Students of urban geography and crowd control will see a pattern. The police tactics that fail to work in the sterile administrative zone of Admiralty, and are unsuccessful in the crowded retail district of Kowloon, do not translate well to the border-town/smuggling-hub environment, nor to the residential-mall Podium Land neighbourhood around New Town Plaza. Maybe they would be effective in country parks.
On Bastille Day, Hong Kong celebrates the storming of the shopping mall. The quintessential ‘Hong Kong in 2019’ moment, in which a banana republic’s Guardia Nacional blunders into a glitzy First World consumer paradise. Open this Pic of the Week from Apple Daily in full size. The more you look at it, the weirder it gets – right down to floral details apparently by Jeff Koons.
There is now a routine. A march, which proceeds peacefully, is followed by a standoff with the police, which turns violent. Since the protestors pose no threat to bystanders or to private property (give or take the odd Sheung Shui pharmacy shutter), it follows there would be no mayhem if the cops just let them occupy a few streets into the night. Would civilization grind to a halt?
Instead, the police priorities in practice require confronting the crowd. This seems to have gone beyond restoring road-traffic flow to something more personal (which goes both ways – yesterday’s peaceful march included a barrage of extreme insults about dogs and mothers aimed at the police lining the route). The increasingly friendless and bitter cops are also now rubbing up against shoppers and local residents.
It looks as if – since the tear-gas barrage that heralded the Umbrella/Occupy movement in 2014 – the police are under government pressure to confront and use force to appease Beijing’s officials, for whom the idea of impartial public service is an abhorrence and any political challenge must be crushed. Hard to see how this this cycle cannot get worse.
Which bring us to Chief Executive Carrie Lam, reportedly trying to resign but being compelled to ‘clean up the mess’ (FT story). Is this being leaked by Beijing to torment the miserable creature? Or by her and her colleagues in an attempt to gain sympathy? (She is Catholic, so a suicide attempt is out.) Given the stress on the fact that ‘no-one else wants the job’, is anything we don’t know really being leaked?
The assumption is that Beijing will not dismiss her right now, as it would be a loss of face and – more to the point – a dangerous concession to public opinion, inviting Color Revolution chaos.
There is a practical issue, as well. Under the Basic Law, the new CE has to be appointed via the fake-election system involving a rigged body of 1,200 voters. Such a farcical exercise is unthinkable in the current climate. Any other method of installing a new CE would amount to openly declaring direct rule over Hong Kong, which is also unthinkable. By ‘unthinkable’, we mean ‘could easily happen’.