This past week tensions soared in Hong Kong, as protests against the Chinese authorities heated to a boiling point not yet seen over the past five months.
The protests, which began in response to a bill tabled by the ruling authority that would allow extradition of accused criminals to mainland China to face justice there, turned violent over the weekend as protesters used Molotov cocktails and bows-and-arrows to respond to threats from Hong Kong police.
While the original bill has now been withdrawn, the protesters, for months, have been focused on protecting the freedoms that they enjoy, as the transition to the full Chinese authority nears (2047 for full reintegration with mainland China). The protests, until now, have been marred with spot-fires of violence, but had been largely peaceful.
After a student died last week as a result of injuries sustained from clashes with police while protesting, students responded by taking to the streets in force, armed with increased firepower and intent. In response, the city has been slowed to a crawl, with commute times blowing out, supermarkets either closing or running out of stock, and general life in the city heavily disrupted. Despite these inconveniences, it seems as though the wider population is willing to tolerate these difficulties, and the losses in tourism and economic growth recently suffered as the protests to protect their freedoms continue.
Heading into the weekend, a violent response by students and protesters was expected, as police forewarned of the use of live ammunition and tear gas. After 24 hours of clashes, on Monday morning, Hong Kong police conducted raids on Hong Kong Polytechnic University, arresting more than 100 people, and injuring dozens. It is unclear as to the purposes of this stand at PTU, and the intentions of Hong Kong authorities beyond this raid. Photos published akin to a war zone show the damage caused from a single weekend of violence.
The raids follow decisions by a number of Hong Kong universities last week to cancel in-person classes and exams for the remainder of the semester, moving teaching and testing into online forms to promote safety. A number of Australian, British and other universities also announced that they were recalling any and all exchange students studying in Hong Kong in an effort to keep them safe. Such a move seems particularly timely, given the weekend that followed. The world will watch with bated breath after this raid, as protesters are expected to stand their ground and continue to protect their freedoms.