China: Violence and nihilism in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is sinking “deeper into the inferno,” said Alice Wu in the Hong Kong–based South China Morning Post (China). For four months, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets every weekend to protest Beijing’s attempts to curtail democracy in their semi-autonomous city. Once cheerful, peaceful affairs, the marches have turned into festivals of “unbridled violence and lawlessness.” Masked protesters now batter police with metal rods, wooden sticks, and hurled bricks, and police use batons, tear gas, and even live fire. In an effort to curb the riots, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam last week used emergency powers to ban the wearing of masks at public gatherings. The new law was an utter failure. Hours after the announcement, the city’s subway system was completely shut down for a full day for the first time in its 40-year history, because of damage inflicted by gangs of masked vandals. It was still closed days later. Rioters also threw Molotov cocktails into a Bank of China branch and smashed ATMs throughout the city. Beijing and Lam are to blame for this chaos—they repeatedly refused “to listen to and engage with the people,” and so protesters have resorted to violence to make themselves heard.
Yes, the authorities have made mistakes, said Charles Ho Tsu-kwok in the China Daily (China). The chaos and unrest began when Lam proposed a bill that would allow Hong Kongers to be extradited to mainland China for trial. Introduced “with good intentions,” the bill was an easy target for Western governments intent on whipping up discord in China. Lam withdrew the legislation last month to appease the public, but “illegal violence has continued to escalate.” That’s because killing the legislation was never the main goal of the local agitators and their foreign backers—their true aim is independence for Hong Kong, which they have pursued “in a ruthless and tyrannical manner.” Children as young as 12 have been recruited by the rioters and then sent “to violent front lines,” mirroring “the tactics of international terrorist groups such as ISIS.” The protesters are being played for fools, said the Global Times (China) in an editorial. U.S. politicians who have voiced support for the rioters, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Sen. Lindsay Graham, view Hong Kong simply as a “political tool to contain the Chinese mainland.”
A peaceful resolution to the Hong Kong crisis now looks impossible, said Didi Tang in The Times (U.K.). The radical concept of lamcao is gaining traction among the increasingly desperate protesters; it translates as “burn together” and was inspired by a line from The Hunger Games novels: “If we burn, you burn with us.” By attacking banks and infrastructure and threatening the one thing that distinguishes Hong Kong—its status as a global financial hub—demonstrators hope the totalitarians in Beijing will be forced to back down. “The worst case is that there’ll be no prosperity, no autonomy for us,” said one protester. “But we’re betting on Beijing wanting the prosperity [for Hong Kong] more.” ■