Thursday, October 31, 2019

Police state nightmare this Halloween in Hong Kong

As per usual Halloween behavior, people went out 
in public this evening with funny masks on

Others took the opportunity to hand out sweet treats

The MTR announced late last night that Prince Edward MTR station would close at 2pm today and Central MTR station at 9pm.  The early closure of Prince Edward MTR station came on the two-month anniversary of the police attacks there which many people believe resulted in the deaths of a number of individualsThe early closure of Central MTR station was due to fears that yet another protest march -- this one featuring people wearing masks usually reserved for Halloween that now could get them arrested, under the conditions of the emergency ban against facial covering enacted earlier this month -- would end up seeing protesters gate-crashing festivities at its scheduled end-point of Lan Kwai Fong.

All too predictably, however, it was the local constabulary who proved to be the real horror tonight.  Before meeting up with a friend to go on a stroll through town this evening, I already had got news of the police having fired tear gas at Prince Edward.  But while we did ourselves come across a heavy riot police presence on the Causeway Bay side of Victoria Park, it wasn't heavy enough to deter those assembled there to enjoy an evening outing -- be it involving shopping, dining, movie-going (since, lest we forget, Causeway Bay is home to lots of shops, restaurants and cinemas) or protesting.  

Upon pressing on further westwards with a bunch of people wearing masks but walking on the sidewalk rather than the road, we were happy to see the protest crowd increase even while the police presence in the area decrease.  And even while there once again were riot police standing on the pedestrian bridges that border Wan Chai and Admiralty (and are uncomfortably close to the Police Headquarters at Wan Chai), their pose was on the relaxed side and they also did not have their gas masks on.   

Walking through Admiralty, there once again were few police officers in (plain) sight.  Still, I must admit to not feeling completely relaxed; this even while being entertained along the way by spotting a number of interesting masks and costumes being worn, people handing out sweet treats to their fellow protesters and by an elderly man playing Glory to Hong Kong on loop on a portable machine that he periodically held aloft.  For I had a feeling we would encounter a heavy police presence in Central.  And so it proved. 

Shortly after passing the Court of Final Appeal, word came not only of there being lots of riot police in front of the Marks and Spencer store on Queen's Road Central but that a blue flag had been raised there.  In addition, we found the way to Lan Kwai Fong barred by a horrific amount of riot police who looked to have decided that the area with a reputation for being Hong Kong's Party Central was now barred to everyone, be they protesters or revellers!  

Figuring that we wouldn't be able to go get a drink in Lan Kwai Fong this evening (like we had planned to do), my friend and I decided to call it a night and head home.  As it so happened, shortly after we did so, the police decided in their wisdom to pepper spray and tear gas people in Central.  And, predictably, as was the case at Prince Edward and adjacent Mongkok this evening, some of the victims of disproportionate police force were not protesters at all

While I can imagine some bar and restaurant owners blaming the protesters for Halloween this year proving to be a commercial disaster for them, I have a feeling that the police are the ones who made even more enemies tonight with actions like this and this.  And while all this may not be on the scale of the horror that ensued at Tuen Mun last night, this put paid to the conceit some people had that a crowd in Central would be safe from police brutality in a Hong Kong that now is far closer to being a police state than many people could have imagined just mere months ago. 

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