2019–20 Hong Kong protests

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2019–20 Hong Kong protests
Part of the democratic development in Hong Kong,
the Hong Kong–Mainland China conflict
and the protests of 2019
反送中遊行 002.jpg
Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protest (48108527758).jpg
2019-09-15 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protest 036.jpg
2019-09-13 Lion Rock, Hong Kong 04.jpg
Hong Kong protests - Panorama.jpg
Demonstration against extradition bill, 12 June 2019.jpg
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A collection of various protest scenes in Hong Kong Counterclockwise starting with top: Protesters on 16 June 2019 • Protesters on 12 June 2019 • Protesters on Lion Rock with a large banner on 13 September 2019 • Police using tear gas to disperse protesters on 12 June 2019 • Protesters on 9 November 2019 mourning the death of Chow Tsz-lok • Protesters flooding the streets on 18 August 2019 • Protesters set fire to a makeshift roadblock on 15 September 2019
Date15 March 2019–present
(1 year, 2 months and 3 weeks)
Caused by
GoalsFive Demands
  • Full withdrawal of the extradition bill from the legislative process
  • Retraction of the characterisation of the 12 June 2019 protests as "riots"
  • Release and exoneration of arrested protesters
  • Establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into police behaviour
  • Universal suffrage for Legislative Council and Chief Executive elections
MethodsDiverse (see tactics and methods)
  • Bill suspended on 15 June and officially withdrawn on 23 October[7][8]
  • Police partially retracted characterisation of protests on or before 12 June as "riots", except for five individuals in Admiralty on 12 June[9]
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
(no centralised leadership)

Supported by:

Deaths, injuries and arrests
  • 2,600+ (as of 9 December 2019)[19][a]
Arrested~9,000 (as of 28 May 2020)[21][b]
Charged1,200+ (as of 19 March 2020)[25]

The ongoing 2019–20 Hong Kong protests were triggered by the Hong Kong government's introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill.[26][27] Had it been enacted, the bill would have allowed the extradition of wanted criminal suspects and criminal fugitives to territories with which Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements, including Mainland China and Taiwan.[28] This led to concerns that the bill would subject Hong Kong residents and visitors to the jurisdiction and legal system of Mainland China, thereby undermining Hong Kong's autonomy and civil liberties,[29][30][31][32] and infringe on privacy and freedom of speech laws. As the protests progressed, the protesters laid out five key demands, namely the withdrawal of the bill, an investigation into alleged police brutality and misconduct, the release of all arrested protesters, a retraction of the official characterisation of the protests as "riots", and Chief Executive Carrie Lam's resignation along with the introduction of universal suffrage for election of the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.[33][34]

Despite a demonstration attended by hundreds of thousands on 9 June 2019, the government persisted with the bill.[35][36] Protesters gathered outside the Legislative Council Complex to stall the bill's second reading on 12 June,[37][38][39][40] resulting in an intense standoff between the protesters and the police who deployed tear gas and rubber bullets.[41] An even bigger protest took place on 16 June, just one day after the suspension of the bill, as protesters insisted on the complete withdrawal of the bill and reacted to the perceived excessive use of force by the police on 12 June.[42] The anniversary of the handover on 1 July 2019 saw the storming of the Legislative Council Complex,[43] and subsequent protests throughout the summer spread to different districts.[44] Police inaction when suspected triad members assaulted protesters and commuters in Yuen Long on 21 July 2019,[45] the police storming of Prince Edward station on 31 August 2019, and the large-scale demonstrations during the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China on 1 October, caused further escalation of the protests.[46]

Carrie Lam eventually withdrew the bill on 4 September 2019,[47][48][49] but still refused to concede to the other four demands. Claiming to curb further protests, Lam invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance on 4 October 2019 to implement an anti-mask law, to counterproductive effect.[50] As the protests dragged on, confrontations escalated as both sides became increasingly violent. The number of police brutality and misconduct allegations increased.[51][52][53] Some protesters escalated their use of radical methods such as throwing petrol bombs,[54][51] conducting vigilante attacks against perceived provocateurs,[55][56] and vandalising supposed pro-Beijing entities.[57] Rifts within society widened as activists from both sides assaulted each other, with lawmakers from both sides and protest organisers being attacked or intimidated.[58][55] Two student deaths as well as the shooting of an unarmed protester in November 2019 further intensified the protests. Protesters' occupation of two university campuses to block key thoroughfares ended with sieges by authorities and resulted in many injuries and arrests.[59]

The government and the police received the lowest approval ratings in public opinion polls since the 1997 handover.[60][61][62] Their performance contributed to the unprecedented landslide victory of the pro-democratic bloc in the 2019 District Council election, which was widely viewed as a de facto referendum on the protest movement.[63] The Central People's Government has characterised the protests as the "worst crisis in Hong Kong" since the handover in 1997 and alleged that foreign powers were instigating the conflict,[64] though the protests, which continued through to 2020, have been largely described as "leaderless".[65][66] The United States passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on 27 November 2019 to support the protest movement;[67] solidarity rallies have been held in over forty other cities abroad. Counter-protesters held several pro-police rallies.[68]

In May 2020, China's Central People's Government approved a "national security" bill that could be imposed on Hong Kong before September, bypassing the local legislative process.[69] This new law, seen by many as a threat to fundamental political freedoms and civil liberties in the semi-autonomous territory,[70] sparked further outrage and protests.[71] United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that following this new law, the United States no longer recognizes Hong Kong as an autonomous region,[72] which could deteriorate the economic special status of the region, and threaten foreign investment in China.[73][74]

There have been two deaths associated with the protests: Chow Tsz-lok, a student who died after a fall inside a car park in Tseung Kwan O,[62] and Luo Changqing, an elderly man who died as a result of reportedly being struck on the head by a brick thrown by a protester during a confrontation between two opposing groups.[75][76][77][78][79] In addition, protesters have linked the protests to at least nine suicides.[80]


Direct cause[edit]

The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 was first proposed by the government of Hong Kong in February 2019 in response to the 2018 murder of Poon Hiu-wing by her boyfriend Chan Tong-kai in Taiwan, where the two Hong Kong residents were visiting as tourists. As there is no extradition treaty with Taiwan (because the government of China does not recognise its sovereignty), the Hong Kong government proposed an amendment to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance (Cap. 503) and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance (Cap. 525) to establish a mechanism for case-by-case transfers of fugitives, on the order of the Chief Executive, to any jurisdiction with which the city lacks a formal extradition treaty.[32] One such jurisdiction would be mainland China.

The inclusion of mainland China in the amendment is of concern to different sectors of Hong Kong society: Pro-democracy advocates fear the removal of the separation of the region's jurisdiction from mainland Chinese laws administered by the Communist Party, would erode the "one country, two systems" principle in practice since the 1997 handover; furthermore, Hong Kong citizens lack confidence in China's judiciary system and human rights protection due to its history of suppressing political dissent.[81] Opponents of the bill urged the Hong Kong government to explore other mechanisms, such as establishing an extradition arrangement solely with Taiwan, and to sunset the arrangement immediately after the surrender of the suspect.[32][82]

Underlying causes[edit]

The 2019–20 Hong Kong protests came four and a half years after the Umbrella Revolution of 2014 which begun after the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) regarding proposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system, which were largely seen as restrictive. However, the movement ended in failure as the government offered no concessions.[83] Since then, democratic development has stalled: only half of the seats in the Legislative Council remain directly elected, and the Chief Executive of Hong Kong continues to be voted on by the small-circle Election Committee. The 2017 imprisonment of Hong Kong democracy activists further dashed the city's hope of meaningful political reform.[84] Citizens began to fear the loss of the "high degree of autonomy" as provided for in the Hong Kong Basic Law, as the government of the People's Republic of China appeared to be increasingly and overtly interfering with Hong Kong's affairs. Notably, the NPCSC saw fit to rule on the disqualification of six lawmakers the Legislative Council oath-taking controversy; fears over state-sanctioned rendition and extrajudicial detention were sparked by the Causeway Bay Books disappearances.[85][84] The general trend of the loss of freedoms in Hong Kong is marked by its steady fall on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index. Despite universal suffrage being part of Hong Kong's basic law, in the 2019 report Hong Kong was scored 6.02/10, classing it on the index as a "flawed democracy", being only 0.02 points off a hybrid regime.[86][87]

The rise of localism and the pro-independence movement that initiated under CY Leung was marked by the high-profile campaign for the 2016 New Territories East by-election by activist Edward Leung.[88] As fewer and fewer young people in Hong Kong identified themselves as Chinese nationals, pollsters at the University of Hong Kong found that the younger respondents were, the more distrustful they were of the Chinese government.[85] By 2019, almost no Hong Kong youth identified themselves as Chinese.[89] The Moral and National Education controversy in 2012 severely shook young people's confidence in the systems which they believed protected their rights. With the approach of 2047, when the Basic Law is set to expire, along with the constitutional guarantees enshrined within it, sentiments of an uncertain future drove youth to join the protests against the extradition bill.[83] For some protesters, the Umbrella Revolution was an inspiration that brought about a political awakening.[83] Others who felt that peaceful methods were ineffective, resorted to increasingly radical methods to express their views.[5][90] Media noted that unlike the 2014 protests, protesters in 2019 were driven by a sense of desperation rather than hope,[91][92] and that the aims of the protests had evolved from withdrawing the bill to fighting for greater freedom and liberties.[93]

Unaffordable housing prices were also cited as an underlying cause of anger among Hong Kongers.[94][95] Hong Kong is "the world's most expensive city to buy a home".[96] It has not secured affordable or public housing for the city's population.[97][98] With the business elites exerting great influence, Hong Kong also suffers from income disparity.[99] The city had the second highest Gini Coefficient in the world in 2017.[100] Youth, in particular, have little social mobility and have to compete for jobs with Mainland Chinese.[99][101] Salaries for university graduates in 2018 were lower than those of 30 years ago.[99] Many protesters in Hong Kong were young and educated: A survey conducted by three local scholars, who handed out questionnaires to 6,600 individuals during 12 protest events between 9 June and 4 August 2019, revealed that nearly 60% of the protesters were under the age of 30, and about 75% of the protesters had received tertiary education.[102]


Initially the protesters only demanded the withdrawal of the extradition bill. Following an escalation in the severity of policing tactics against demonstrators on 12 June 2019, the protesters' objective was to achieve the following five demands (under the slogan "Five demands, not one less"):[103]

  • Complete withdrawal of the extradition bill from the legislative process: Although the chief executive announced an indefinite suspension of the bill on 15 June, the reading of it may be resumed quickly. The bill was "pending resumption of second reading" in the legislative council. It was formally withdrawn on 23 October 2019.[104]
  • Retraction of the "riot" characterisation: The government originally characterised the 12 June protest as "riots". Later the description was amended to say there were "some" protesters who rioted. However, protesters contest the existence of acts of rioting during the 12 June protest. Through the government's characterisation of the protests as "riots", any protester who was arrested could spend up to 10 years in prison.
  • Release and exoneration of arrested protesters: Protesters consider the arrests to be politically motivated; they also question the legitimacy of police arresting protesters at hospitals through access to their confidential medical data in breach of patient privacy.
  • Establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into police conduct and use of force during the protests: Civic groups felt that the level of violence used by the police on 12 June, specifically that against protesters who were not committing any offences when they were set upon, was unjustified; police performing stop-and-search on numerous passers-by near the protest site without probable cause was also considered abusive.[105] Some officers' failure to display or show their police identification number or warrant card, despite being required to do so by the Police General Orders, is seen to be a breakdown of accountability.[106] The existing watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Council, lacks independence, and its functioning relies on police co-operation. As the number of allegations of police brutality and misconduct continued to rise, some Hong Kong protesters began to call for the police force to be disbanded.[107]
  • Resignation of Carrie Lam and the implementation of universal suffrage for Legislative Council elections and for the election of the Chief Executive:[108] Currently, the chief executive is selected by the 1,200-member Election Committee, and 30 of the 70 legislative council seats are filled by representatives from different sectors of the economy, forming the majority of the so-called functional constituencies, most of which have few electors.


