HK Special: Fire and fury: The march of Hong Kong’s protest movement

HONG KONG (The Straits Times/ANN) - This is part three of three stories from The Straits Times special on the Hong Kong protests.What began as peaceful rallies in a city that is no stranger to protests have turned into a movement never before seen in Hong Kong. Here is a look at the key moments in 18 weeks of protests.

JUNE 9
A SWELTERING START TO A SUMMER OF DISCONTENT 

Students arrive with their parents, along with the elderly armed with their walking sticks and young couples pushing prams.

People from all walks of life gather on a sweltering Sunday afternoon to say no to a proposed law that would allow extradition of fugitives to other countries beyond the 20 with whom Hong Kong has permanent agreements.

Hong Kongers fear the law could be used against opponents of Beijing and mean an end to their civil liberties.

With the government vowing to push the Bill through, about one million take to the streets on the weekend before the second tabling of the Bill - the largest protest attendance since the city’s handover from Britain to China.

JUNE 9 3PM

The march begins at Victoria Park, the largest open space on Hong Kong Island. Thousands more join at various points along the protest route.

JUNE 9 5PM

At the peak of the protest, crowds fill up the six-lane Hennessy Road.

JUNE 9 6PM

Scheduled to end at the waterfront Tamar Park next to the Legislative Council building, much of the protest is largely peaceful, with entire families taking part dressed in black or white - to signify mourning for the death of liberties in Hong Kong.

JUNE 10 10PM

While the protest is officially slated to end at 10pm, scores continue to loiter around government buildings.

JUNE 10 12AM

They start building barricades and clashing with the police, who respond with pepper spray.

A stand-off lasts into the small hours but most leave by 2am. Police arrest 19.

JUNE 12 AND 16
FACING OFF AGAINST POLICE

Thousands of protesters surround the Legislative Council building on June 12 to prevent the second reading of the Bill from taking place, in reaction to Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s announcement on June 10 that the legislation will push through.

Police fire tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds in clashes with demonstrators, some of whom arm themselves with bricks and metal poles. Mrs Lam calls the protest an “organised riot”, inflaming the opposition.

The protest marks a turning point - the start of the breakdown of the relationship between the police and the protesters.

JUNE 12 3PM

Protesters charge police lines in Tim Wa Avenue and Lung Wo Road, prompting officers to respond with pepper spray and then tear gas.

JUNE 12 6PM

As more tear gas is fired, protesters take shelter in surrounding buildings such as Pacific Place. Hundreds remain past evening in nearby areas such as Arsenal Street and the Exchange Square bridge.

JUNE 12 10PM

While a large crowd outside the government headquarters shout insults, another group of protesters build a barricade across Lung Wo Road.

Past midnight, protesters push the makeshift barriers towards Wan Chai, but police maintain a minimal presence. Protesters gradually disperse at around 2am.

On June 16, protesters return to the streets to call for Mrs Lam’s resignation and to protest what they say were heavy-handed tactics by the police on June 12.

Organisers say about 2 million turn up, making it Hong Kong’s largest ever march.

JULY 1

An estimated half a million people take to the streets for an annual march from Victoria Park to the Legislative Council (LegCo) building on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997.

The official march goes on peacefully but nearby, hundreds of masked protesters storm the LegCo complex after smashing its glass doors. The escalation shocks many and divides opinion on the protesters’ motives.

The LegCo secretariat issues a red alert for the first time in Hong Kong’s history, ordering everyone to evacuate the area.

JULY 1 2PM

Protesters smash the glass front of the LegCo complex with metal poles and other tools. They enter the premises, spray graffiti and deface the Hong Kong emblem.

JULY 1 10PM

About 1,000 protesters outside LegCo and on Lung Wo Road move metal barricades to block the police. They hold their ground despite a police warning and as officers approach from their headquarters in Wan Chai.

JULY 2 12AM

Protesters clear out after police begin to fire tear gas and move in on the LegCo building. But smaller groups regather for stand-offs at nearby Tim Mei Avenue and Harcourt Road.

JULY 21

MOB ATTACK AND DELAYED POLICE REACTION

Close to half a million people march on Hong Kong Island in a mostly peaceful protest. But thousands stray off the designated end of the route and head towards Beijing’s Liaison Office in the western part of the city.

They vandalise the building and police later try to clear protesters from the area using tear gas and rubber bullets.

Nearly 32km north in Yuen Long station, dozens of armed men attack those returning from the protest. A delayed response by the police leads to accusations of collusion. It marks a further deterioration of the police-protester relationship.

JULY 21 3PM

Thousands gather for a Civil Human Rights Front-organised march from Victoria Park to Wan Chai, calling for an independent inquiry into police's use of force.

JULY 21 5PM

Crowds continue past the original end point of Luard Road in Wan Chai and move westward towards the central business district.

JULY 21 8PM

A massive crowd gathers outside the Liaison Office. Protesters vandalise the CCTV cameras and toss black paint at the state emblem. Police warn of clearance operations and start massing in the Sai Ying Pun neighbourhood.

JULY 21 11PM

As pitched battles continue between police and protesters on the streets of the Central and Western District, violence breaks out in Yuen Long in the New Territories as groups of white-clad men with sticks attack commuters and returning protesters.

Police say they are tied up on Hong Kong Island and take more than 30 minutes to arrive at the station, by which time the attackers had left. The armed men are believed to be from pro-Beijing triads from the surrounding villages.

AUG 5

MTR MAYHEM AND A CALL TO STRIKE 

Amid calls for a citywide strike, which led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights, seven rallies are planned across the city. Protesters push for industrial action to further pressure the government to withdraw the Bill and agree to their demands.

