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I wish I could say otherwise but, in view of yesterday having been what would have been Election Day in Hong Kong (but was not because the government postponed the Legislative Council elections by at least a year -- and, many of us suspect, may end up outright cancelling it), it was not going to be a peaceful Sunday. Earlier in the week, I had seen online calls for people to go protest in Kowloon against China's national security law for Hong Kong, the Beijing-backed Wuhan coronavirus mass testing scheme and the Legislative Council election postponement. In response, the police issued warnings on Saturday against people taking part in the proposed march and stated that thousands of officers would be deployed in the area to put down any protests double quick.
Then early yesterday morning, news broke of People Power vice-chairman Tam Tak-chi having been arrested by the police after national security officers searched his home. His alleged crime? "Uttering seditious words". (No, I'm not joking. Instead, realize how bad the situation in Hong Kong has become that people can be arrested for this.)
Again, it seemed like the authorities were thinking that arresting people would put fear into Hong Kongers whose hearts and minds they know they have not won. And again, they seem to not have realized that doing so often just makes people more angry and defiant. Put another way: I think that arrest actually motivated more people to go out and protest yesterday than otherwise might have been the case. (And if you think this suggestion is baseless, consider how people reacted to such as the police firing tear gas at protestors back on September 28th, 2014, and attacking people on June 12th, 2019!)
Even so, I didn't expect so many people to go out and protest on the streets of Jordan, Yau Ma Tei and Mongkok; this not least since it was pre-announced that there would be searches were being conducted of Kowloon-bound public buses and other vehicles passing through the Cross Harbour Tunnel earlier in the day as well as the police making good on their promise to be out in force in Kowloon. "Give me back the right to vote" was a chant heard yesterday. Other calls included those attempting to raise awareness of the 12 Hong Kong youths detained in Mainland China after they were caught trying to flee by boat to Taiwan two Sundays previously (and who, it was reported today, have been denied access to lawyers all this time).
Despite many -- if not all -- of the protestors actually having kept to the sidewalks rather than spill onto the streets itself and sought to be peaceful, the police reacted to their actions by firing pepper balls and arresting around 290 people; the vast majority on supicion of "unlawful assembly". Among yesterday's arrestees were high school students, medics, at least one journalist, passers-by and one bus driver.
The afore-mentioned bus driver was arrested for action deemed "provocative" by the police, as his "unreasonable" honking affected the work of the police and stirred up people’s emotions. He later was also was said to be in possession of an "offensive weapon": a spanner in his bag (which most right-minded people could totally imagine his needing to use over the course of his work!) So angered were some of his colleagues by his arrest that they decided to stage a "work-to-rule" campaign to protest the injustice!
Even more shocking was the violent arrest yesterday of a 12-year-old girl who was tackled and pinned down by the police. Add to this the following details: she had actually been out buying art supplies with her elder brother when the cops tried to frame them for violating the gathering ban by grabbing a man they didn't know to stand near them! Her understandably angry mother has since stated that she's thinking of suing the police as well as lodging a formal complaint against them!
A reminder re why the gathering ban (which prohibits more than 2 people gathering together, unless they are family members) is in force and the Legislative Council elections were postponed: the Wuhan coronavirus which Hong Kong has been dealing with since January. Ironically, yesterday had the most daily new cases by far of last week: 21. In contrast, Saturday had seen just 7 new cases while there were 11 more cases reported for today.
So, all in all, it's looking like this part of the world -- which historian Jeffrey Wasserstrom, for one, says the world must keep paying attention to despite pandemic distractions -- has political worries as its biggest concerns again once more! And there are times when it seems like we have the police to thank for helping to keep the eyes of the world on Hong Kong (even while the authorities try to suppress the press): by their continually to act in ways that keep on shocking people even after we sometimes think they can't shock us anymore.