State Terrorism In Hong Kong: Police Rampage In Train Station

Graphic images and videos have surfaced of special police beating and pepper-spraying groups of unarmed protesters in Hong Kong’s Prince Edward MTR Station late on Saturday, August 31st. The rampage has triggered further demonstrations, including the vandalization of multiple MTR stations, to protest the police’s brutality.

Man-Kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, commented on the rampage, explaining that the people in the MTR station were “posing no threat whatsoever” and that the “unlawful police tactics continue to inflame rather than deescalate the situation.” The police’s violence was branded by Anastasia Lim, commentator, activist and celebrity, as “state-level terrorism, just to create fear on the people of Hong Kong [to stop protesting]”. Leading activists Joshua Wong and Billy Fung explained that the protests “will only be resolved when the five all-or-nothing appeals made by Hong Kongers are met simultaneously, which are: full withdrawal of the extradition bill, democratic reform, holding the police accountable to the use of force, dropping of all charges against protesters, and ceasing the labelling of the demonstrations as ‘riots’.”

A police rampage on unarmed protesters is not a unique situation in Hong Kong recently, as police have repeatedly used force to weaken the ongoing democratic movement. This tactic of brutality to scare protesters into retreating undermines the freedoms of speech and assembly enshrined in Article 27 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law and has only perpetuated the protesters’ anger toward the state. In this way, the police’s violence is enabling the movement to continue, rather than peacefully resolving the grievances of the protesters.

Protests began in March this year, triggered by the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Bill (Extradition Bill), and escalated after police violence in early June. The Extradition Bill directly undermines Hong Kong’s legal sovereignty, as it means Hong Kong people can be tried according to the People’s Republic of China’s laws. Chief Executive Carrie Lam fully withdrew the Extradition Bill last week, although, as the Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong explained, this “cannot change the fact that the Hong Kong authorities have chosen to suppress protests in a grossly unlawful way that has seriously damaged the people’s trust and sense of legitimacy of the government.” Protesters have begun looking to the United States and the United Kingdom to pass acts supporting the movement, hoping it will pressure the Hong Kong government to accept their demands.

The police’s rampage in the Prince Edward MTR Station was unnecessary and brutal, perpetuating conflict between protesters and the government. The 2014 Umbrella Movement also advocated ideas of democracy and liberty, but the government made no tangible changes. As a result, this time, protesters will not stop until the government initiates change and engages diplomatically with protesters. Wong and Fung have outlined the appeals necessary to resolve the conflict peacefully; the government just has to listen.