The situation in Hong Kong went from bad to worse on Thursday, as the unprecedented weekday protests – a violation of the tacit agreement between the pro-democracy movement and the business community not to disrupt weekday commerce -continued for a fourth day on Thursday.
After a squad of HK police officers earlier this week raided the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, but purportedly found nothing, protesters accused them of unjustly harassing students, many of whom are simply trying to get through the semester. Just a day later, student protesters (the backbone of the increasingly radical movement) are openly making petrol bombs and have cordoned off their campuses, transforming them into literal staging grounds for the protest movement.
In one video circulating on Twitter, students at CUHK have established check points around the campus’s perimeter to stop any undercover cops from entering.
At the Chinese University of #HongKong's No. 2 Bridge, an "immigration checkpoint" is set up, where people entering the campus are searched to make sure they are not undercover police or other hostile parties.
Photo: Stand News. pic.twitter.com/T5Mo9LfJvz
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) November 14, 2019
As Reuters described it, “hundreds of young people dressed in black set about turning several of Hong Kong’s top universities into fortresses, well stocked with improvised weapons.”
At City University of Hong Kong, Reuters said protesters were using ping pong tables, potted plants, furniture, sports equipment, and bamboo to build a network of barricades to block roads and fortify the entrances to the student residence complex. Some took garden hoses and hammered nails into them to create rope-like lines that would rip up car tires. Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters wearing gas masks and helmets accumulated piles of paving bricks and ceramic tiles to hurl at police, while others stockpiled dozens of petrol bombs to distribute to their forward positions.
With protesters wielding increasingly deadly weapons – and the HK police resorting to increasingly harmful tactics (they’ve shot at least three protesters as of Thursday evening, local time) – the situation in Hong Kong is threatening to spiral into a whole new level of violence.
One anonymous demonstrator told Reuters that the protests are just trying to even the odds between them and the police, who carry guns.
“It has never been a fair war zone,” said 23-year-old Josh, as he watched protesters practice shooting arrows at Baptist University (BU).
“We have nothing, only masks and the police have guns. We’re only trying to defend ourselves.”
Another young student protester insisted that they tried the non-violent approach, but the police escalated.
“We try every peaceful means but we fail,” said Chris, 19, a student from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
“We would probably throw petrol bombs and bricks because we don’t want our friends to be injured,” he said, breaking into tears as he described police crackdowns.
“I’m willing to die for Hong Kong.”
Of course, incidents of violence by both sides have been increasing.
Down in the central business district, protesters had gathered to paralyze the city’s economy for the fourth straight day. Even more companies have asked employees to stay home, and according to Bloomberg, JP Morgan has cancelled its planned Global Technology, Media & Telecom Conference that had been set for Nov. 18 and 19 in Hong Kong. Schools remain closed, and the city remains largely immobilized by the violence.
In another disconcerting development, the Global Times, a Communist Party-controlled tabloid, tweeted Thursday that Hong Kong’s government would impose a curfew over the weekend. The tweet was up for roughly 40 mins before it was deleted.
Was it a trial balloon? Warning? Editorial snafu?
Is Beijing finally setting the stage for the PLA to arrive and forcibly restore order?