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The preamble to the 2019 Hong Kong protests

In another article in this blog I tied vandalism committed by radicals in the protest movement to an escalating spiral of violent behavior which primarily has been driven by the Hong Kong police force. But there’s a lot more to this story. Personally, I cannot support neither violence nor destruction of property. Nevertheless, in order to understand that such actions are taken, seemingly with an increased frequency, it is necessary to frame this story in a proper context as I understand it to be seen by the people of Hong Kong, particularly the young generation.

The Umbrella movement

undefinedAs a start, let’s take a closer look at the 2014 Umbrella movement. The movement was a reaction to the process defined by the mainland authorities for the 2017 selection of the office of the Chief Executive. The Umbrella movement sought to implement democratic procedures for this change of leadership. To gain traction for their cause, the movement initiated protests in the shape of civil disobedience by bringing traffic to a halt in central parts of Hong Kong, as in the Occupy Central with Love and Peace campaign. As this name implies the Umbrella movement was essentially non-violent, although a few skirmishes between protesters and police did occur. The movement was brought to an end when court orders for the removal of protesters were issued after a few months with occupations in the streets of Hong Kong.

None of the demands of the Umbrella movement were met by the authorities, so for many the movement has been seen as having failed. However, the movement brought together a large number of people who yearns for democratic reforms as being stipulated in Hong Kong’s Basic Law. Some leaders of the Umbrella movement took part in a televised debate with government representatives, but the attempt for dialogue came to naught. Several of the movement’s leaders subsequently received sentencing for their roles, some sentences were made as late as in April of this year. All this experience has formed the foundation for the present protests’ strategy of a leaderless movement. Love and peace was not a winning approach in 2014; today’s protesters have adopted a policy of not voicing criticism of other participants despite the contrasting means applied among different protest sub-groups. The static actions in 2014 with lasting occupations in a few selected spots have been replaced by a «blossom everywhere»-tactic in which mass rallies are supplemented by smaller pickets that emerge nearly spontaneously all across Hong Kong.

Xinjiang

undefinedIn order to understand why many in Hong Kong look to the future with a sense of deep concern, we should consider developments elsewhere in China. Lately changes that are unfolding in the province of Xinjiang (East Turkestan) in northwestern China are particularly worrying. The population in Xinjiang is composed of many ethnic groups, the largest groups are the Uyghurs and the Han Chinese (the majority population in China). In recent decades Xinjiang has seen the rise of a separatist movement that includes elements of radical Islam. Occasional terror attacks have taken place, and there have been clashes between separatists and government forces.

President Xi Jinping visited Xinjiang in 2014. Shortly thereafter there was a bomb attack in a railway station in the regional capital of Ürümqi which left 3 persons dead and 79 injured. This incident became a pretext for a campaign in which Chinese authorities rounded up scores of members of the Uyghur population and several minority populations like Kazakhs and Kyrgyzs. They were interned in so-called “re-education camps”, which in reality is a present day version of concentration camps. About one million are locked up for the purpose of being forcefully assimilated to the Chinese way of life. Children of the interned from the age of 7 (possibly younger) have been separated from their parents without consent and sent to orphanages rather than being taken care of by other family members.

undefinedSuch arrangements are obviously completely without proportionality given that this is happening in response to sporadic acts of terror committed by very few people. It doesn’t take much to become one of the interned; having relatives in countries like Turkey and Kazakhstan can be all it takes to become a «suspected terrorist». Those who don’t show satisfactory progress in the process of being brainwashed become subjected to food deprivation, solitary confinement, beatings and verbal abuse, and use of restraints.

Xinjiang is a closed society, and probably there is a lot of information about what is happening inside the camps that is being kept from the rest of the world. Nevertheless, a recent testimony from a Kazakh now residing in Sweden suggests that the conditions in the concentration camps are even worse than what was previously known. According to this former detainee inmates receive punishment in the form of finger nails being pulled, forced medication, sterilization and rape.

