Historic arrests in Hong Kong as protests continue with public support

Protests continued right into the new year in Hong Kong, and nothing seems to have changed in the pattern from a couple of months ago: The Civil Human Rights Front organized another large rally, police disputed the turnout numbers and arrested hundreds, and the government remains deaf to overwhelming public dissatisfaction to its handling of the crisis.

From the South China Morning Post, in an article titled Hong Kong begins 2020 just like 2019 ended – with protest chaos:

Protest organizer the Civil Human Rights Front claimed the turnout had surpassed the 1.03 million estimate for the first major rally against the extradition bill in June. Police put the figure at 47,000 during the march while another 13,000 were still at the starting point…

Police said at least 400 people were arrested on Wednesday mostly for illegal assembly and possession of offensive weapons, making it one of the biggest mass arrests in a single day.

And Reuters has a new poll on public support for the protests, as well as other political ideas not central to the protests, like independence:

Hong Kong’s protest movement is supported by 59 percent of city residents polled in a survey conducted for Reuters by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, with more than a third of respondents saying they had attended an anti-government demonstration.

Supporters of the protests outnumbered opponents by a ratio of nearly two to one, with 30 percent percent saying they were opposed. Of those polled, 57 percent said they favored the resignation of Carrie Lam [林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é], the city’s leader. Lam was a particular target of the anti-government demonstrations that gripped Hong Kong for most of 2019 after she attempted to push through a deeply unpopular extradition bill.

Nevertheless, only 17 percent expressed support for seeking independence from China, and 20 percent were opposed to “the current path of one country, two systems” — the arrangement under which Hong Kong is governed by Beijing.

A Hong Kong headline on the Xinhua home page today reads (in Chinese): “Hong Kong special administrative region government strongly condemns the thugs who waved ‘Hong Kong independence’ flags or engaged in other evil conduct. Police have arrested about 400 people.”

The article does not include information on how many showed up to peacefully protest, or what the protests were about, as per Xinhua style.

Meanwhile, the most recent viral incident shared by protesters is not exactly helping to revive the police’s badly damaged image in the city: Per the Hong Kong Free Press, “Hong Kong police say an officer removed Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui’s protective goggles to pepper spray him as he displayed ‘passive resistance.’”

—Lucas Niewenhuis