Hong Kong: A city on the brink

Opinion

November 20, 2019 - 10:42 AM

An anti-government protester puts out a fire at Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Monday in Hong Kong, China.

Hong Kong is burning. The authorities continue to pour fuel on the fire. On Monday, the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist party, warned that there is “absolutely no room for compromise.” But it is not merely that Beijing and the Hong Kong government will not take a step back; they continue to escalate the crisis.

As the newspaper commentary was published, Hong Kong Polytechnic University was besieged by police, who fired round after round of teargas at protesters attempting to flee the scene. The message — no way out — was all the more disturbing given that officers had earlier threatened to use live fire if petrol bombs or weaponry were used against them again. Among the hundreds trapped were said to be secondary school pupils. Parents, lawmakers and a bishop who sought to talk to protesters and seek some kind of resolution were prevented from doing so, though the former head of Hong Kong’s legislative council was later allowed to enter. When tens of thousands more residents launched “save the students” marches converging upon the campus, they too faced rubber bullets and teargas, in some cases after people threw petrol bombs.

Excessive force and police brutality have accelerated and magnified these protests, turning what began as a rejection of the extradition bill into a far broader movement, and persuading a large section of the population that they should support it. The withdrawal of the bill was far too little, too late. Meanwhile, banning most rallies has closed off a peaceful avenue for challenging authorities.

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