Hong Kong police continued to clash with protesters in the semi-autonomous city over the past several days, exchanging tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets with demonstrators’ homemade petrol bombs and bow and arrow fire.
Frontlines at PolyU now as the water cannon fired blue dye towards students pic.twitter.com/51wv0Ywcx4— Eric Cheung (@EricCheungwc) November 17, 2019
As unrest continues and demonstrators’ weaponry becomes more lethal, an escalation in police response to the protests may be on the horizon as well.
"If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back," Hong Kong Police Superintendent Louis Lau said Sunday, as reported by Deutsche Welle.
14:31 #PolyU: #HongKong #Police warned students to stop using bows & arrows to shoot them, otherwise cops will use deadly weapons.— ajmm 😷🎗 (@ajmm19923493) November 17, 2019
Why don’t cops stop attacking our universities, then our students will not need to fight back?!@hkpusu_presscom #HongKongProtests #FreeHongKong pic.twitter.com/LxG52EmO1t
On Monday, officers were also able to shutter all exits to Hong Kong Polytechnic University, effectively trapping several hundred student protesters within the school. Approximately 400 people who attempted to exit the school have been arrested as a result.
Mike Wong, vice president of the San Francisco chapter of Veterans for Peace, joined Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear on Monday to discuss what he believes is the reasoning behind the anti-riot police’s restraint and explain why that same sense of control may soon disappear.
“The police in Hong Kong are very well trained; the police in China are very well trained these days,” Wong told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou. “Riot control is something they’re very good at.”
Furthermore, he pointed out, the governments of Hong Kong and mainland China are aware of the potential “political consequences” and the lens through which the international community - and Western media, particularly - would view them if police-protester clashes turned into a “blood bath.”
“They have to lie,” Wong argued, speaking of Western media. “They’ll take the very restrained force used by the Hong Kong police … and they’ll try to depict it as some horrible, evil empire … They won’t admit that [the HKPF] is using so much less force than would be used in the United States or any other Western country.”
With this knowledge, anti-riot police in Hong Kong have been acting with “great restraint” in situations that would play out differently in other parts of the world, according to Wong. For example, if someone hurled a Molotov cocktail at a US police officer, then they would be shot without consequence to the officer.
However, the HKPF’s patience may be running thin following this weekend’s clashes.
“The fact that they’re issuing kind of a blanket warning is a new stage, and I think it is a response to the stepped up firepower that the protesters have with the bows and arrows,” Wong said.
The Veterans for Peace official went on to argue that between the archery and the siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the demonstrations are taking a medieval warfare turn, and the authorities actually appear to be waiting to let the protesters come out on their own rather than storm the school.
When one foreigner and several citizens trying to remove the traffic cones HongKong protesters put on the street, protesters threw them back to the street again. These protesters also shout at that foreigner and HongKong citizens. pic.twitter.com/pCyzWj47uT— Liam Stone石立安 (@liamstone_19) November 18, 2019
It’s not just the HKPF and demonstrators that are clashing, however. Wong pointed out that even citizens - such as the 57-year-old man who was set ablaze last week - have been seen acting against protesters who have ravaged areas of the semi-autonomous city and caused a number of roadblocks.