Moreover, outside of the concentration camps a massive surveillance system has been implemented in order to monitor Uyghurs: video surveillance using facial recognition software has been set up, and signs with QR codes have been installed on the facades of the Uyghurs’ homes, giving police access to biometric data and voice samples. The Uyghurs are presently faced with a Chinese style of ethnic cleansing, in which expulsion has been replaced by the most barbaric assimilation the world has seen in recent decades.

As the amount of what was initially fragmented information on the developments in Xinjiang is increasing in volume NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are able to piece together a deeply troubling story of the state of the Uyghurs and minority populations. In July this year representatives from 22 countries in the UN signed a document which demands that China complies with international obligations and basic human rights in Xinjiang, and that China allows access to Xinjiang for independent international observers. Unfortunately, China’s reaction to the document shows that it has no intention of meeting any of the demands. Norway was among the 22 signatories, perhaps we can hope that this marks a first step away from the infamous statement on normalization of bilateral relations between Norway and China.

President Xi

undefinedDuring 15 years starting in the mid-1950s chairman Mao’s China was on a path to an ever-growing state of misery, with Mao submerged in a personality cult and with the support of his de facto personal army during the cultural revolution, the fanatic Red Guards. The painful experience from mass incarcerations during the Anti Rightist Movement, from the Great Leap Forward with great famine, and from the Cultural Revolution with forced proletarianization of academics, chaos reigning, and vandalization of China’s rich cultural heritage, all made the communist party implement reforms of the distribution of power in the 1980s. An important element of these reforms was the term limit to a maximum of two 5-year periods for the office of the president of China.

Xi Jinping assumed the office of president of China in 2013. He is also serving as General Secretary of the Communist Party, and as Chairman of the Central Military Commission. At the closing of the 19th National Congress of the communist Party in 2017 Xi’s ideology was incorporated into the party’s constitution. Only one former leader has had his ideology incorporated into the constitution while in office: Mao. In 2018, when Xi’s first five-year term as president was coming to an end, the term limit was revoked. The other two offices Xi holds have no term limits, but in recent decades these offices have been linked to the presidency, thus implicitly term limits have been in place. Without a term limit Xi may have secured the three offices indefinitely. If Xi, now 66, is not successfully challenged we should expect him to remain in power for the next 15 years, possibly longer. (Former president Jiang Zemin has now reached the age of 93.)

The atrocities towards Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang was initiated under the rule of Xi in 2014, and now, still under Xi, they appear to be taking place with an increasing ferocity. During a state visit to Nepal in October, Xi issued a warning that Chinese separatists «will perish, with their bodies smashed and bones ground to powder». Xi now has a position as China’s leader that is unmatched since Mao’s rule came to an end. Furthermore, the tenure of Xi has seen a return to a cult of personality which is unparalleled in the post-Mao era. Xi’s conduct when it comes to opposition in general and dissidents in particular, in words as in action, marks a reactionary return to a day that should have stayed in the past.

Returning to Hong Kong

undefinedThe present protest movement in Hong Kong has many facets, ranging from mass rallies which have been approved by the authorities, to peaceful demonstrations in which several hundred thousand people have defied objections by the police, and then there are cases where radical activists have resorted to arson and targeted vandalism. Despite the very different approaches the movement is characterized by solidarity across these different groups. This is likely due to the experience from the failure of the Umbrella movement, and an acceptance that rightful anger towards the authorities is expressed in very different ways on an individual level. Most active are the young generation, which should come as no surprise when we look at where mainland China is today, and the fact that 2047 is part of their future. I am 57, today’s young demonstrators probably fear that when they reach my age, they have faced years with incarceration, physical abuse and brainwashing. A fatalistic attitude among the young comes as a consequence of the unforgiving authoritarian rule in Xi’s China, and the horrors in Xinjiang for the purpose of forceful assimilation to the communist way of life.

undefinedThe civil rights in Hong Kong is under pressure, and increasingly so after the Umbrella movement. Beijing’s leadership appears to be impatient regarding the development in Hong Kong, so 2047 may arrive early. The memory of the massacre that followed the Tiananmen protest is very much alive in the minds of Hong Kongers. Today’s leadership in Beijing is more authoritarian than it was back in 1989. If the Hong Kong protest movement is violently brought to an end, the prospects for the future are gloomy.

