Friday, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a new law banning protesters from wearing masks. The goal is to make it easier for police to identify protesters (and no doubt also to make them more susceptible to tear gas). Here’s the announcement:
But the immediate reaction to the new law was the worst night of vandalism and rioting yet seen in the city. One of the incidents getting a lot of attention on social media was a group of protesters beating involved an undercover police officer. At some point, either before or during this attack, the officer shot a 14-year-old boy in the leg, making this the second time a protester has been shot by police. A crowd responded by setting off a firebomb which briefly engulfed the officer. It’s amazing no one was killed:
Hong Kong protesters beat a police officer, set him on fire, then try to steal his sidearm after he shot a 14-year-old protester in the leg with another live round. Again, another young protester has been shot with a live round.
— Jake Hanrahan (@Jake_Hanrahan) October 4, 2019
The entire rail system was also shut down and remains closed today:
Rioters ramped up their sustained campaign of destruction against the city’s rail operator, having accused it of colluding with the police force to close down stations.
In Kwun Tong, Sha Tin and Sha Tin Wai MTR stations, they destroyed turnstiles, smashed advertisement billboards and daubed graffiti on the walls and ticket machines. A train was seen with its roof on fire in Sha Tin, and in Shek Mun a water hydrant was set off, flooding the station.
As the night wore on, huge fires were lit at entrances of Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Tsuen Wan MTR stations.
By 10.30pm, they had forced the closure of every MTR station in an unprecedented shutdown of the entire railway network.
The Guardian put together this video summarizing some of the Metro vandalism:
Another target of the protesters was banks and shops connected to China.
Shops and banks with links to mainland China were also targeted by rioters. They smashed the glass facade of a Bank of China branch in Tsuen Wan and threw petrol bombs inside.
ATMs were smashed or set alight in Mong Kok and other areas.
In Central, they smashed shop windows of MX, a food chain owned by Maxim’s. Its founder’s daughter, Annie Wu, infuriated protesters last month by calling them rioters and saying they did not represent Hong Kong.
Here’s video of one of the bank branches being set on fire:
Protesters have set fire to a China Construction Bank in Causeway Bay, the main shopping district of Hong Kong Island. Bank of China branches were also targeted. A large bottle of petrol is seen being carried by the protester. #AntiMaskLaw #HongKongProtests pic.twitter.com/olLFoIjwLl
— Michael Zhang 張雨軒 (@YuxuanMichael) October 4, 2019
VIDEO: Water pours out from the sprinkler system at the ransacked Bank of China branch in Yuen Long, in the New Territories. pic.twitter.com/TUPCD6xer4 #hongkong #beijing #HongKongProtest #AntiMaskLaw #indyref2 #ViolencesPolicières
— Sam Pye (@freddie1999) October 4, 2019
Another video getting a lot of attention today involves an officer worker for a Chinese bank. He was surrounded by protesters who began chanting at him. His co-workers tried to lead him back inside. Before reaching the door, he turned and said, “We’re all Chinese,” in Mandarin, which really angered the protesters. That resulted in someone coming forward and hitting the guy in the face several times:
Mandarin speaking office worker on lunch break harassed by so called Hong Kong press, who refused to show him press ID. He declared “We’re All Chinese” bf returning 2 office. Masked White man blocked his way. Hong Kong protester attacked him from behind pic.twitter.com/LSPvKdYOtt
— Carl Zha (@CarlZha) October 4, 2019
I think the violence is going to be counter-productive because it will rally support for a crackdown in China. Having looked at it, I can tell you that opponents of the protesters are having a field day posting all of this video on Twitter. Today the protesters were out again, openly defying the anti-mask law:
Masked protesters formed a human chain in Hong Kong on Saturday, October 5, in defiance of leader Carrie Lam, who announced emergency laws that include banning face masks at protests.https://t.co/PT3BmjVR8m pic.twitter.com/t3tNJQOtkY
— The Voice of America (@VOANews) October 5, 2019
Meanwhile, there are reports of a run on the banks and ATM’s out of cash:
Bank runs all over Hong Kong now. ATM machines running out of cash but there is something more important…failed leader carrie lam(b) can now officially confiscate bank accounts and assets without recourse. The HK legal system is essentially gone. #Bankruns #HKexit https://t.co/jz9sPrA30U
— Kyle Bass (@Jkylebass) October 5, 2019
People also seem to be stocking up on food and water in anticipation of trouble:
Hong Kong today: supermarket shelves empty, massive queues to pay, ATMs running out of money, the MTR (subway network) shut, and thousand marching through the centre of town. Not sure invoking colonial era laws banning face masks has calmed the city down. #HongKongProtest pic.twitter.com/EEijbUrLnX
— Ravi Mattu (@ravmattu) October 5, 2019
Carrie Lam released a 5-minute video denouncing the riots and calling for calm. Here’s a shortened version:
I don’t think anyone really knows what is going to happen next. So far, China hasn’t instituted a military crack-down, probably because Tiananment 2.0 would happen in an age of cell phone cameras and the internet. But it still feels like that’s where all of this is headed. The protesters are angry and many believe this is their last chance to fight for freedom from being subsumed by the mainland’s one-party, communist dictatorship. The problem is that they are a relatively small group (compared to China) of mostly unarmed people. If China does send troops it won’t be a fight, it will be a massacre.