Early demonstrations[edit]

Police used tear gas to disperse protesters gathering outside the Legislative Council Complex on 12 June 2019.

A sit-in by the pro-democracy group Demosistō held at the Central Government Complex on 15 March 2019 was the first protest against the extradition bill.[109] The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), a platform for 50 pro-democracy groups, launched a protest march against the bill on 31 March and another on 28 April 2019.[110] The anti-extradition issue attracted more attention when pro-democratic lawmakers in the legislative council launched a filibuster campaign against the bill. In response, the Secretary of Security John Lee announced that the government would resume second reading of the bill in full council on 12 June 2019, bypassing the Bills Committee, whose role would have been to scrutinise it.[111]

With the possibility of a second reading of the bill, the CHRF launched their third protest march on 9 June. While police estimated attendance at the march on Hong Kong Island at 270,000, the organisers claimed that 1.03 million people had attended the rally.[35][112] Carrie Lam insisted second reading and debate over the bill be resumed on 12 June.[113] Protesters successfully stopped the LegCo from resuming second reading of the bill by surrounding the LegCo Complex. Riot police dispersed protesters using controversial methods such as kettling, firing tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets, and allegedly assaulted journalists in the process.[114] Police Commissioner Stephen Lo declared the clashes a "riot".[115] Police were subsequently criticised for using excessive force, such as firing tear gas at a crowd peacefully protesting near CITIC Tower,[116][117] and for the lack of identification numbers on police officers' uniforms.[118] Following the clashes, protesters began calling for an independent inquiry into police brutality; they also urged the government to retract the "riot" characterisation.

Organisers claimed two million attended the CHRF march on 16 June 2019, while the police put the figure at 338,000.

On 15 June, Carrie Lam announced the bill's suspension but did not fully withdraw it.[119] A 35-year-old man committed suicide in protest of Lam's decision.[120] CHRF claimed that 2 million people had participated in the 16 June protest, while the police estimated that there were 338,000 demonstrators at its peak.[42]

Storming of Legco and spillovers[edit]

Protesters briefly occupied the Legislative Council Complex on 1 July 2019.

The CHRF claimed a record turnout of 550,000 for their annual march on 1 July 2019, while police estimated around 190,000 at the peak;[121][122] an independent polling organisation estimated attendance at 260,000.[123] The protest was largely peaceful. At night, protesters stormed the Legislative Council; police took little action to stop them. Partly angered by several more suicides since 15 June 2019, protesters smashed furniture, defaced the Hong Kong emblem, and presented a new ten-point manifesto.[124][125][126]

After 1 July 2019, protests spread to different areas in Hong Kong.[127][128][129] The first anti-extradition protest in Kowloon was held on 7 July, from Tsim Sha Tsui to West Kowloon station.[130] Clashes occurred later in Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. Once again, police officers' failure to display their warrant cards was a source of contention.[131] A peaceful protest on 14 July in Sha Tin escalated into intense confrontations with the police when the protesters were kettled inside New Town Plaza.[132][133] Mall owner Sun Hung Kai Properties drew criticism from protesters for allowing the police to enter the shopping centre without due authorisation.[134][135]

Protesters marching on Castle Peak Road during the "Reclaim Yuen Long" protest on 27 July 2019 in response to the 21 July Yuen Long Attack.

CHRF held another anti-extradition protest on 21 July on Hong Kong Island. Instead of dispersing, protesters passed the police-mandated endpoint,[136] and headed for the Liaison Office in Sai Ying Pun, where they defaced the Chinese national emblem.[137] While a standoff between the protesters and the police occurred on Hong Kong Island,[138] groups of white-clad individuals, suspected triad members, appeared and indiscriminately attacked people inside Yuen Long station.[139] Police were absent during the attacks, and the local police stations were shuttered, leading to suspicion that the attack was coordinated with police. Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho was later seen greeting members of the group, which led to accusations that he approved of the attack.[139]

On 27 July, protesters marched in Yuen Long, despite opposition from rural groups and the police. The protest escalated into violent clashes inside Yuen Long station.[140] The next day, protesters again defied the police ban and marched to Sai Wan and Causeway Bay.[141] To support the arrestees charged with rioting, protesters rallied near the police stations in Kwai Chung,[142] and Tin Shui Wai, where protesters were attacked by fireworks launched from a moving vehicle.[143][144]

General strike and escalation[edit]

Protesters returned to Mong Kok on 3 August 2019, though some marched to block the Cross-Harbour Tunnel toll plaza in Hung Hom.[145] Protests escalated into clashes between the police and residents in Wong Tai Sin near the disciplined services quarters.[146] Marches in Tseung Kwan O and Kennedy Town on 4 August and in Tai Po on 10 August escalated into citywide conflicts as protesters dispersed wherever the riot police were deployed.[147][148] A call for a general strike on 5 August was answered by about 350,000 people according to the Confederation of Trade Unions;[149] over 200 flights had to be cancelled.[150][151][152] Protests were held in seven districts in Hong Kong. To disperse protesters, the police used more than 800 canisters of tear gas.[153] Protesters in North Point were attacked by a group of stick-wielding men, leading to violent clashes.[154][155]

Protesters pointing their laser pointers at a newspaper outside the Space Museum, mocking an earlier police demonstration that aimed to illustrate the danger of laser pointers, which was seized from an arrested student union president.[156][157]

Various incidents involving alleged police brutality on 11 August—police shot bean bag rounds that ruptured the eye of a female protester, the use of tear gas indoors, the deployment of undercover police as agents-provocateurs, and the firing of pepper ball rounds at protesters at a very close range—prompted protesters to stage a three-day sit-in at Hong Kong International Airport from 12 to 14 August, forcing the Airport Authority to cancel numerous flights.[158][159][160] On 13 August, protesters at the airport cornered, tied up and assaulted two men they accused of being either undercover police or agents for the mainland, who were later identified as a tourist and a Global Times reporter.[161][162] A peaceful rally was held in Victoria Park by the CHRF on 18 August to denounce police brutality. The CHRF claimed attendance of at least 1.7 million people.[163] The police put peak attendance in the Victoria Park football areas at 128,000.

On 23 August, an estimated 210,000 people participated in the "Hong Kong Way" campaign to draw attention to the movement's five demands. The chain extended across the top of Lion Rock.[164][165]

Starting from the Kwun Tong protest on 24 August, protesters began to target railway operator MTR after it closed four stations ahead of the legal, authorised protest.[166] During the protests of 25 August in Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing Districts, hardline protesters threw bricks and gasoline bombs toward the police who in turn responded with volleys of tear gas; police water cannon trucks were deployed for the first time.[167] During the protest, one officer fired an upward warning shot, marking the first use of a live round since the demonstrations broke out in June.[167][168]

Ignoring a police ban, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong Island on 31 August following the arrests of high-profile pro-democracy activists and lawmakers the previous day.[169][170][171] At night, the Special Tactical Squad stormed Prince Edward station, where they beat and pepper-sprayed the commuters inside.[46] Protesters rallied outside the Mong Kok police station in the following weeks to condemn police brutality and demanded the MTR Corporation release the CCTV footage of that night as rumours began to circulate on the internet that the police's operation had caused death, which they denied.[172][173]

Decision to withdraw the extradition bill[edit]

Protesters marched to the US consulate on 8 September 2019.

On 4 September, Carrie Lam announced the formal withdrawal of the extradition bill once Legco reconvened in October and the introduction of additional measures to calm the situation. However, protests continued to insist on all five demands being met.[174][175] On 8 September, the protesters marched to the US consulate to call for the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.[176][177] During the month, protesters organised various flash mob rallies to sing the protest anthem "Glory to Hong Kong".[178][179] They continued their attempts to disrupt the airport's operations,[180] and held pop-up mall protests, which targeted shops and corporations perceived to be pro-Beijing.[181]

The police using water cannon trucks outside the Government HQ during the 29 September 2019 march.

A mass protest on 15 September descended into chaos in North Point as a group of locals, which allegedly included a sizeable number of people of Fujianese origin, physically assaulted protesters.[182] Video footage which was allegedly taken during a protest in Yuen Long on 21 September, showing numerous police officers surrounding a man wearing a yellow vest (believed to be a member of the 'Protect the children' group, who tried to act as human barriers in the protests[183]) with one policeman apparently engaging in physical abuse, caused public ire after widely circulating on social media. Claims made by police on 24 September that the footage only showed a "yellow object" and not provably a man, and their suggestions that footage supporting the latter view may have been doctored, was widely criticised.[184][185]

Carrie Lam held the first public meeting in Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai with 150 members of the public. Protesters demanding to talk to her surrounded the venue and trapped her inside for four hours.[186] On 29 September, there was an anti-Chinese Communist Party rally in defiance of a police ban. Solidarity protests were held on the same day in over 40 cities around the world.[187]

National Day and invocation of emergency law[edit]

Hong Kong protesters threw eggs at the portrait of General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and paramount leader of China Xi Jinping on 1 October 2019 during the 70th National Day of the People's Republic of China.

On 1 October 2019, mass protests and violent conflict occurred between the protesters and police in various districts of Hong Kong during the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. This resulted in the first use of live rounds by police. One 18-year-old student protester was shot in the chest by police in Tsuen Wan while trying to hit a policeman with a rod.[188][189][190] Police said the officer had acted in self-defence.[191] The police fired around 1,400 tear gas canisters and made 269 arrests on one day, setting a record for both since the protests began in June.[192]

Protesters setting up a makeshift roadblock ignited with fire in Causeway Bay on 6 October 2019 in a march protesting against the invocation of the emergency law.