Recently, the philanthropist and multi-billionaire George Soros stated «I consider Xi Jinping’s China the worst threat to an open society». Soros spoke with reference to how even US businesses are frequently kowtowing when harsh words are uttered from Beijing or their proxies. The perception of a threat to society is shared by a large majority of the people who live in Hong Kong. There, the threat has taken on a much more real and dramatic character. With daily attacks from a brutalized police force it is questionable if «threat» is a proper choice of word, since in the past few months threats of suppression of freedom has turned into reality. Changes for the worse are abundant, and the young generation in Hong Kong looks to the Uyghurs’ situation as an omen.

The original version of this article was written in Norwegian, and posted online on 2 November.

Battleground for freedom and democracy

was a photo exhibition in the premises of Blank Space in down-town Oslo. A total of 42 photographs by a number of photojournalists working in Hong Kong were on display. The working conditions for these photojournalists are nothing short of extremely difficult, as they operate where riot police confronts front line protesters. The photos in this article were taken by Brother David.

All available seats were taken when the exhibition opened on 28 February. After several opening speeches there as a panel discussion led by Kristoffer Rønneberg of Aftenposten, a leading Norwegian newspaper. Though still a young man, Rønneberg is something of a veteran Hong Kong reporter in the Norwegian press as he has e.g. covered the dramatic events in Hong Kong through a number of assignments in the Fragrant Harbour city. The audience were told the story of the deterioration of human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong, with an emphasis on the worsening working conditions for the photojournalists. Their work, which notably includes documentation of un-proportional acts of police violence, is of utmost importance: in reality no branch of the government are taking responsibility for overseeing a police force that has completely abandoned its mission as an organization which should safe-guard the public, particularly when the people of Hong Kong exercise their freedom as laid out in the Basic Law.

The panel included two award winning photojournalists, Laurel Chor and Kyrre Lien. They gave vivid personal accounts on the increasing difficulty they face when carrying out their job in Hong Kong, while at the same time their work’s significance is growing month by month. The panel was supplemented by Ted Hui, who framed the daring performance of the photojournalists in the perspective of Hong Kongers. Ted Hui is an elected member to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.

On 2 March the Hong Kong Journalists Association published an open letter to Hong Kong’s Police Commissioner in which they pleaded that the police must cease interfering in the work of journalists and immediately end acts violence directed at reporters. Too often reporters and photojournalists have fallen victim to indiscriminate use of pepper spray. The police force denies allegations that they target journalists, however, it is obvious that this is not the reality as experienced by Hong Kong’s brave reporters.

The original version of this article was written in Norwegian, and posted online on 4 March.

Social events with the Hong Kong delegation

This article is quite different from the other posts in this blog. Here I write about experiences and reflections that are deeply personal. These have been days with conversations unlike any I’ve had before, and the memories and impressions will be with me for life. So the following text comes with no references to information sources, these are all my subjective thoughts. All photographs in this article are by photographer Rickard Aall.

Annual General Meeting and seminar

The Hong Kong Committee in Norway, which was established last year, held its first regular annual general meeting on Thursday February 27th. The program was not very different from similar events, with propositions for changes in the statutes, budget and accounting, and board elections. This may seem dull, but a highlight for me was when I was elected board member of the committee.

