The enactment of a national security law directly by China has placed Hong Kong in the eye of the tiger. Namely, Beijing has now direct control over freedom of expression and activities in what was once an autonomous city. As a direct consequence of this takeover by China, the July 1st protests (which generally was an occasion for pro-democracy parties to demand democracy), were prohibited by the police. Officially, the reason was the prevention of pandemic and the violence during the previous protests on July 1st, 2019.
Although the protests were illegal, several thousands of people went down to Causeway bay, to march, often chanting slogans outlawed by the new national security law, such as “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”. Others came out with Hong Kong Independence flags which are also outlawed.
Others chanted slogans such as “one nation, one Hong Kong”. As they marched around, police finally rose their brand new pink flag. The HK police presented that flag on the very morning for the first time. It aimed at warning people that they were shouting slogans, waving flags “or displaying behavior” which was considered as abetting secession. Protesters suddenly went quiet at the view of the flag.
As protesters kept on chanting and walking in circles around Causeway Bay, police suddenly started charging down Sugar Street. They cornered a few individuals, generously sprayed pepper spray in their eyes and obliged them to sit down near to a minibus.
These were announcing the tone of the day, as later, more people got arrested, among which ten for allegedly carrying independence flags.
Police kept establishing cordons to break up the nascent attempt at a march.
Despite this, Hongkongers kept marching and occasionally facing off with the police.
In the line of fire
A few weeks ago, we saw a group of district councilors held at gun point in Causeway Bay. This time, it was my turn to get a rifle pointed at. At a point, as I was taking some rest against a barrier near to Victoria park, some protesters behind me started insulting the police.
The riot police team featured above lost its nerve in an instant. One officer started pointing a riot “less lethal” rifle in my direction (but finger was not on the trigger). I immediately donned my helmet and pulled down my goggles, the “press” sign being visible on my helmet”. The policeman started immediately shooting pepper balls in my direction, some of those landing near my feet. No flag was raised to warn the people.
Frontliners come back
As the afternoon ebbed on, “frontliner” protesters grouped up on Causeway Road, blocking the traffic.
And for the first time since February, we saw again the famous “umbrella walls” form as they awaited the police onslaught.
It was painfully obvious that none of the kids present there were experienced. None of them had any idea how to bind barriers together to create barricades. They kept blundering around, but the one constant remained chaos around what to do (it seemed the main idea was run away when the police came).
Eventually, riot police charged, but by that time, most frontliners had already taken off. Just a few stragglers got caught.
As police charged in several direction, some youngsters kept staying around, leading the police to repeatedly hoist their blue flag, warning of unlawful assembly. And very typically,
While in Tin Hau, things slowly wrapped down, on the other side, towards Wanchai, at least one molotov appeared, and the water canon made several interventions in the area (among which, knocking a photographer to the ground).
However, the heavy police deployment eventually ended the protest, leaving people to contemplate life under the new China-like regime.
The next few days would confirm the worst fears, with the government confirming “Glory to Hong Kong” was proscribed. An even more Orwellian turn was taken as books written by pro-democracy authors started being removed from public libraries. By now, Hong Kong is definitely in the eye of the tiger.