The photographs are reminiscent of similar police clashes we watched in Ferguson, Mo. this summer.
But the tear gas, rubber bullets, and militarized tactics aren’t being applied by Missouri police — these protests between residents and law enforcement are occurring across the world in Hong Kong.
The movement — dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution” after the nearly 13,000 protestors started to use umbrellas to protect themselves from tear gas — began last week, when activists and students demanded the Chinese capital of Beijing grant genuine democratic reforms to the former British colony. The demonstrators are protesting “new election rules that would allow Beijing to screen candidates for the city’s top post.” According to Think Progress, Hong Kong was reunited with China in 1997, but was supposed to retain a substantial degree of political autonomy.
Hong Kong has maintained a reputation as a safe enclave for peaceful demonstration and commerce, and the crackdown here has raised the political cost of Beijing’s unyielding position on electoral change in Hong Kong. Late last month China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, called for limits on voting reforms here and barriers for candidates for the position of chief executive, the city’s top leadership post.
The protests continued Monday, as thousands of residents defied a government call to end the demonstrations. Students boycotted class, demonstrators flooded the streets, and information still managed to be exchanged after China blocked access to Instagram.
Sunday’s use of tear gas to disperse the crowds was condemned by demonstrators, activists in the U.S., and the Hong Kong Bar Association, who called it a “repeated, systematic, indiscriminate and excessive” use of tear gas against demonstrators.
“Even though on occasions, a minority of demonstrators became confrontational with the police, the overwhelming majority of the demonstrators were visibly conducting themselves peacefully,” the bar association said in a statement.
From the New York Times:
The police crackdown Sunday not only failed to dislodge protesters from a major thoroughfare in the heart of Hong Kong but appeared Monday to have motivated more people to join the student-led protests. A government announcement that the riot police had been withdrawn from the protest centers also seemed to open the door to growing demonstrations. The number of protesters, which had ebbed overnight, swelled again by midday Monday, as office workers in slacks and dress shirts mixed with crowds of students in black T-shirts.
Many of the new arrivals said they were angered by the police’s actions on Sunday, which they called excessive.
So far, 78 people have been arrested. Another 26 were sent to the hospital for injuries sustained during protests.
Beijing has supported the riot police response, calling the demonstrations “unlawful.”
From Think Progress:
Beijing is calling the protests illegal and has endorsed the police’s response. “The unlawful assembly being held outside the Central Government Offices on Tim Mei Avenue in Central is affecting public safety, public order and traffic nearby,” authorities said in a press release. “It also affects the rights and freedom of other members of the public.” The authorities explained that “implementation of crowd management and traffic control measures which might cause inconvenience” and “thanked the majority of the public for their understanding.”
And on Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the government was monitoring the situation in Hong Kong.
“The United States supports universal suffrage in Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law,” Mr. Earnest said. “And we support the aspirations of the Hong Kong people.”
It’s unclear what is next for Hong Kong, but if the movement mirrors that of a similar resistance here in America in recent months, the people aren’t going to be idle. Take a look at some of the powerful imagery coming from the Umbrella Revolution below.
We’ll keep you updated with the latest as this story develops.