HONG KONG, BALIPOST.com – After weeks of escalating violence Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement has pivoted back to its peaceful origins, but experts and activists predict the hardcore fringe will soon return without swift concessions from the city’s Beijing-backed government.
Organisers hailed Sunday’s peaceful mass march, which drew hundreds of thousands to the city’s streets but saw no arrests, as evidence protests had not spiralled out of control.
It was a rare weekend free from tear gas and police baton charges since protests erupted in June against a bill that would have allowed extradition from the semi-autonomous city to mainland China.
Police and protesters have traded blame for the ugly clashes, which have by turns shut the finance hub’s airport, left city streets strewn with bricks and engulfed in tear gas — and stunned a global financial centre once proud of its reputation for prosperity and stability.
After two-and-half-months the protesters are likely to use a hybrid “of peaceful, non-violent protests as well as an escalated use of force by the radical fringe,” according to Willy Lam, a political analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“Both will go on,” he said, in the absence of the government’s accession to their calls.
Protesters have five core demands including for Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam — seen as a Beijing stooge — to step down, the complete withdrawal of the incendiary extradition bill and an inquiry into alleged police brutality during the protests.
So far, Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government has refused to budge, saying it will “begin sincere dialogue with the public” only once order is restored.
The extradition bill, which has been suspended but not formally withdrawn, has become a totem of the shrinking freedoms in Hong Kong, as China tightens its grip on the city.
While millions have hit the streets in remarkable scenes of peaceful people power, protests have also sunk into violence between riot police armed with tear gas, batons and rubber bullets and a minority of rock-throwing protesters. (AFP)