Carrie Lam invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to impose a law to ban wearing face masks in public gatherings, attempting to curb the ongoing protests on 4 October.[193] The law's enactment was followed by continued demonstrations in various districts of Hong Kong, blocking major thoroughfares, vandalising shops perceived to be pro-Beijing and paralysing the MTR system.[194][195][196] Protests and citywide flash mob rallies against the anti-mask law and the invocation of the emergency ordinance persisted throughout the month.[197][198] During a march on 20 October, the gates of the Kowloon Mosque were sprayed with blue-dyed water by a water cannon truck during a police clearance operation, forcing Lam and the police to apologise to the Muslim community.[199][200]

Secretary for Security John Lee officially withdrew the extradition bill on 23 October.[201] Protesters surrounded the Tai Hing Operational Base in Tuen Mun on 28 and 30 October after it allegedly leaked tear gas into the surrounding residential area.[202] On 2 November 2019, a mostly peaceful but unapproved election rally organised by the pro-democratic bloc at Victoria Park quickly turned chaotic.[203]

Intensification and sieges of the universities[edit]

Doxing uncovered the details of a police officer's wedding in Tseung Kwan O which were leaked.[204] Protesters intending to crash the event set up roadblocks around Sheung Tak Estate and clashed with the police late at night on 3 November 2019. Alex Chow Tsz-lok, a 22-year-old student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), was later found unconscious on the second floor of the estate's car park. He was suspected to have fallen from the third floor. He died on 8 November following two unsuccessful brain surgeries.[205][206] After his death, protesters engaged in flash mob rallies against the police and attended vigils in various districts of Hong Kong. They accused the police of obstructing the ambulance on the way to the car park for at least 20 minutes, causing a delay in treatment. The police denied the accusation.[207]

The police confronted the protesters at the entrance of the Chinese University of Hong Kong on 12 November 2019.

In response to Chow's death, protesters planned a city-wide strike starting on 11 November. These disrupted transport in the morning in various districts of Hong Kong.[208] That morning, a policeman fired live rounds in Sai Wan Ho, wounding an unarmed 21-year-old.[209] Police defended the officer alleging the protester was trying to grab his gun.[210] On 11 November, police also fired tear gas in Central during a lunchtime protest, causing businesses to close early.[211] On 14 November, an elderly man died from a head injury which he had sustained the previous day during a confrontation between protesters and government supporters in Sheung Shui.[212][79]

For the first time, during a standoff on 11 November, police shot numerous rounds of tear gas, sponge grenades and rubber bullets into the campuses of universities, while protesters threw bricks and petrol bombs.[213] Student protesters from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) confronted the police for two consecutive days.[214] After the conflict, protesters briefly occupied several universities, which became their strongholds as they crafted various improvised offensive weapons inside.[215][216] A major conflict between protesters and police took place in Hung Hom on 17 November after protesters took control of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and blockaded the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. Thus began the siege of PolyU by police which ended with them storming onto the campus and arresting several protesters and volunteer medics in the early morning of 18 November.[217][218] Various escape attempts were thwarted by police.[219]

Protesters in Yau Ma Tei on 18 November 2019 as they attempted to breach the police's cordon line to break through to protesters trapped inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

With PolyU under complete lockdown by police, and students inside running short of supplies, protesters outside the campus attempted to penetrate police cordons to break through to those trapped inside but were repelled by tear gas and pepper balls.[220] Police action in Yau Ma Tei resulted in a stampede which was denied by police but confirmed by firefighters.[221] On subsequent days, more protesters from PolyU surrendered to police.[222][223] Hygiene on campus quickly deteriorated, and the protesters inside reported being mentally and physically weak.[224] More than 1,100 people were arrested in and around PolyU over the course of the siege.[225][226] The siege was ended on 29 November.[227]

Electoral landslide and New Year's Day protests[edit]

Protesters gathered in a shopping mall in Sheung Shui on 28 December 2019 to protest the influence of parallel trading and cross-border shopping.

The 24 November 2019 District Council election, considered a referendum on the government and the protests, attracted a record high voter turnout.[228] The results saw the pro-democracy camp win by a landslide, with the pro-Beijing camp suffering their greatest electoral defeat in Hong Kong's history.[229][230] The unprecedented electoral success of the pro-democracy voters, the mass arrests during the PolyU siege, and faster response by police contributed to a decrease in the intensity and frequency of the protests in December 2019 and January 2020.[231]

Protesters returned to the streets on 1 December in Tsim Sha Tsui to reiterate their five demands. Police fired volleys of tear gas into the crowd and revoked the Letter of No Objection one hour after the march began,[232] alleging that protesters were throwing smoke bombs.[233] In an 8 December mass march held to maintain pressure on the government, more than 800,000 protesters came to the streets, according to the organiser CHRF. Meanwhile, police reported the peak turnout at 183,000. The CHRF-organised march was its first permitted by police in nearly four months.[234]

The rest of December saw the return of pop-up mall protests, with clashes occurring in several major shopping centres around the city, including New Town Plaza, which had been a site of clashes throughout the protests. These pop-up protests continued during the Christmas season.[235][236][237] On 22 December, a rally to support the Uighurs who were placed in the Xinjiang re-education camps by the PRC government turned chaotic as protesters and the police confronted each other after a Chinese flag was torn down.[238][239][240]

Protesters flood the streets during the New Year's march.

On 1 January 2020, a protest was held by the CHRF in support of the protesters' demands.[241] Organisers claim over 1,030,000 people participated in the protest, while police said peak attendance was 60,000.[242] Police cut the march short and responded with tear gas after protesters vandalised HSBC's headquarters in retaliation for the bank and the police seizing over HK$70 million (US$9 million) in donations for the protests from Spark Alliance in December.[243][244]

COVID-19 crisis[edit]

A fire was started inside the lobby of Fai Ming Estate, Fanling after the government proposed to use the public housing estate as a quarantine facility.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in mainland China, the number of large-scale rallies has dwindled further because of fears that they might facilitate the spread of the virus. Despite this, the pro-democratic movement's tactics were repurposed to pressure the government to take stronger actions to safeguard Hong Kong's public health in the face of the coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong.[245] Protesters demanded all mainland travellers be banned from entering Hong Kong. From 3 to 7 February 2020, hospital staff (members of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance) launched a labour strike with the same goal.[246][247] On 3 February, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that while only three of the 14 crossing points with mainland China, including the airport, would be left open, she rejected a full border closure because of the "very close relationship" between the people on both sides which entailed "very legitimate and genuine cross-border traffic".[248]

People responded negatively to the government's attempt to set up quarantine and clinical centres in neighbourhoods close to residents and marched to express their discontent or blocked roads to thwart the government's plans across the territory.[249][250] Between late January and early February, improvised explosive devices were found in several locations, and petrol bombs were thrown at four police stations and a patrol car, in a wave of action over the government's failure to close the city's border and supply protective gear.[251] Some of the protest activities have also switched to using an online format.[252]

As the coronavirus crisis escalated further in February and March 2020, the scale of the protests dwindled further.[253][254] Protests activities continued regularly in Tseung Kwan O, Yuen Long and Mong Kok every month.[255][256][257] On 19 April 2020, police arrested 15 pro-democracy activists including Jimmy Lai, Martin Lee and Margaret Ng for their activities in 2019, drawing international condemnation.[258] Police have used coronavirus laws banning groups of more than four, for example, to disperse protesters outside Prince Edward station on 31 March,[259] and several shopping mall singing protests as the pandemic relieved in Hong Kong.[260]

Hundreds of protesters gathered in shopping malls across the city on Mother's Day on 10 May as riot police quashed plans to hold a pro-democracy march before it began.[261] On 15 May, a 21-year-old young man surnamed Sin was sentenced to 4 years in prison for his participation in the 12 June protest, becoming the first person to be jailed for the charge of rioting since the protest movement started.[262]

National security law and resurgence of the protests[edit]

Tear Gas was used for the first time in two months on 24 May

In October 2019, the pro-democratic bloc in the LegCo launched a filibuster campaign led by vice-chairman Dennis Kwok, who presided over the LegCo meetings, to stall the House Committee election procedures and thereby the second reading of the National Anthem Bill, a bill that was considered to be "evil" by the democrats.[263][264] A Hong Kong Watch article opined that the filibustering was the only strategy available to the democrats, because of their marginalisation in the legislative council despite them representing the majority of the population.[265] The directors of the Chinese Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) and the Liaison Office threatened to disqualify Kwok. Their actions were controversial as Article 22 of the Hong Kong Basic Law states that no department of the Central People's Government can interfere in Hong Kong's affairs. The two directors claimed that the two departments were exempted, and this was agreed by Lam's administration despite saying otherwise in the past.[266] Pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee was re-elected House Committee chairwoman on 18 May after security guards removed most pro-democracy members due to a violent scuffle before the vote was called.[267]

On 21 May 2020, state media announced that the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress would begin drafting a new law that covers "secession, foreign interference, terrorism and subversion against the central government" into the Annex III of the Hong Kong Basic Law. This meant that the law would come into effect through promulgation and bypass the local legislation via the LegCo. The legislation of a similar law concerning China's national security failed in 2003 following a massive demonstration against the bill.[268]

Observers considered this was China's boldest step to bring Hong Kong under its control by accusing it of depreciating the "one country, two systems" principle in violation of the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and expected that it will have far-reaching effects on the city's freedom of expression and future economic success as well as worsening the relations between China and US which have already reached an all-time low due to the coronavirus crisis and the ongoing trade war.[269][270]

Mass arrest of suspected protesters on 27 May

The draft sparked increased protests. The mass march on 24 May in Causeway Bay was the largest protest since the beginning of the pandemic, as civilians responded to online calls to march against both the National Anthem Bill and the proposed national security law.[271] For the first time in two months, the police deployed tear gas in an attempt to disperse the protesters.[272] On 27 May at least 300 people were arrested during a day-long protest across Hong Kong over the National Anthem bills reading on the same day and the anti-sedition law. Police fired pepper spray at lunchtime as protesters shouted slogans. Officers stopped and searched residents and rounded up suspected protesters, forcing them to sit in rows on the ground. Thousands of armed police were deployed to stop the planned protest.[273]

On 28 May the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress passed the National People's Congress Decision on Hong Kong national security legislation.[274] The vote passed 2878 for, 1 against and 6 abstained.[275] The day before United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed Congress that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous from China, so should be considered the same country in trade etc.[276]

Clashes between protesters and counter-protesters[edit]

Jimmy Sham, a protest organiser and the convenor of CHRF, was attacked twice during the protests.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho, who defended the assailants of the Yuen Long attack,[277] was stabbed.