The evening’s most exciting part was definitely the seminar that followed, which was the accounts from members of a visiting delegation from Hong Kong of the present situation in their home city. And some blurred visions of the future. After this, dinner was served and we got the chance to mingle. In the time leading up to the hand-over to China in 1997 I tried to follow how this all evolved as close as I could (and this was after Internet became available, which had given the flow of information a boost). I was fortunate to be able to speak with Demosisto’s Wong Yik Mo. I asked about how the different generations in the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong view each other. It was interesting, and very special, to listen to reflections from someone who knows people like Martin Lee and Emily Lau so much closer than anyone I’ve ever met.

Dinner party

undefinedOn the evening of the following Saturday the Hong Kong Committee hosted a dinner party in honor of our guests from Hong Kong. We were fortunate also to invite and meet guests from the Norwegian Uighur Committee, Voice (an organization for exiled Vietnamese people), the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and the Nordic Committee for Human Rights. On the menu was a fish soup and a vegetarian alternative, both prepared by the Hong Kong Committee’s chef-of-the-day, Magnus. For desert our deputy leader had persuaded his husband to bake two cheese cakes, which turned out to be quite irresistible. The entire menu was praised by all, no matter our diverse backgrounds. The mood was flying high (pictured here is the committee’s leader duo), and for a brief period we managed to enjoy life despite the gloomy backdrop with renewed episodes of police brutality the same evening (related to the commemoration of the 8-31 protest).

undefinedBefore the cheese cakes were served, it was time for my contribution: a quiz! It soon became easy for all to see that I was as little in control as I usually am: my request to form teams by pairing up was not universally respected. A number of teams with threesomes emerged, something I accepted as acts displaying solidarity. There was however a potential fall-out, as the prices for the teams that made the podium were not really scaled for this eventuality.

undefinedAfter some minutes the venue was abuzz with rumours of unlicensed use of electronic gadgets. The quiz master had to enter a mode of supervision of the 10-12 teams to make sure that the most knowledgeable team would be victorious. The worst part of this job was when a shadow of suspicion was cast on members of the hosting committee. However, all such attempts were duly choked before any harm was done. Central in this image is the committee’s treasurer, her husband, and a prying silver-haired inspector.

undefinedThe quiz master (yes, me) found that all teams performed excellently, even though the final scores were of a rather diverse nature numerically. This report from the quiz session ends with a photograph of the team of Wong Yik Mo and Haakon Gjerløv of PRIO. Finally, it must be admitted that the hosts turned out to lack any generosity towards the guests, as they unabashedly laid their hands on most of the prices. This will be a major item on an upcoming board meeting!

Unforgettable conversations

This started during dinner when I was seated next to two Uighurs. They came to Norway as refugees from East Turkestan (Chinese occupied Xinjiang province), and they have family members remaining in their homeland. The Uighurs are victims of persecutions that range from attempted brainwashing in “training camps”, exploitations bordering on slave labour, and to repetitive physical abuse. I already knew this, so we chose to talk about their families. They naturally expressed deep concerns, and told me that they had not heard from their family members ion East Turkestan since 2017, neither by mail nor by phone. The fate of the Uighurs is heartbreaking, and must receive much more attention internationally!

After dinner I first got the chance to speak with Ted Hui, who can frequently be seen on the streets of Hong Kong trying to persuade the police to abstain from all unwarranted use of force. He is a legislator who was elected by the people, constantly faced with threats from the police, and more: a victim of a point blank shower of pepper-spray, with protective gear being ripped off by police officers. We had a very interesting conversation about challenges related to connecting with the Hong Kong minority who supports the pro-Beijing camp. Well, the conversation was interesting for me!

undefinedLater I was lucky to spend a few minutes with Jessica Leung who works as a pro bono lawyer providing legal representation to detained and arrested protesters. In her work she has seen protesters with swollen eyes after being beaten up inside police stations, where the press and their cameras cannot document police violence. As I’ve not yet visited Hong Kong, Jessica encouraged me to come to Hong Kong late this summer, possibly around the time of the elections to the Legislative Council. We’ll see, but the temptation is definitely on the rise. In the photograph Jessica and one of the front liners sing a protest song, accompanied by Ted (sitting) and Mo playing the piano.

