shanghaiist.com/2019/06/17/hk-anti-extradition-protests-drone-video/amp/
a drone video of the protest on June 16: https://bit.ly/2WM2J1o
Hong Kong protests: Scale of the march in photos https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-48655634
How Hong Kong’s anti-extradition protesters besieged city’s legislature https://multimedia.scmp.com/infographics/news/hong-kong/article/3014305/extradition-bill-protest/
photos from the frontlines https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/06/16/hkfp-lens-day-shook-hong-kong-part-2-dramatic-photos-frontlines/
Video: Stunning drone footage captures the crowds and tear gas of Hong Kong’s dramatic week of protest https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/06/18/video-stunning-drone-footage-captures-crowds-tear-gas-hong-kongs-dramatic-week-protest/
Video: Level of force used by Hong Kong police to clear protests questioned, as video clips go viral https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/06/18/video-level-force-used-hong-kong-police-clear-protests-questioned-video-clips-go-viral/
Badiucao cartoon: Chinese artist satirises Hong Kong’s extradition bill debacle https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/06/16/badiucao-cartoon-chinese-artist-satirises-hong-kongs-extradition-bill-debacle/
The last stand/fight?
Hong Kong’s last stand? A gallant battle in the face of unspeakable sacrifice and overwhelming odds
“the curse of living in the eternal immediate present is that the stakes for this “last fight” could not be higher, especially since young Hong Kongers fear that if they are defeated in this battle, there will be nothing left to lose.” https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/16/hong-kong-not-china-yet-but-feared-grim-day-coming-ever-nearer
Many fear that HK’s ‘last battle’ is already lost https://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-china-hong-kong-extradition-bill-20190611-story.html
Hong Kong extradition bill explained https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3010273/hong-kong-extradition-bill-chaos-and-confusion-reigns-how
How Hong Kong’s Leader Made the Biggest Political Retreat by China Under Xi https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/15/world/asia/china-hong-kong-politics.html
Hong Kong developer walks away from HK$11.1 billion Kai Tak project, citing ‘social contradiction and economic instability’ https://www.scmp.com/business/article/3014075/hong-kong-developer-walks-away-kai-tak-project-citing-social-contradiction
Hong Kong’s British Past Shapes Its Tense Present With China https://www.newsy.com/stories/hong-kong-s-british-past-shapes-its-tense-present-with-china/
History of Hong Kong protests: riots, rallies and brollies https://multimedia.scmp.com/infographics/news/hong-kong/article/3016815/hong-kong-protest-city/index.html?src=article-launcher