Clashes between protesters and counter-protesters had become more frequent since the movement began in June 2019. During a pro-police rally on 30 June, their supporters began directing profanities at their opposition counterparts and destroyed their Lennon Wall and the memorial for Marco Leung, leading to intense confrontations between the two camps.[278] Pro-Beijing citizens, wearing "I love HK police" T-shirts and waving the Chinese national flag, assaulted people perceived to be protesters on 14 September in Fortress Hill.[58] Lennon Walls became sites of conflict between the two camps, with pro-Beijing citizens attempting to tear down the messages or removing poster art.[279][280] Some protesters and pedestrians were beaten and attacked with knives near Lennon Walls by a single perpetrator[281] or by suspected gang members.[282] A reporter was stabbed and a teenager distributing pro-protest leaflets had his abdomen slashed in the Lennon Tunnels near Tseung Kwan O and Tai Po respectively.[283][284] Suspected gang members also attacked protesters in Sheung Shui with retractable batons on 14 November, sparking fears that they were police officers in disguise.[285]

Some civilians allegedly attempted to ram their cars into crowds of protesters or the barricades they set up.[286][287] In one instance, a female protester suffered severe thigh fractures.[288] Protest organisers, including Jimmy Sham from the CHRF, and pro-democratic lawmakers such as Lam Cheuk-ting and Roy Kwong were assaulted and attacked.[284][289][290][291] On 3 November, politician Andrew Chiu had his ear bitten off by a Chinese mainlander who had reportedly knifed three other people outside Cityplaza.[292][293] Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho was stabbed and his parent's grave was desecrated.[294][295]

White-clad men assaulted commuters and protesters with sticks inside Yuen Long station on 21 July 2019.

The 2019 Yuen Long attack occurred following a mass protest organised by the CHRF on 21 July. Suspected gangsters vowed that they would "defend" their "homeland" and warned all anti-extradition bill protesters not to set foot in Yuen Long.[296] Perpetrators were indiscriminately attacking commuters in the concourse and on the platform of Yuen Long station, as well as inside train compartments, resulting in a widespread backlash from the community. The Department of Justice has since been criticised by some lawyers for making "politically motivated" prosecutions. After the Yuen Long attack, assailants had not been charged several weeks after the event, while young protesters were charged with rioting within several days.[297] The protesters were attacked with fireworks in Tin Shui Wai on 31 July,[143] and then attacked by knife-wielding men in Tsuen Wan[298] and suspected "Fujianese" gang members wielding long poles in North Point on 5 August, though they fought back against the attackers.[299][300]

External video
The 31 July 2019 incident in which protesters were attacked by fireworks launching out of a moving vehicle (BBC News)
The 11 November 2019 incident in which a man was set on fire by a protester (Bloomberg)

Amidst frustration that police had failed to prosecute pro-government violent counter-protesters and being increasingly distrustful of police because of this,[301][55] protesters began clashing more frequently with counter-protesters. They clashed inside Amoy Garden on 14 September and then in North Point the next day.[182][302] Hard-core protesters also began to carry out vigilante attacks—described by protesters as "settling matters privately" (私了)—targeting individuals perceived to be foes.[55][301][57] Both pro-Beijing actress Celine Ma,[303] and a taxi driver who drove into a crowd of protesters in Sham Shui Po on 8 October, were attacked.[304]

A middle-aged man was doused with flammable liquid and set on fire by a protester after he had attacked the protesters at Ma On Shan station on 11 November.[305][306] On 14 November, an elderly man died from a head injury sustained earlier during a confrontation between a group of protesters and several pro-government Sheung Shui residents.[75][76][77][78][79] On 1 December, a 53-year-old man clearing a roadblock near the Mong Kok police station was hit with a drain cover by a demonstrator.[307][308]


By suicide[edit]

Marco Leung Ling-kit on scaffolding at Pacific Place before he fell to his death on 15 June.
Mourning area of Marco Leung and Lo, located near Central Government Complex. It was later demolished by the pro-Government.

Several suicide cases were linked to the protests. The first suicide took place on 15 June 2019, when 35-year-old Marco Leung Ling-kit climbed the elevated podium on the rooftop of Pacific Place in Admiralty, and hung banners on the scaffolding with several anti-extradition slogans.[309][310] He wore a yellow raincoat with the words "Carrie Lam is killing Hong Kong" in Chinese written on the back.[309] After a five-hour standoff, during which police officers and Democratic Party legislator Roy Kwong attempted to talk him down, Leung fell to his death, missing an inflatable cushion set up by firefighters.[120][309][310] A Guardian article dated 22 October 2019 reported that "protesters have tracked at least nine cases of suicides that appear to be linked directly to the demonstrations" since June.[80] In five of these cases, the victims left a suicide note referring to the protests, and three were attributed to events following the extradition bill.[310][311][312][313] One note stated: "What Hong Kong needs is a revolution."[314][315]

Several deaths, most notably, that of Chan Yin-lam, a 15-year-old girl whom the police suspected had committed suicide, were the subject of a conspiracy theory given the unusual circumstances surrounding her death. Chan's naked corpse was found floating in the sea near Yau Tong on 22 September 2019. She was an avid swimmer and had participated in the protests.[316] Protesters alleged that the police murdered them for participating in the protests and covered-up the deaths.[317][318][319] The police, in response, denied those allegations. In a report published by the United States Department of State in March 2020, it noted that "there were no credible reports that the (Hong Kong) government or its agents (committing) arbitrary or unlawful killings" and there were no credible reports "of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities."[320]

During confrontations[edit]

Shrine at the site where
Chow Tsz-lok fell.

On 8 November 2019, university student Chow Tsz-Lok died from severe head injuries sustained early on 4 November after falling from the third floor onto the second storey of a car park in Tseung Kwan O. This was close to an area where authorities were dispersing protesters attempting to disrupt a policeman's wedding.[321][322] The cause of his fall remains unknown.[323] Protesters accused the police of obstructing ambulance access to Chow delaying his treatment.[323] In turn, the police said that roadblocks set up by protesters had prevented vehicles from passing.[322] The Fire Services Department stated that the ambulance assigned to Chow was blocked by buses and private vehicles and it had not come in contact with the police who were on duty.[324] Chow's death was the first fatality linked to a scene where police officers and protesters clashed.[324] The incident has been the subject of unsubstantiated claims, widely spread online, about police responsibility for Chow's death.[318] Amnesty International and others demanded an independent investigation of the incident.[325][326]

External video
The 13 November 2019 Sheung Shui clash, including the fatal throw (SCMP)

On 14 November, Luo Changqing,[75] a 70-year-old man, died from head injuries sustained the previous day when he was reportedly hit in the head by a brick thrown at him by a protester.[327] On 13 November in Sheung Shui, a violent clash erupted between a group of anti-government protesters and pro-government residents, during which both groups hurled bricks at each other.[328][212] The man was a bystander recording the conflict using his mobile phone[328][329] and was one of the locals who were clearing the bricks earlier.[328] His death is the first fatality directly attributed to the protests.[330] The victim was identified as an outsourced worker of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.[331] Five people were arrested for murder.[332]

Tactics and methods[edit]

A subway near Tai Po Market station, dubbed the "Lennon Tunnel"
Pepe the Frog became a symbol of resistance during the protests. "Give me Liberty or Give me Death!" alludes to Patrick Henry's speech in support of the American Revolution.
A Winnie the Pooh toy used to symbolise Xi Jinping with the Chinazi flag stuck on it, used in the 1 December 2019 protests

The protests have been described as being largely "leaderless".[66] Although no group or political party has claimed leadership over the movement, civic groups and prominent politicians have played a supportive role, such as applying for Letters of No Objection from the police or mediating conflicts between protesters and police officers.[333] Protesters commonly used LIHKG, an online forum similar to Reddit, as well as Telegram, an optionally end-to-end encrypted messaging service to communicate and brainstorm ideas for protests and to make collective decisions.[66] Unlike previous protests, those of 2019 spread over 20 different neighbourhoods, so the entire territory witnessed them.[334] Protesters and their supporters remained anonymous to avoid prosecutions or future potential retaliation from the authorities, employers who shared a different political orientation, and corporations which kowtowed to political pressure.[335]

For the most part there are two groups of protesters, namely the "peaceful, rational and non-violent" (Chinese: 和理非) protesters and the "fighters" group (勇武).[336] Nonetheless, despite differences in methods, both groups have refrained from denouncing or criticising the other. The principle was the "Do Not Split"—(不割席) praxis—which was aimed to promote mutual respect for different views within the same protest movement.[337] While Carrie Lam has been calling on the public to condemn and cut ties with the violent protesters,[338] the movement has been able to maintain public support. In October, 59% of respondents agreed that it was understandable for protesters to escalate their actions as large-scale and peaceful demonstrations had failed to force the government to concede, according to pollsters from CUHK.[61]

Moderate group[edit]

The moderate group participated in different capacities. The peaceful group held mass rallies, flash mobs, and engaged in other forms of protest such as hunger strikes,[339] forming human chains,[340] launching petitions,[341] labour strikes,[342] class boycotts,[343][344] and disrupting traffic.[345] A protest anthem, "Glory to Hong Kong", was composed, its lyrics crowdsourced on the LIHKG online forum, and sung by flash mobs in shopping centres.[346] There were religious gatherings where protesters sang hymns.[347] Some of them volunteered as first-aiders, while others supported the hardline protesters by providing supplies and logistical support.[90][348] Lennon Walls were set up in various Hong Kong districts and neighbourhoods to spread messages of support to the protesters and to display protest art.[349][350] Protesters had set up pop-up stores that sold cheap protest gadgets, provided undercover clinics for young activists,[351][352] and crowdfunded to help people in need of medical or legal assistance.[353] A mobile app was developed to allow crowdsourcing the location of police.[354]

To raise awareness of their cause and to keep citizens informed, protest supporters, working under pseudonyms, created protest art and derivative works, many of which mock the police and the government.[355] Twitter and Reddit were used to deliver information about the protests to raise awareness to users abroad,[356][357] while platforms like Facebook and Instagram were employed to circulate images of alleged police brutality.[358] Protesters held "civil press conferences" to counter press conferences by police and the government.[359] Protesters also attempted to inform tourists about the protests by staging sit-ins at Hong Kong International Airport; AirDrop was used to broadcast anti-extradition bill information to the public and mainland tourists.[360] An #Eye4HK campaign, in solidarity with a female whose eye was allegedly ruptured by a beanbag round shot by the police, gained momentum around the world.[361] The Lady Liberty Hong Kong statue was also crowdfunded by citizens to commemorate the protests.[362]

