A tipping point in Hong Kong?

Domestic News

The situation in Hong Kong is as volatile as it has ever been, as every day of the past week has brought fresh, violent clashes between protesters and police. This is the first time that the upheaval has not slowed during a single weekday. Two significant police actions ensured this: A second protester was shot by police with live bullets on November 11, as we covered last week. Police laid siege to university campuses, which had previously been treated as safe havens.

Photo credit: Protesters throw molotov cocktails at an armed police vehicle at the edge of Hong Kong Polytechnic University on November 17 / Getty images

The situation in Hong Kong is as volatile as it has ever been, as every day of the past week has brought fresh, violent clashes between protesters and police. This is the first time that the upheaval has not slowed during a single weekday. Two significant police actions ensured this:

  • A second protester was shot by police with live bullets on November 11, as we covered last week.
  • Police laid siege to university campuses, which had previously been treated as safe havens. We don’t mean “laid siege” figuratively, either: Pitched battles over bridges connecting campuses to the city literally looked like medieval battles, and at one point, police surrounded the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) as if it were a military target. Multiple colleges canceled classes for the rest of the semester.

“[I]t’s felt like we’re at some type of tipping point since Wednesday. What’s happening right now is simply unsustainable,” writes the anonymous Hong Kong–based scholar behind the Being Water newsletter.

It may only get worse from here: The government appears dead-set on restoring order by force, rather than by any political resolution.

  • “Stopping violence, controlling chaos, and restoring order are Hong Kong’s most urgent duties,” Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 said on November 14 (English, Chinese). These unusually public comments on the situation from the Chinese leader were featured on state media more prominently than any previous coverage of Hong Kong. A deluge of propaganda articles followed, calling for more arrests and stricter punishments for protesters.
  • The Hong Kong government repeated the sentiment, saying that the most “urgent task” is to stop violence before the District Council elections on November 24 — or else the elections may be postponed, RTHK reports.

If you need a refresher on where the protests started, what the protesters want, and how a chasm of trust developed between the police and the Hong Kong public, we have published a new explainer on SupChina.