The most profound impressions were still to come. I was so fortunate to have the chance and sit down and talk privately with the front line protesters. They are among the young people building barricades and setting them alight with petrol bombs to escape from close encounters with the violent and brutal Hong Kong police force, and to avoid detention. They told me about their rage when they witnessed grossly unproportional use of force by the police on June 12th against peaceful demonstrators trying to resist the end of the rule of law in Hong Kong. These young people, who in 2047 will be younger than I am now, are fighting for their freedom for decades to come. They told be that if they stop, they will lose everything. It’s an argument that can’t be disputed. I saw no aggression whatsoever when we spoke, in stead they expressed their gratitude that I was listening. A world turned upside down; I’m forever grateful for the sacrifices they make, and I will keep worrying about their future as long as the situation does not dramatically improve. You’re in my heart.

My son is in his twenties, and a member of the same generation as Hong Kong’s front liners. Through the years I’ve met many of his friends, and they are a generation that gives me a lot of hope for the future. Given a similar situation in Norway, which fortunately is presently a dystopian fiction, I’m convinced that their reactions would be very similar to what we’re witnessing in Hong Kong. Hong Kongers are just like Norway’s finest. And then some!

The original version of this article was written in Norwegian, and posted online on 2 March.

Hong Kong mini-hearing in the Norwegian parliament

undefinedOn February 28th MP Guri Melby of the Liberal Party in Norway (Venstre) arranged a mini-hearing on the situation in Hong Kong in the parliament). The hearing was live streamed and the recording remains available here (jump to 06:15 for the start of the meeting). Several Norwegian politicians were in attendance, including members of parliament. Co-arranging Hong Kong Committee in Norway was visibly present, as were several NGOs like the Norwegian Tibet Committee, the Norwegian Uighur Committee, Amnesty International Norway and the Nordic Committee for Human Rights.

Hong Kong in the latest nine months

We were told first hand accounts of the still on-going protests, starting with events in June last year and continuing right up to the present day. Those who reported were representatives from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, the local District Councils, the Bar Association and front line protesters. Their stories described a situation with repeated encroachments of the freedoms enjoyed in Hong Kong, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to legal representation. The ever-increasing police brutality is particularly worrying. The pro bono lawyer who was present told us about detained demonstrators who where badly beaten inside police stations, out of sight of witnesses, the press, and cameras.

A significant majority majority of the population in Hong Kong remain ardently opposed to the disproportional use of force by the Hong Kong police, acting on instructions from Beijing’s proxies in Hong Kong under the leadership of Carrie Lam. Since last summer the police force, now with a tripled budget, no longer has upholding law and order as its top priority, but has resorted to become an instrument which commits acts of violence to clamp down on regular citizens defending their rights as given by Hong Kong’s Basic Law

Norway can contribute – as partner in international alliances

undefinedWhen asked what Norway can do, members of the Hong Kong delegation replied that small nations might join in broad coalitions in order to stand up to threats and economic retaliations from China, aiming to silence all criticisms of the human rights situation. The Norwegian parliament could follow the example of EU, and several countries outside the EU, and legislate a regime in which persons, not countries, are subject to sanctions. These persons should include the worst human rights offenders who should have their overseas assets frozen, and denied entry through applying a persona non grata status.