Protesters have attempted gain the support from foreign states. Activists, such as Ventus Lau, organised and coordinated numerous rallies calling for international support.[363][364] Joshua Wong, Denise Ho and several other democrats also provided testimonies during the US congressional hearing for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.[365] To increase the political pressure on China, they also advocated for the suspension of the United States–Hong Kong Policy Act, which grants Hong Kong's special status as the city is considered as a separate entity from mainland China for matters concerning trade export and economics control after the 1997 handover.[366] Advertisements on the protestors' cause were financed by crowdfunding and placed in major international newspapers in July 2020, ahead of the G20 summit in Osaka;[367] two further advertising campaigns followed until 12 August 2020.[368] At events, protesters waved the national flags of other countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, calling for their support.[369]

Efforts were made to transform the protests into a long-lasting movement. Protesters have advocated a "Yellow Economic Circle" (黃色經濟圈).[370] Supporters of the protesters labelled different establishments based on their political stance and chose to patronise only in businesses which are sympathetic to the movement, while boycotting businesses supporting or owned by mainland Chinese interests.[371][372] Apps were developed to help users identify the political orientation of different shops.[373] Flash mob rallies were held in the central business districts as office workers used their lunch break to march on the street.[374] The protests prompted various professions to set up labour unions that compete with pro-Beijing lobbies to pressure the government further.[375] Newly elected District Council members put forward motions to condemn the police and used their power to assist the detained protesters.[376] Pro-democratic lawmakers also put forward a motion to impeach Lam, though it was rejected by the pro-Beijing lawmakers in December 2019.[377]

Radical group[edit]

Protesters adopted the black bloc method and wore helmets and respirators to protect themselves.
A "smart" lamppost was destroyed by protesters on 24 August 2019, due to beliefs that it could be used for surveillance.[378]

Radical protesters adopted the "be water" strategy, inspired by Bruce Lee's philosophy, often moving in a fluid and agile fashion to confound and confuse the police.[379] They often retreated when police arrived, only to re-emerge elsewhere.[380] In addition, protesters adopted black bloc tactics to protect their identities. Frontliners' "full gear" consisted of umbrellas, face masks, helmets and respirators to shield themselves from projectiles and teargas.[381] Furthermore, protesters used laser pointers to distract police officers and damaged surveillance cameras to protect their identity.[381] When they were arrested, in many cases, they would shout out their names as they feared that lawyers and family would be unable to reach them in detention.[382] At protest scenes, protesters used hand gestures for nonverbal communication, and supplies were delivered via human chains. Radical protesters shifted to organising extemporaneous flash mob protests.[383][384] Different protesters adopted different roles. Some were "scouts" who shared real-time updates whenever they spotted the police,[385][386] while others were "firefighters" who extinguished tear gas with kitchenware and traffic cones.[387] Some radical protesters promoted the idea of "mutual destruction" or "phoenixism" (攬炒) which argues that Hong Kong's systems require a significant and thorough overhaul. They theorized that an economic downturn in Hong Kong (caused by China's interference of the one-country, two systems principle or the US cancellation of Hong Kong's special trade status) would destabilize mainland China's economy, and therefore, destroy China through "self-destruction" and give Hong Kong a chance to be "reborn" in the future.[388][389]

Starting in August 2019, radical protesters escalated the controversial use of violence and intimidation. They dug up paving bricks and threw them at police; others used petrol bombs, corrosive liquid and other projectiles against police. Petrol bombs were also hurled by protesters at police stations and vehicles.[390][391][196] During sieges at the universities, protesters created makeshift catapults to launch petrol bombs,[392] thousands of which were found inside the school campuses after the sieges was ended.[393] As a result of clashes, there were been multiple reports of police injuries and the assault of officers throughout the protests.[168][394] One officer was slashed in the neck with a box cutter,[197] and a medical liaison officer was shot with an arrow during the PolyU siege.[395] The police also accused the protesters of intending to "kill or harm" police officers after a remote-controlled explosive device detonated on 13 October near a police vehicle.[396] Protesters also directed violence towards undercover officers as agents-provocateurs (捉鬼).[397] On 23 December, a man fired a pistol at the police in Tai Po and was arrested for illegal firearms possession.[398] The courts heard that he had been part of a group of five involved in a conspiracy to kill policemen with firearms and explosives at a rally.[399]

Corporations that protesters accused of being pro-Beijing, such as Best Mart 360, Yoshinoya and Maxim's Caterers, mainland Chinese companies such as the Bank of China, Xiaomi and Commercial Press, and shops engaging in parallel trading, were also vandalised, subject to arson or spray-painted.[400][401][402][403] Protesters also directed violence at symbols of the government by vandalising government and pro-Beijing lawmakers' offices,[404][405] and defacing symbols representing China.[406][301][57] The MTR Corporation became a target of vandalism after protesters had accused the railway operator of kowtowing to pressure by Chinese media,[166] and as a result, a large proportion of stations were vandalised and subjected to arson. Several stations were closed for consecutive days due to severe damage.[407][408] Protesters also disrupted traffic by setting up roadblocks,[345][145] damaging traffic lights,[409] deflating the tires of buses,[410] and throwing objects onto railway tracks.[411] Protesters occasionally intimidated and assaulted mainlanders.[412] The assault of reporter Fu Guohao, who was suspected of being a mainland agent by the protesters at the airport on 13 August, was acknowledged to be a "setback" in maintaining public support.[413]

The government, the police and state-run media often labelled the radical protesters as "masked rioters",[414] while The Guardian noted that there was "little of the random smashing and looting that characterises most riots", quoting a statement from an academic at the Education University of Hong Kong to the effect that vandalism by demonstrators was focused on what they perceived to be targets that embodied injustice.[52]

Online confrontations[edit]

Doxing and cyberbullying[edit]

Doxing and cyberbullying were tactics used by both supporters and opponents of the protests. Some protesters used these tactics on police officers and their families and uploaded their personal information online.[415] By early July 2019, an estimated 1,000 officers' personal details had been reportedly leaked online, and nine individuals had been arrested. Affected officers, their friends and families were subject to death threats and intimidation.[416] In October 2019 Australian journalist Robert Ovadia reported having his name circulated and receiving death threats after escorting pro-Beijing actress Celine Ma to safety from a mob of protesters.[417] Some protesters who found their personal information and photos circulating on pro-Beijing pages on Facebook and other social media platforms after they had been stopped and searched by police, suspected the leaked photos were taken during the stop-and-searches. In a response, police said they had procedures to ensure that their members complied with privacy laws.[418] HK Leaks, an anonymous website based in Russia, and promoted by groups linked to the Communist Party of China, doxed about 200 people seen as being supportive of the protests. An Apple Daily reporter who was doxed by the website was targeted with sexual harassment via "hundreds of threatening calls".[419] University student leaders also received death threats.[420] According to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, as of 30 August 2019, the proportion of doxing cases involving police officers comprised 59% of all reported and discovered cases. The remaining 41% of doxing cases involved other people such as protesters, those holding different political views, citizens and their family members. The proportion of cases involving non-police officers increased from 28% two days prior.[421]

On 25 October 2019, Hong Kong Police obtained a court injunction prohibiting anyone from sharing any personal information about police officers or their families.[422] The ban was criticised for the possibility of producing a chilling effect on free speech; it was also criticised for having an excessively broad scope.[423][424] Cheng Lai-king, the chairwoman of the Central and Western District Council, was arrested for sedition after she shared a Facebook post which contains the personal information of a policeman who allegedly blinded the eye of an Indonesian journalist. The arrest was controversial as the sedition law was established during the colonial era and was rarely used.[425]

Spread of misinformation and propaganda[edit]

A Lennon Wall at Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI). HKDI was the school Chan Yin-lam attended before her death in September 2019.

Both sides of the protests spread unverified rumours, misinformation and disinformation, which caused heightened reactions and polarisation among the public. This included tactics such as using selective cuts of news footage and creating false narratives.[318][426][427][428] Following the Prince Edward station incident, pro-democracy protesters laid down white flowers outside the station's exit to mourn the "deceased" for weeks after rumours circulated on the internet alleging that the police had beaten people to death during the operation.[382] The police, fire service, hospital authority and the government all denied the accusation.[429] Rumours suggesting that gang members would launch another attack on the day following the attack on 21 July 2019 left Yuen Long a "ghost town" for a day.[430] The pro-Beijing camps spread rumours that female protesters were offering "free sex" to their male counterparts, and that the CIA was involved in instigating the protests after photographs of Caucasian men taking part in the protests were shared online.[431][432] The police blamed fake news for causing public's distrust towards law enforcement,[433] though the police itself were also accused by several media outlets and prosecutors of lying to the public.[434][435] According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Hong Kong's spread of misinformation was the result of the deep mutual distrust between both camps, and that as the protests escalated, existing beliefs galvanised, causing people to become more inclined to share unverified news.[428]

On 19 August 2019, both Twitter and Facebook announced that they had discovered what they described as large-scale disinformation campaigns operating on their social networks.[436][437] Facebook found posts included altered images and taken them out of context, often with captions intended to vilify and discredit the protesters.[438] According to investigations by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, some attacks were coordinated, state-backed operations that were believed to be agents of the Chinese government.[439] A report by the ASPI found that the purported disinformation campaign promoted three main narratives: condemnation of the protesters, support for the Hong Kong Police, and "conspiracy theories about Western involvement in the protests."[440] Google, Facebook, and Twitter banned these accounts. After having videos banned on YouTube, some of China's online commentators uploaded their videos via platforms such as Pornhub instead.[441] The state-run China Daily spread fake news suggesting the protesters would launch a terrorist attack on 11 September 2019.[442] In September, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the International Federation of Journalists and the Centre for Law and Democracy released a joint statement urging key social media platforms to take steps to stop the efforts of disinformation campaigns.[443]


On 13 June 2019, allegations of organised cyberattacks were made against the Chinese government. Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram, suggested that the Chinese government may be behind the DDoS attacks on Telegram. On Twitter, Durov called the attack a "state actor-sized DDoS" because the attacks were mainly from IP addresses located in China. Additionally, Durov further tweeted that some of the DDoS attacks coincided with the protest on 12 June 2019.[444] Anonymous LIHKG moderators also suggested that the DDoS attack they experienced on 31 August 2019 were "unprecedented" and that they have "reasons to believe that there is a power, or even a national level power behind... such attacks." The forum identified two Chinese websites as being among those involved in the attack, including Baidu Tieba.[445]

Allegations of police misconduct[edit]