Although Mrs Lam says on July 9 that the Bill is dead, she stops short of protester demands to immediately withdraw it.\

AUG 5 9AM

Some 200 flights in and out of Hong Kong are cancelled by early morning as cabin crew and airport workers "call in sick". Most of the flights affected belong to Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong's flag carrier.

Train services are suspended in multiple locations after protesters disrupt operations either by not allowing train doors to close or dropping objects onto the tracks.

AUG 5 1PM

Mass rallies are organised in seven districts across Hong Kong - Sha Tin, Mong Kok, Admiralty, Wong Tai Sin, Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan and Tai Po.

AUG 5 3PM

Protesters spill onto roads and occupied main thoroughfares, with some targeting police stations. The rallies turn into pitched street battles with police, crippling traffic in many areas.

AUG 5 9PM

As night falls, protesters torch bins and start fires outside several police stations and police quarters, prompting officers to respond with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The police fire a total of 800 rounds of tear gas, 140 rubber bullets and 20 sponge grenades across Hong Kong, a marked escalation in force.

AUG 9 - 13

A MESSAGE TO THE WORLD

In a bid to bring their message to the world, protesters stage a five-day sit-in at the Hong Kong International Airport, which forces the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

Clashes also take place across multiple districts as thousands gather and march illegally despite police bans.

AUG 10 4.40PM

Most protesters disperse after a march ends in Tai Po in the New Territories, but a large group remains and begins to put up barricades in Nam Wan Road, close to Tai Po police station.

AUG 10 6.30PM

Protesters unfurl banners and wave US flags from an overhead bridge in Tai Wai. A smaller group reemerges in Tai Po, prompting police to issue a dispersal warning.

AUG 10 7PM

After a flash mob-style gathering at New Town Plaza mall in Sha Tin, protesters move south to Hung Hom and begin to blockade the Cross Harbour Tunnel with traffic cones and barricades.

AUG 11

Following a march in Sham Shui Po, some protesters break off for Kwun Tong while another group head for the shopping area in Nathan Road.

Protesters refuse to leave despite multiple rounds of tear gas being fired. They finally disperse after midnight, when riot police march on groups gathered outside Tsim Sha Tsui police station.

Carrying on from the weekend, some 5,000 people flood the airport on Aug 12, prompting the closure of the aviation hub and causing flights to be cancelled.

This continues the following day, with protesters blocking passengers at the departure halls of the airport.

Protesters detain two Chinese men they suspect of being undercover agents - a tourist and a journalist from state-run tabloid Global Times. They hogtie the men onto luggage trolleys, prompting police to deploy a specialised team to free the men.

SEPT 2

STUDENT BOYCOTT

Thousands of secondary school and university students boycott the first day of the new school year, and instead form human chains and hold rallies at multiple locations to kick off two weeks of class boycotts.

Medical staff at the Queen Mary Hospital also form a human chain in solidarity with the students.

SEPT 2 7AM

Adopting the martial arts legend Bruce Lee's "Be like water" philosophy, protesters flow between MTR stations including Kowloon Tong, Fortress Hill, Yau Ma Tei, Prince Edward and Mong Kok. They engage in a cat-and-mouse game with police as they try to prevent trains from leaving the stations.

SEPT 2 9.30AM

Secondary school students who have boycotted school arrive at Edinburgh Place for a rally as early as 9.30am. Organisers say more than 4,000 students from 230 schools are at the rally.

SEPT 2 5PM

Tens of thousands gather at Tamar Park, adjacent to government headquarters, for another rally to mark the start of a two-day strike in solidarity with the students boycotting classes. Organisers say 40,000 turn up.

SEPT 2 3.30PM

As many as 30,000 students also gather at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. They recite the protesters’ five demands: a complete withdrawal of the extradition Bill, an independent inquiry into police action, to not call protesters rioters, for an amnesty to be granted to those charged with rioting and for universal suffrage.

Two days after, Mrs Lam formally withdraws the Bill. But critics say it is too little, too late.

SEPT 16

100 DAYS LATER

ifteen weeks since mass protests escalated, the conflict shows little sign of waning. The movement’s leaderless and “Be water” mantra has become a double-edged sword: While the authorities have been unable to arrest any figureheads to quell the movement, there also appears to be a lack of representatives for negotiations.

Much of the anger has been directed at the police, who face accusations of brutality and siding with pro-Beijing triads.

A NEW ANTHEM

While the hymn Sing Hallelujah To The Lord and Do You Hear The People Sing from the Les Miserables musical have become popular protest soundtracks, a new song by an anonymous composer is quickly being adopted as the movement’s official anthem. Like much of the protest, the lyrics for Glory To Hong Kong is crowd-sourced on the LIHKG forum website.

OCT 1
FIRST POLICE SHOOTING

As China kicks off its 70th anniversary celebrations with a massive parade in Beijing, tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets.

Demonstrators start fires, trash China-linked businesses, vandalise MTR stations and clash with police.

They gather in six districts: Sham Shui Po, Wan Chai, Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, Tuen Mun and Wong Tai Sin. A march also sets off from Causeway Bay.

In Tsuen Wan, an officer shoots a protester in the chest with a live round. Police insist he was hit near the left shoulder.

During a midnight press conference, Police Commissioner Stephen Lo defends the officers’ actions saying they were “lawful and reasonable”.

On Oct 1 alone, police fired 1,400 rounds of tear gas, 900 rubber bullets and six live rounds, a massive escalation from earlier in the movement.

Protests are going into their fourth month with increased public anger fuelled by the shooting.

OCT 4
GOVERNMENT INVOKES EMERGENCY POWERS

Mrs Lam invokes a colonial-era emergency law to enact a ban on face masks, which have become ubiquitous throughout the protests.

This means it would be harder for protesters to hide their identity. Hours after it was announced, thousands come out against the move and more clashes are expected over the weekend.

Experience the interactive here.

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