The delegation members were baffled to learn that the Norwegian government had signed a statement on normalization of bilateral relations with China, in which the government accepts the concept and implementation of self-censorship in contexts where the Chinese authorities finds criticism to be unacceptable (see article 3). The delegation members emphasized that they were bewildered by this, given Norway’s positive reputation for engaging in international endeavors to promote human rights. The normalization agreement marks a most unfortunate reversal of Norway’s engagement on this important issue. The economic pressure exerted by China on Norway, a small country outside the EU, in response to Liu Xiaobo being awarded the Nobel peace price is recognizable as China’s modus operandi.

undefinedThe essential message from the delegation members was than authoritarianism and totalitarian rule is on the rise worldwide. Undemocratic ideas and values are permeating even into western democracies. This observation was echoed some days later in the annual report from Freedom House. Chinese expansionism plays a major role in this picture, and so Hong Kong’s fight for freedom and human rights is the free world’s front line defense against a further world-wide deterioration. Free societies around the world should unite and exert maximum pressure against the authorities in Beijing as well as their Hong Kong proxies in order to halt the present decline and slippage away from freedom.

The original version of this article was written in Norwegian, and posted online on 1 March.

Hong Kong in flames

Through the summer and into the autumn of 2019 the world has witnessed scenes of escalating violence on the streets of Hong Kong. On the other side of the world, people are bewildered about images of protesters that at the same time demand an independent investigation of the police while also having radical members throwing bricks and petrol bombs towards the police. Here, I will give my interpretation of how such a state came to be.

undefinedOpinion polls from Hong Kong suggest that trust in the Hong Kong police force has reached catastrophic levels during this summer. While 6.5% of people in Hong Kong were completely out of trust with the police force in May/June, this figure reached an alarming level of nearly 50% in September. A logical explanation for such a change of opinion is that a large fraction of Hong Kong’s people finds that the escalating violence is primarily driven by the police and the Hong Kong authorities, not the protesters. I believe the reasons can be found in the drastic use of force applied to disperse crowds during demonstrations and skirmishes. Below I present some examples that I hope will shed some light on this issue.

June

On 9 June there was a major peaceful march from Victoria Park to the Legislative Council (LegCo) building in Admiralty, with approximately one million people taking part. The march was in protest of the proposed extradition law, but despite the extraordinary turnout the government of Hong Kong kept insisting that the law bill must be taken up and accepted by LegCo. This was the defining moment for all that has since come to pass in Hong Kong. If Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam and her government had come to their senses and retracted the bill during the days between the protest march and the planned second reading in LegCo a few days later, the protests would most likely have come to an end at that time. But the bill was not withdrawn, and since then, protests have become ever more ferocious, and the level of violence has escalated.

undefinedOn 12 June, the date set for the second reading of the bill, large crowds took to the streets, blocked traffic, and denied access to the LegCo building by physically blocking the entrances. This action was successful, however, to later disperse the protesters the police applied large quantities of tear gas, rubber bullets etc., which resulted in at least 72 persons being taken to hospitals due to injuries inflicted from forceful police action. From their side the police justified their response by referring to acts of violence from some protesters. Nevertheless, condemnation of what was seen by many as disproportionate use of violence by police officers was widespread. The police was also criticized for harassment of journalists by for example the Hong Kong Bar Association. Amnesty International issued a statement in which the police’ excessive use of force was condemned as unlawful and in violation of international human rights law and standards. From the other side the police characterized parts of the 12 June protests as «rioting», which by Hong Kong law carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ jail time.

Reacting to the 12 June events the protest movement formulated their five demands, including setting up an independent commission of inquiry into police conduct and use of force. On 28 June three human rights organizations posted a letter to Hong Kong leaders in which they urge the government to carry out an investigation into alleged police brutality.

July, August

undefinedIn the following weeks the public’s trust in the police force took one blow after another. As can be seen from the polling data shown in the image above, the plunge in the level of trust was particularly strong during the period from mid-July to early August. A traumatic episode took place on 21 July when a mob of in excess of 100 white dressed members of Hong Kong organized crime («triads») attacked civilians on a metro station using iron bars and wooden clubs. Many of those that were attacked were returning from a demonstration which had received a letter of no objection from the police, although some skirmishes between radical protesters and the police were reported in the aftermath. Videos of the incident allegedly show police officers indicating the whereabouts of the pro-democracy protesters to the white clad thugs. In addition to pro-democracy protesters victims also included the elderly, children, lawmakers and journalists.