A water cannon truck firing blue-dyed liquid at protesters.
A police officer firing tear gas canisters on 31 August 2019.
Hong Kong police storm Prince Edward station and attack civilians on 31 August 2019.
A passerby was attacked by riot police in Tai Wai on 3 October 2019.
External video
The 1 October 2019 Tsuen Wan shooting incident (HKFP)
The 11 November 2019 Sai Wan Ho shooting incident (HKFP)

Hong Kong police were accused of using excessive and disproportionate force and not following both international safety guidelines and internal protocols while using their weapons.[446][118] According to Amnesty International, police aimed horizontally while firing, targeting protestors' heads and torsos.[118][214] Police use of bean bag rounds and rubber bullets allegedly ruptured the eyes of several protesters and the eye of an Indonesian journalist.[447][448][449] Police were found to have been using tear gas as an offensive weapon,[450] firing it indoors inside a railway station,[450] and using expired tear gas, which could release toxic gases upon combustion,[451] and firing canisters from high-rise buildings.[452] Between June and November 2019, approximately 10,000 volleys of gas had been fired.[453] Chemical residues were found on different public facilities in various neighbourhoods.[454][455][c] The use of tear gas sparked public health concerns after a reporter was diagnosed with chloracne in November 2019,[457] though both the environment department and the health department disputed these claims.[458]

Several police operations, in particular in Prince Edward station where the Special Tactical Squad (STS) assaulted commuters on a train, were thought by protesters and pro-democrats to have disregarded public safety.[459][132] Police were accused of using disproportionate force[460] after an officer shot two young protesters with live ammunition in Tsuen Wan and Sai Wan Ho on 1 October 2019 and 11 November 2019 respectively.[d][466][467] An off-duty officer accidentally shot and injured a 15-year-old boy in Yuen Long on 4 October 2019 when he was assaulted by protesters who accused him of bumping into people with his car.[468] The siege of PolyU, which was described as a "humanitarian crisis" by democrats and medics,[469][220] prompted the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres to intervene as the wounded protesters trapped inside ran out of supplies and lacked first-aid care.[220]

The kettling of protesters,[132] the operations inside private areas,[470] the deployment of undercover officers who were suspected of committing arson and vandalism,[319][471] the firing of pepper ball rounds at protesters at a near point-blank range,[472] the suspected evidence tampering,[473][474] the dyeing of Kowloon Mosque and the use of the water cannon trucks against pedestrians,[446][200] insufficient protection for police dogs,[475] accessing patients' medical records without consent,[476][477][478] and how police displayed their warning signs[479] were also sources of controversy. A police officer was arrested in April 2020 for perverting the course of justice after he allegedly instructed a teen to throw petrol bombs at a police station he works at.[e][480] Some police officers wore face masks,[481] did not wear uniforms with identification numbers or failed to display their warrant cards,[482][131] making it difficult for citizens to file complaints. Police were also accused of driving dangerously. A police officer was suspended after he hit one protester and dragged him in the process on 11 November 2019 with his motorcycle,[483][484] while a police van suddenly accelerated into a crowd of protesters, causing a stampede as STS officers exiting from the van chased protesters in Yau Ma Tei on 18 November 2019. Police defended the latter action as an appropriate response by well-trained officers to attacks by protesters, and that "[driving] fast doesn't mean it is unsafe".[485]

Police were accused of locking down Prince Edward station, thereby preventing medical personnel from treating the wounded inside,[459] and of obstructing paramedics from helping Alex Chow Tsz-Lok, thereby delaying treatment, a claim that police denied.[324] The arrest of voluntary medics during the siege of PolyU was condemned by medical professionals.[486] Police were accused of using excessive force on already subdued, compliant arrestees. Videos showed the police kicking an arrestee[487] pressing one's face against the ground,[488] using one as a human shield,[489] and stomping on a demonstrator's head.[490] Police were also accused of sitting on a protester's head, though they defended the action, saying that the officer was using "minimum necessary force".[491] Protesters reported suffering brain haemorrhage and bone fractures after being violently arrested by the police.[492] Amnesty International stated that police had used "retaliatory violence" against protesters and mistreated and tortured some detainees. Detainees reported being forced to inhale tear gas, being beaten and threatened by officers; police officers shined laser lights directly into one detainee's eyes.[53][493][494] They were accused of using sexual violence on female protesters.[495] A female alleged that riot police officers gang raped her in Tsuen Wan police station, while the police reported that their investigation did not align with her accusation.[496] Some detainees reported police had denied them access to lawyers and delayed their access to medical services.[494][497] Many of these allegations were believed to have taken place in San Uk Ling Holding Centre.[498]

Police were also accused of spreading a climate of fear[499] by conducting hospital arrests,[500][501] arresting people arbitrarily, targeting youngsters,[502][53] banning requests for demonstrations,[503] and arresting high-profile activists and lawmakers.[504] Some bystanders caught up in the protests were beaten, kicked, pushed, or pepper sprayed by officers.[446][505][506][507] Police inaction during the storming of the Legislative Council Complex was divisive,[508] and their slow response towards the Yuen Long attack sparked accusations they had colluded with triad members.[15] Lawyers pointed out that police inaction, such as shutting the gates of the nearby police stations during the Yuen Long attacks might constitute misconduct in public office,[509][15] while the IPCC reported that the jamming of the emergency hotline during the attack was also a common criticism.[510] Police were accused of applying double standards by showing leniency towards violent counter-protesters.[511] Police denied all of these accusations.

Some uniformed officers used foul language to harass and humiliate protesters and journalists,[512] insulted mediators,[513] and provoked protesters.[514] The slur "cockroach"—whose dehumanising qualities have been recognised in the social sciences and psychology—was used frequently by frontline officers to insult protesters; police sought to counter this development, and suggested that in several instances, verbal abuse by protesters may have led officers to use the term.[515] An officer was reprimanded by his superiors for shouting derisive comments to protesters about the death of Chow Tsz-lok.[516] Police described a man wearing a yellow vest who was taken to an alley, surrounded by police officers, and apparently physically abused by one of them, as a "yellow object". Their claim that it was impossible to recognise a person in the video footage was widely criticised.[184]

Police modified the Police General Orders by removing the sentence "officers will be accountable for their own actions" ahead of the 1 October 2019 confrontation. Police sources of the Washington Post have said that a culture of impunity pervades the police force, such that riot police often disregarded their training or became dishonest in official reports to justify excessive force.[446] Some frontline officers reportedly believed that they were entitled to punish the "rioters", contravening rules that minimum force should be used. Police officers who felt that their actions were not justified were marginalised.[517] Police commanders reportedly ignored the wrongdoings and the unlawful behaviours of frontline riot police and refused to use any disciplinary measures to avoid upsetting them.[446] Lam's administration also denied police wrongdoings and backed the police multiple times.[518] As of December 2019, no officer had been suspended for their actions or charged or prosecuted over protest-related actions.[446] When the District Councils were passing motions to condemn police violence, police commissioner Chris Tang and other civil servants walked out in protest.[519]

Local media coverage[edit]

The moment that a female journalist of Stand News was attacked by a stick-wielding man during the Yuen Long attack on 21 July.
Police near Lan Kwai Fong, Central on 31 October 2019. Police were accused of obstructing reporters from taking photographs by shining flashlights at them.[520]

The protests received significant press attention. Nathan Ruser from ASPI identified the protests as the most livestreamed social unrest in history, and according to a poll conducted by CUHK, live feeds have replaced traditional media, social media and Telegram as the main way for citizens of Hong Kong to access protest-related information. Ruser suggested that unlike other protests, the widespread use of livestreaming technology in the Hong Kong protests meant that there was "almost parity when it comes to what [one] can learn remotely researching it to actually being there".[521]

Many of Hong Kong's media outlets are owned by local tycoons who have significant business ties in the mainland, so many of them adopt self-censorship at some level and have mostly maintained a conservative editorial line in their coverage of the protests. The management of some firms have forced journalists to change their headline to sound less sympathetic to the protest movement.[522] A report by BBC suggested that the management of local terrestrial broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) had forced employees to include more voices supporting the government and highlight the aggressive actions of the protesters, without including segments focusing on the responses from the protesters or the democrats.[523] TVB and local news outlet, HK01 were accused of pro-government bias, and protesters have physically assaulted their news crews and damaged their equipment and vehicles.[524][525] Protesters also placed political pressure on various corporations, urging them to stop placing advertisements on TVB.[526]

Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), the public broadcasting service, faced criticisms from pro-Beijing parties and individuals, who alleged that it was biased towards the protesters. Counter-protesters have surrounded the headquarters of RTHK and assaulted its reporters.[527] RTHK also faced political pressure from the police directly. Chris Tang had filed complaints to RTHK regarding the satirical TV show Headliner and opinion program Pentaprism for "insulting" the Force and "spreading hate speech" respectively.[f] The police's actions were criticised by journalists and democrats for interfering with press freedom.[530] Tang was also criticised for interfering with academic freedom when he pressured EdU's management to "seriously follow up" the incident.[531]

The police had been criticised by HKJA for interfering and obstructing the journalists.[532] Obstruction tactics included shining flashlights at reporters to avoid them taking photographs, and conducting stop and search on them despite knowing their identity.[520][533] HKJA had also criticised the police for insulting journalists. In some cases, despite identifying themselves, journalists were jostled, attacked, subdued, pepper-sprayed, or detained by the police.[534][535] Some journalists were arrested for wearing a mask after the anti-mask ban was implemented, though the ban had clearly stated that members of the press were exempt from the regulation.[522] A female reporter from NBC alleged that an officer have sexually assaulted her, and then another officer pepper-sprayed her when she inquired the identity of the officer.[533] An officer requested a reporter from Stand News who was livestreaming to show his ID card and then displayed all of his personal details in front of his camera.[536] Journalists were also caught in crossfire of protests. Indonesian journalist Veby Mega Indah from Suara was blinded by a rubber bullet during the 29 September protests,[537] while a reporter from RTHK suffered burns after he was mistakenly hit by a petrol bomb, despite protesters rushing to extinguish the flames.[538]

In the World Press Freedom Index, Hong Kong's press freedom in 2019 fell seven places to 80th, mainly due to the Victor Mallet visa controversy, the poor treatment of journalists by the police during the protests, and the government's unwillingness to answer questions faithfully during press conferences. Cedric Alviani from Reporters without Borders expected Hong Kong's ranking to continue falling in the subsequent years, as the city's press freedom has faced a "a long and consistent downfall". Hong Kong's press freedom was ranked 18th when the Press Freedom Index was established in 2002.[539]


Impact on the economy[edit]

Protest at the Hong Kong International Airport on 26 July 2019.

