Riot police literally looking down -- and, I'm sure, figuratively
too -- at protesters marching below past their perch
What a whole lot of Hong Kongers believe
Celebrate China's National Day? The mood's more along
the lines of Celebrate your mother in Hong Kong!
For a number of years now, the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) has been organizing protest marches on July 1st and October 1st. Known for its ability to attract a large number of participants for its protest events, it also has a deserved reputation for organizing events favored by non-violent protesters. Despite all this, the Hong Kong police refused to grant the CHRF a Letter of No Objection for the protest march it had planned for the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China.
But if the local constabulary thought that this meant that no major protests would be taking place on what's looked upon as a day of mourning -- not celebration -- for many Hong Kongers, they were proved wrong many times over once again. For one thing, a quartet of pro-democracy activists stepped forward to organize an October 1st march whose route closely followed that proposed by the CHRF -- and decided that they would not bother to apply for a Letter of No Objection from the police for it. In addition, in anticipation of the police rejecting the CHRF's proposal for October 1st, "National Calamity Day" protests were scheduled to take place in six other locales in Hong Kong.
Although the authorities did their best to scare people into not turning out and making it difficult for them to get to protest locations, tens -- if not hundreds -- of thousands of people showed up at the appointed times and places this afternoon to show that they were not in a celebratory mood this October 1st. The march from Causeway Bay to Central along the route traditionally opted for by the CHRF attracted the largest number of participants. It also appeared to be the most peaceful of today's protests, with its offical conclusion having been announced by the organizers before things took a violent turn on Hong Kong Island in the manner of earlier developments elsewhere, including Wong Tai Sin, Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan and Sha Tin.
Inevitably, many more cannisters of tear gas were fired today in various parts of Hong Kong, the water cannon got wheeled out for use on protesters once more, this summer's protester arrest numbers increased by more than a hundred today, etc. Also predictably, but sadly all the same, the level of violence escalated some more today -- to the extent that a number of media outlets (including the Nikkei Asian Review, and Radio Television Hong Kong's English language team) decided to take their reporters off the streets for the day.
Lest it not be apparent that a large part of the violence emanates from the police rather than protesters: the headline news out of Hong Kong today is that a schoolboy protester had live rounds shot into his chest by a cop in Tsuen Wan this afternoon. Ironically, just last week, Chief Executive In Name Only -- who wasn't even in Hong Kong today -- Carrie Lam took it upon herself to declare that it's remarkable that no one had died yet in this summer's protests (though, of course, she was not taking into account the protester suicides that have taken place). But the way the police are carrying on, it really is seeming more inevitable by the day and week that there will be protester deaths on their hands (soon), if there hasn't been already.
Actually, considering that the live rounds that lodged themselves into the Tsuen Wan schoolboy were not the only ones fired this afternoon, it truly is a miracle that no one was killed by the police today. Just a few days ago, I was lamenting to a friend that, whereas prior to this summer, my main worry when protesting was that I'd be pepper sprayed and beaten with batons by the police, now I worried that I'd get tear gassed when walking about in Hong Kong as well as during an actual protest. After today though, the potential for greater harm wreaked by the Hong Kong police has come about as a result the shooting of actual live rounds threatening to be the norm -- like the firing of cannisters of tear gas, rubber bullets and sponge grenades more or less. Which gives Hong Kongers one more reason to mourn on this anniversary given such great import -- and celebrated -- by Beijing.