undefinedAt least 45 civilians were injured including a pregnant woman. It was not only the acts of violence that shocked society, but also the anemic and late response from the police. Despite having received a large number of emergency calls the police did not arrive at the metro station until half an hour after the attack started which was after the mob had left the scene of their crimes.

undefinedOn 11 August violence again escalated through several episodes which further eroded the trust in the Hong Kong police force. A woman was hit in the eye by a projectile that was allegedly fired by the police. Sources at the hospital stated that her injury was serious, and that she would lose sight on the damaged eye.

undefinedIn another episode the police fired tear gas inside an enclosed metro station where limited exit options existed. This action was met with extensive critisism as tear gas is intended to be used as a crowd dispersal agent in open places. On the same day undercover police officers dressed and geared as protesters took part in brutal scenes of arrests. As a consequence there have later been several violent incidents among protesters taking part in demonstrations due to suspicions of presence of undercover police.

undefinedThe contrasts between arrest of pro-democratic protesters and the leniency when some white clad thugs are arrested could hardly be more striking.

Summary

undefinedAs should be evident from this essay, my view is that it is the Hong Kong police, likely under influence from the government, that has been driving the escalating spiral of violence. Unfortunately, a few of the most radical members of the protest movement have followed suit. One result is a collapse in people’s trust in the police force, as revealed by the polling data described in the beginning of this article. Moreover, according to another survey from the Chinese University in Hong Kong as many as 70% of the Hong Kong population criticizes the police for applying excessive force. On the other hand about 40% of the respondents are of the opinion that there is too much violence among protesters. Nevertheless, more than half can understand the protesters’ radical actions, while about 27% hold the opposing view. Finally, a substantial majority assigns blame for the present shambolic state of Hong Kong to the government and the police.

Above, I have recounted some episodes which were described in some detail in the media as they unfolded. There have also been allegations of sexual harassment and violence upon or after arrests of the victims. However, all of this is just the tip of an iceberg of countless encounters between the protest movement and their adversaries, among whom the police dominates. Also worth noting is that several police officers have been injured in the skirmishes, and also been victims of doxxing. Nevertheless, it is evident that a large majority of the Hong Kong population is of the opinion that the force applied by the police is beyond what they see as reasonable response. Moreover, police officers have removed their ID badges which previously was easily seen on top of the right side pocket of their shirts, a change that may contribute to a sense of reduced accountability in the police force. Police officers have also characterized protesters as cockroaches and objects. Such dehumanizing acts and attitudes build an underlying foundation of a sense of superiority which in the mind of the beholder justifies use of force that otherwise would be in conflict with moral and ethics.

undefinedI end this account with an episode that took place on 7 October when riot police stormed a shopping mall after first being held back by the mall’s security guards. On the following day five security guards were arrested when they arrived at the police station for questioning. They were charged with obstruction of the police. From what I’ve been able to read it is questionable if the police acted in accordance with the jurisdiction since they did not display an arrest warrant upon arrival. But for a moment, let’s disregard the letter of the law. The essence of what we can learn from this incident is that the reputation of the Hong Kong police force has descended to a depth at which trained security guards resist the police.

If you’ve read this far, I must point out that it can be hard to separate facts from exaggerations and misinformation in the toxic atmosphere inside which presently society in Hong Kong is engulfed. Nevertheless, even though some reports may not be completely objective, it is evident that society in Hong Kong is presently in a dysfunctional state. Further, it seems obvious that there needs to be a reform of the police so that public trust in the force is restored. It is in the interest of every single Hong Kong citizen that an independent commission is established in order to investigate the numerous complaints about acts by the police that have been filed in the past months. The members of the commission must be selected in a manner that receives wide support with respect to neutrality, independence, and competence. This is one of the protesters’ five demands.

The original version of this article (in Norwegian) was posted on October 10.