Official statistics showed that Hong Kong had slipped into recession as its economy had shrunk in the second and third quarters of 2019.[540] Retail sales had declined and consumers' appetite for spending had decreased.[541] During the days of protests, protesters brought "mixed fortunes" to businesses according to the South China Morning Post. Some restaurants saw their customers cancel bookings, and certain banks and shops were forced to close their doors. Supplies of goods were also halted or obstructed because of the protests. Meanwhile, some shops prospered as nearby protesters bought food and other commodities.[542] Because of lower consumer spending, several luxury brands delayed shop openings.[543] Stock of protest supplies such as gas masks ran low in both Hong Kong and Taiwan.[544]

The protests also affected property owners. Fearing the instability in Hong Kong, some investors abandoned the purchases of land. The desire to purchase properties also declined, as overall property transactions dropped by 24% when compared with the Umbrella Revolution. Property developers were forced to reduce selling prices.[545] Trade shows reported decreased attendance and revenue, and many firms cancelled their events in Hong Kong.[546] The Hang Seng Index declined by at least 4.8% from 9 June 2019 to late August 2019. As interest in trading waned, companies that had already applied for initial public offerings (IPO) in Hong Kong urged their bankers to put their listing on hold. August 2019 recorded only one IPO, which was the lowest since 2012; two large IPOs were shelved in June and July 2019. Fitch Ratings downgraded Hong Kong's sovereignty rating from AA+ to AA due to doubts over the government's ability to maintain the "one country, two systems" principle; the outlook of the city was similarly lowered from "stable" to "negative".[547]

Tourism was also affected. The number of visitors travelling to Hong Kong declined by 40% in August 2019 compared to a year earlier,[548] while the decline was 31.9% for the days during and after National Day.[549] Unemployment rate of Hong Kong increased from 0.1% to 3.2% from September to November 2019. The tourist sector and the catering sectors were the most significantly affected industries, with the unemployment rate rising to 5.2% and 6.2% respectively during the same period.[550] Flight bookings also declined, with airlines cutting or reducing services.[551] During the airport protests on 12 and 13 August 2019, the Airport Authority cancelled numerous flights, which resulted in an estimated US$76 million loss according to aviation experts.[552] Hong Kong Disneyland also revealed that there were fewer guests visiting. Many mainland tourists avoided travelling to Hong Kong due to safety concerns. Various countries issued travel warnings to their citizens concerning Hong Kong.[553] The government announced a relief package worth HK$19.1 billion on 15 August, and another one worth up to HK$35 billion in September aimed at assisting smaller Hong Kong companies weather the protests and the US-China trade war.[554] In early October, Li Ka-shing donated HK$1 billion ($127.5 million) to help Hong Kong's small and medium-sized businesses withstand the twin shocks.[554]

District Councilors collaborated with shops supporting the Yellow Economic Circle to organise a Lunar New Year Fair in Sai Ying Pun on 18 January.[555]

The economy in Hong Kong became increasingly politicised. Some corporations bowed to pressure and fired employees who expressed their support for the protests.[556][557] Several international corporations and businesses including the National Basketball Association and Activision Blizzard have made business decisions to appease China during the protests and faced intense criticisms.[558] The Diplomat called the Yellow Economic Circle "one of the most radical, progressive, and innovative forms of long-term struggle" during the protests.[559] Corporations perceived to be pro-Beijing faced boycotts, some of which were vandalised.[560] Meanwhile, "yellow" shops which allied with the protesters enjoyed a flurry of patrons even during the coronavirus crisis.[561] Simon Shen, a political scientist, suggested that the Economic Circle could be an example of "identity economy" and predicted that the businesses involved could enjoy a "potential market worth of more than HK$100 billion",[562] though some critics have suggested that the circle would not be not sustainable.[563]

Impacts on governance[edit]

Lam's administration was criticised for its performance during the protests. Her perceived arrogance and obstinacy,[564][99] her extended absence, reluctance to engage in dialogue with protesters, and subpar performance at press conferences,[565] were believed to have enabled the protesters to escalate events.[566][g] According to polls conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, Lam's approval rating declined to 22.3 in October 2019, lowest among all chief executives. Her performance was categorised as "disastrous" as was that of Secretary for Security John Lee and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng.[60] On 2 September, Reuters received a leaked audio recording in which Carrie Lam admitted that she had "very limited" room to manoeuvre between the Central People's Government and Hong Kong, and that she would quit, if she had a choice.[568] However, the next day she told the media that she had never contemplated to discuss with the Beijing authorities a resignation.[569] Lam's behaviour on this and later occasions strengthened the perception among a broad part of the protesters and their supporters that she was not able to make any crucial decision without instructions from the Beijing government, effectively serving as its puppet, an accusation which Lam had rejected at the beginning of her term in 2017.[570] According to lawyer Antony Dapiran, China's decision to replace the directors of the Liaison Office and the HKMAO instead of removing Lam from office was to "replace the puppet masters, rather than the puppet".[571]

After he went against public opinion and unsuccessfully pushed the Extradition bill through its second reading on 12 June, Lam was named a "lame duck" by various foreign media.[572][573][574] Ma Ngok, a political scientist, remarked that the government "has lost the trust of a whole generation" and predicted that youths would remain angry at both the government and the police "for years to come".[575] The distrust towards the government and the lack of police accountability also led to the prevalence of conspiracy theories during this period.[319] Citizen's breakdown of trust towards the government was also evident during the coronavirus crisis, in which citizens began panic buying daily necessities despite the government's repeated attempts to refute rumours.[571] Rifts formed within the government with Lennon Walls being set up in government offices and civil servants organising rallies.[576]

Both sides claimed that rule of law in Hong Kong was undermined during the protests. While the government, the police and government supporters criticised the protesters for breaking the law and using violence to "extort" the government to accept the demands, the protesters and their sympathizers felt that selective law enforcement, selective prosecution, police brutality, and the government's blanket denial of all police wrongdoings all harmed rule of law and expressed their disappointment that the law cannot help them achieve justice.[577] The judiciary system was also scrutinized after Judge Kwok Wai-kin expressed sympathy to a stabber who attacked three people in September 2019 near a Lennon Wall. He was later removed from handling all protest-related cases.[578]

The government's extended absence in the early stage of the protests left the police as the only group to clash with the protesters, resulting in both groups developing immense mutual hatred for each other.[579] According to risk consultant Steve Vickers, the government's early absence had caused the Force to become the "the visible representation of what many saw as an apparently dysfunctional and not very visible Hong Kong government".[579][565] The Force was initially "lost and confused" and was discontent with the government for not offering enough support.[580] Subsequently, Lam had denied all allegations of police brutality, saying that they were only enforcing the law. However, this led to accusations that Lam and her administration endorsed police violence.[518] According to The Diplomat, the establishment had waited for demonstrators' aggression to increase so they could justify greater militarisation of the police and dismiss the protesters as "insurgents" and also their demands.[581]

Impact on police's image and accountability[edit]

Police Commissioner Stephen Lo (left) and his successor Chris Tang (right) rejected the formation of an independent committee to investigate police brutality.

The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) launched investigations into alleged incidents of police misconduct during the protests. Protesters demanded an independent commission of inquiry instead, as the members of the IPCC are mainly pro-establishment and it lacks the power to investigate, make definitive judgements, and hand out penalties.[582][583][174] On 8 November 2019, a five-member expert panel headed by Sir Denis O'Connor and appointed by Lam in September 2019 to advise the IPCC, concluded that the police watchdog lacked the "powers, capacity and independent investigative capability necessary" to fulfill its role as a police watchdog group and suggested the formation of an independent commission of inquiry given the current protest situation.[584] After negotiations to increase the IPCC's powers fell through, the five panel members quit on 11 December 2019.[585] Despite calls from both local[586] and international opinion leaders, Carrie Lam and both police commissioners Stephen Lo and Chris Tang rejected the formation of an independent committee.[587] Lam insisted that the IPCC was able to fulfill the task,[588] while Tang called the formation of such a committee an "injustice" and a "tool for inciting hatred" against the force.[446] The IPCC report on police behaviour during the protests released in May 2020 concluded that police has mostly followed the guidelines though there was room for improvement.[589] While government officials called the report "comprehensive", democrats and human rights organisations were unanimous in declaring it a whitewash of police misdeeds.[590]

The reputation of the police took a serious drubbing following the heavy-handed treatment of protesters.[591][592] In October 2019, a survey conducted by CUHK revealed that more than 50% of respondents were deeply dissatisfied with the police's performance.[61] According to some reports, their aggressive behaviours and tactics have caused them to become a symbol that represents hostility and suppression. Their actions against the protesters resulted in a breakdown of citizens' trust of the police.[593][594][595] Citizens were also concerned over the ability of the police to regulate and control their members and feared their abuse of power.[596] The suspected acts of police brutality led some politically neutral or political apathetic citizens to become more sympathetic towards the young protesters.[597] Fearing Hong Kong was changing into a police state, some citizens actively considered emigration.[598] The lack of prosecution against officers sparked fears that the police could not be held accountable for their actions and that they were immune to any legal consequences.[446]

Affected by the controversies surrounding the Force's handling of the protests, between June 2019 to February 2020, 446 police officers quit their job (which was 40% higher than the figure in 2018), and the Force only managed to recruit 760 officers (which was 40% lower than the previous year), falling way short of the Force's expectations.[579] The police cancelled foot patrols because of fears officers may be attacked,[599] and issued extendable batons to off-duty officers.[596] Frontline officers and protesters insulted each other using degrading terms.[515][600][601] Police officers also reported being "physically and mentally" tired, as they faced the risks of being doxed, cyberbullied, and distanced by their family members.[602] Police relations with journalists,[603] social workers,[604] medical professionals[605] and members from other disciplined forces[606] became strained.

Impacts on society[edit]

The protests deepened the rift between the "yellow" (pro-democracy) and "blue" (pro-government) camps created since the Umbrella Revolution. People who opposed the protests in a self-dubbed "silent majority", including wavering sideline supporters and moderates who say that they have been driven away by the violence, argued that protesters were spreading "chaos and fear" across the city, causing damage to the economy and harming people not involved in the protests. On the other hand, protesters justified their actions by what they saw as the greater good of protecting the city's freedoms against the encroachment of mainland China.[68] Anti-mainland sentiments swelled during this period.[607] Family relationships were strained, as parents argued with their children over their attending protests, either because they felt that the protests may cost them their future, or they disagreed with their children's political stance or the manner of the protests.[597][608][609][610][611]

The elderly marching on 17 July to support young people's anti-extradition bill protests.

