Protesters In Hong Kong Are Sorry For The Inconvenience

Protesters In Hong Kong Are Sorry For The Inconvenience

Police in Hong Kong attack peaceful demonstrators with tear gas in Dec. 2018.

For the last several months protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets of Hong Kong to protest mainland China's creeping authoritarian rule. Like most political movements, things are far more complicated than people shutting down an airport or youngs fighting riot cops with umbrellas. The protests in Hong Kong are about a struggle for independence amidst the machinations of a crooked government and its thin-skinned power hungry autocrat who thinks he can rule forever. Gee, that sounds awfully familiar.

Before we go any further, read Five Dollar Feminist's splainer on why the people are protesting.

In June of this year, two million Hong Kongers took to the streets to protest a proposed extradition agreement with mainland China. Since Hong Kong operates as a semi-autonomous city, many Chinese political dissidents flee to its relative safety so they don't get locked up in a gulag, or killed. People are worried that if Hong Kong's legislators sign the extradition bill the long, flabby arm of the law will just start plucking folks off the streets in broad daylight (instead of just making them quietly disappear).

Now you know what it's about, it's time to learn to PROTEST LIKE A HONG KONGER.

Fight Fake News!

Since Hong Kong is partially controlled by China, so is a lot of the information coming out of the state-run news outlets. Social media is heavily monitored in China, and it's common for photos to be deleted, or for the government to erase text-based messages.

Since Big Brother is constantly watching over their shoulder, protesters got tech savvy. People communicate through end-to-end encrypted messaging services, like Telegram, and use a virtual private network (VPN) to hop over the Great Firewall. They've also been crowdfunding millions of dollars for an international ad campaign to raise awareness of widespread police brutality, and to counter the state's "riot" narrative. The Chinese government has responded by launching cyber attacks, but they're only knocking the services and websites offline for a bit.

In order to thwart China's evil spy machines and facial recognition tech, protesters have been wearing all black and covering as much of their bodies as possible. Hard hats, goggles, and umbrellas protect people from rubber bullets, bean bags, and pepper spray just as much as they make it harder to identify someone in a crowd. Some people have even begun using hand-held laser pointers to temporarily blind police officers and disrupt cameras -- so naturally the cops are now calling them "assault weapons" and arresting people for that too.

Hong Kong Protesters Use Laser Pointers to Protest

Be Excellent To Each Other

The largely leaderless and non-violent movement has been as much about protecting those around you as it is about protecting yourself. Reporter Ramy Inocencio found this out back in June shortly after being pepper sprayed by police attempting to disperse a crowd. As Inocencio and his camera man were filming, retreating protesters took off their own helmets and umbrellas so that Inocencio wouldn't be injured. Photos uploaded to social media show protesters again helping Inocencio flush that spicy crap out of his eyes.

Police have used an insane amount of tear gas since protesting began. QZ reports that police have fired around 1,000 canisters of gas at protesters between June 9 and August 4, while Bloomberg reports police fired 800 canisters on August 5. This has led to reports of elderly people getting injured as their air conditioners suck in the toxic gas. Fortunately, protesters have a novel way to dealing with tear gas grenades: They simply cover them with a parking cone and fill it with water because, according to one Hong Kong blogger, "It's better than throwing the canisters back at the police."

"Be Water"

Stories of protesters inciting violence have been surprisingly rare. A June 30 counter-protest that involved tens of thousands of pro-Beijing supporters saw numerous assaults on journalists and protesters. Two weeks ago police fired tear gas into a subway station after a mob -- believed to be gangsters in the Chinese Triad -- began beating protesters with batons bats as they were returning from a march. On Sunday, video and photos of a bloody young woman reportedly shot in the eye with a bean bag went viral. Police dispute responsibility for the incident, but the image of a bloody eyepatch has already become a potent symbol. Today, video surfaced of a man in a press vest being beaten; protesters accused him of being a "spy" for mainland Chinese police after police admitted to disguising themselves as protesters. This comes amid reports from a Chinese state-owned media outlet that the mainland Chinese government was massing 12,000 police officers, helicopters, armored personnel carriers, and amphibious vehicles in the neighboring city of Shenzen.

On Monday protesters began occupying the Hong Kong airport and barricading terminals with luggage carts, effectively shutting down one of the busiest transit hubs in the world for two days. The Washington Post reports protesters holding signs that read, "Sorry for inconvenience. We have no choice," as they passed out snacks and water and apologized to irritated travelers. After two days, riot police stormed the airport, beating protesters and hosing them down with pepper spray when they tried to fight back. This morning, with the Chinese government calling them terrorists, protesters began issuing their own public apologies on social media, messages boards, and encrypted chats, saying they were sorry for "incidents where protesters may have appeared aggressive," and for ruining people's travel plans.

[Quartz / Vox / NY Times / SCMP / CNN / The Telegraph / WaPo]

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Dominic Gwinn

Dominic is a broke journalist in Chicago. You can find him in a dirty bar talking to weirdos, or in a gutter taking photos.


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