As the protests continued to escalate, citizens showed an increasing tolerance towards confrontational and violent actions.[612] Pollsters found that among 8,000 respondents, 90% of them believed that the use of these tactics was understandable because of the government's refusal to respond to the demands.[613] The protest movement enabled the citizens of Hong Kong to become better equipped to challenge the government when its policies were perceived to be controversial, such as those during the Wuhan coronavirus crisis.[614] Unity among the protesters was seen across a wide spectrum of age groups and professions.[h] While some moderate protesters reported that the increase in violence alienated them from the protests,[68] public opinion polls conducted by CUHK suggested that the movement was able to maintain public support.[61]

Because of the internal redeployment of staff within the force to deal with the protests, anti-crime operations were "smaller and less frequent than in the past". Criminals took advantage of the lowered police presence to commit crimes,[624] leading to certain illegal acts such as home and shop burglaries being committed between June and October 2019 with higher frequency than the same period the year before.[625] The Hong Kong government spent nearly HK$950 million for officers' overtime payments during the protests in the period from June to November 2019.[626]

The protest has also placed considerable strain on both government employed and contracted cleaners.[627] The environment minister lifted the ban on glass bottle recycling due to the calming of the political situation of Hong Kong.[628]

Impact on mental health[edit]

A study conducted by the University of Hong Kong found that the protests were having negative impacts on the mental health of Hong Kong residents with one third of adults, around 2 million adults of a total population of 7.4 million, reporting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the protests, up from 5 percent in March 2015.[629] This was a six times increase from four years earlier with levels of depression and PTSD comparable to a war zone.[630][631] The underlying data was based on surveys of more than 18,000 Hong Kong residents. A survey, on social media, of more than 1,000 people by the Chinese University of Hong Kong department of psychology found that 38 percent were troubled by depression-related problems, including "feeling depressed" and "having little interest in doing things".[632] Symptoms of PTSD were found not only to afflict protesters, but also those watching events unfold on the news, living in affected areas, or working in jobs that are related to the movement (nurses, doctors, reporters, police, and street cleaners).[633]

The same study from the University of Hong Kong found that, out of residents under 18, 11.2 percent of participants reported feeling depressed in 2019, compared with 1.9 percent from 2009 to 2014 and 6.5 percent following the Occupy Central Movement in 2017 and before the current protests. This constituted an increase of 7 percent from before the Occupy Central movement. Suspected PTSD in 2019 was found to have a prevalence of 12.8 percent in the population. Education, sex, age or household income were not seen to affect either likelihood of depression or PTSD, but heavy social media use of 2 or more hours per day was associated with both. Participation and political attitude to the protests were not associated with depression, but residents who were neutral toward the extradition bill had approximately half the risk for suspected PTSD. The university predicted that there would be an increase of about 12 percent in demand for mental health services in the public sector.[634]

Social workers have voiced their concerns for some young protesters whose mental health had become unstable.[601] Experts noted the eruption of despair in the city during the protests, though protesters had chanted rallying cries urging people not to commit suicide.[635]


Hong Kong government[edit]

Chief Executive Carrie Lam at the press conference with Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng and Secretary for Security John Lee one day after the massive protest on 9 June 2019.

Carrie Lam continued to push for the second reading of the bill despite a mass anti-extradition bill protest that attracted one million people, (according to the organisers) saying that the government was "duty-bound" to amend the law.[636][637] Following the 12 June conflict, both Police Commissioner Stephen Lo and Lam characterised the conflict as a "riot". The police later backed down on the claim, saying that among the protesters, only five of them rioted. Protesters demanded that the government fully retract the riot characterisation.[638] Lam's analogy as Hong Kong people's mother attracted criticisms after the violent crackdown on 12 June.[639]

Lam announced the suspension of the bill on 15 June,[640] and officially apologised to the public on 18 June two days after another massive march.[641] In early July, Lam reiterated that the bill "had passed away" and reaffirmed that all efforts to amend the law had ceased, though her use of language was thought to be ambiguous.[642] During July and August 2019, the government insisted that it would not make any concessions, that the IPCC is suffice to investigate police misconduct, and that Lam could still lead despite calls asking for her resignation.[643][8]

After condemning the protesters for storming the legislature on 1 July for their "use of extreme violence"[644] and defacing the national emblem during the 21 July protest,[645] Lam suggested in early August 2019 that the protests had deviated from their original purpose and that their goal now was to challenge China's sovereignty and damage "one country, two systems".[567] She suggested that radical protesters were dragging Hong Kong to a "point of no return"[567] and that they had "no stake in society".[646]

On 4 September, Lam announced that she would formally withdraw the extradition bill, introduce measures such as introducing new members to the IPCC, engage in dialogue at the community level, and invite academics to join an "independent review committee", which as no investigative powers, to evaluate Hong Kong's deep-rooted problems. However, protesters and democrats had previously affirmed that their five core demands must be answered.[33] Her concession was described as "too little, too late", as the conflicts would not have escalated had she withdrawn the bill during the early stages of the protest.[174][175] The first dialogue session was held on 26 September 2019. However, critics doubted Lam's ability to solve the problem during these discussions since a Chinese envoy had stated previously that the HKSAR government would not make any more concessions.[647]

On 5 October 2019, after what Lam referred to as "extreme violence" had taken place, an emergency law from the colonial era was enacted to ban face masks in Hong Kong—without declaring a state of emergency—which sparked criticism from various human rights organisations.[648] Some political analysts warned that invoking the emergency law would be "the beginning of authoritarianism in Hong Kong."[649] The democrats filed a judicial review to challenge Lam's decision,[650] and the High Court ruled that the mask ban was unconstitutional.[651] In April 2020, after the government had filed an appeal, the court ruled that the ban is only unconstitutional during legal demonstrations, and ruled that the police cannot physically remove the face masks worn by violaters.[652]

To cope with the ongoing protests, on 15 November 2019, the police had appointed no more than 100 Correctional Services Department (CSD) officers as special constables to assist them.[653] In May 2020, the authorities announced they would recruit more personnel from the other five disciplinary services and bring the total number of special constables to 700.[654] Several protesters who were detained at Pik Uk Correctional Institution reported that they were tortured and physically abused by CSD guards. They reported that the guards beat their hands and feat, slapped their face, then forced them to slap themselves after they were taken to a room without security camera during their time in detention. CSD responded by saying that all detainees can file a report to the internal CSD Complaints Investigation Unit.[655]

Domestic reactions[edit]

Activists including Joshua Wong and Nathan Law met House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Representative Chris Smith at the US Congress.

The pro-Beijing camp supported the government in promoting the bill, though U-turned when the government withdrew the bill.[656] They condemned the use of violence by protesters, including breaking into the LegCo Complex and using petrol bombs and unidentified liquids against the police,[657][658] and used the term "rubbish youths" (Chinese: 廢青; pinyin: fèi qīng; Jyutping: fai3 tsing1) to refer to high school- and university-age participants.[659] They maintained their support for the Hong Kong Police Force and held various counter-demonstrations to support them.[660][661][662] Some lawmakers, including the HKFTU's Alice Mak, were said to have vented their anger toward Lam as her decision to suspend the bill may harm their chances in the upcoming elections.[663] Members of the Executive Council, Ip Kwok-him and Regina Ip alleged that there was a "mastermind" behind the protests but could not provide substantial evidence to support their claim.[664] Former city leaders, pro-Beijing heavyweights and business elitesformed a coalition named "Reboot Hong Kong" in May 2020, which aimed to "relaunch" the city following the protests and the pandemic. Political scientist Ma Ngok suggested that the alliance was established to boost the pro-Beijing camp's chances in the 2020 Hong Kong legislative election.[665]

Many lawmakers from the pan-democratic camp, such as Ted Hui and Roy Kwong, assisted the protesters in various scenarios.[666] Responding to the escalation of the mid-August protests at the airport, the convenor of the pro-democratic lawmakers, Claudia Mo, while disagreeing with some protesters' actions, asserted that her group of lawmakers would not split with the protesters.[667][668][669] Pro-democrats also criticised the arrests of several lawmakers before the 31 August protest, saying that such arrests were an attempt by the police to suppress the movement,[670] and condemned the violence directed at the protests' organisers, lawmakers and election candidates.[671] Former government executives, including Anson Chan, the former Chief Secretary for Administration, issued several open letters to Carrie Lam, urging her to respond to the five core demands raised by protesters.[672]

In August, 17 members from the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong and the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce released statements condemning the escalating protests because of the instability they had brought to the city's economy and business community, as well as the negative effects on society as a whole.[673] Annie Wu, the daughter of Maxim's founder and also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, condemned the protesters at the United Nations Human Rights Council and suggested that Hong Kong should give up the "lost" protesters.[674][675] On 30 October, Abraham Shek, a lawmaker representing the Real Estate and Construction constituency, supported the formation of an independent commission and said that the problem could not be resolved by addressing the severe housing shortage.[676] Tycoon Li Ka-shing took out a two-page advertisement in newspapers, urging people to "stop anger and violence in the name of love", and quoting a Chinese poem: "The melon of Huangtai cannot bear the picking again".[677]

The 2019 Hong Kong District Council election was held on 24 November, the first poll since the beginning of the protests, and one that had been billed as a "referendum" on the government.[678] More than 2.94 million votes were cast for a turnout rate of 71.2%, up from 1.45 million and 47% from the previous election.[679] This was the highest turnout in Hong Kong's history, both in absolute numbers and in turnout rates.[680] The results were a resounding landslide victory for the pro-democracy bloc, as they saw their seat share increased from 30% to almost 88%, with a jump in vote share from 40% to 57%.[680] The largest party before the election, DAB, fell to third place, with its leader's vote share cut from a consistent 80% to 55%, and their three vice-chairs losing. Among those who were also legislators, the overwhelming majority of the losing candidates were from the pro-Beijing bloc.[681] Commenting on the election results, New Statesman declared it "the day Hong Kong's true "silent majority" spoke.[682] With the success in the local election, the pro-democratic bloc was eyeing to win over half of 70 seats in the Legislative Council, which would offset Beijing's influence in Hong Kong's politics.[683]

Reuters did a poll in march an December, out of that came that the support for the protesters and their demands had risen. 63% of the respondents wanted Carrie Lam to resign versus 57% in December. The number of people who supported the protesters had a majority at 58%. The support for Universal suffrage rose significantly from 60% in December to 68% in March. 76% wanted an independent commission of inquiry that would look into the police handelling of the situation. The opposition against the five demands stayed at 15%. Most of the respondents didn't want the become independent, 20% were for independence and 56% were against independence. The respondents mostly blamed the Hong Kong Government for the situation.[684]

Mainland China reactions[edit]

The Chinese government expressed their opposition to the protests, while taking measures against the protests and their supporters. The protests were depicted by the government and media as separatist riots.[685] Beijing accused the movement of displaying "characteristics of colour revolutions" and "signs of terrorism".[686][687] The Beijing government and state-run media accused foreign forces of interfering with domestic affairs and supporting the protesters.[65] These allegations were criticised by those who were blamed,[688] and CNN noted that China had a record of blaming foreign forces for causing domestic unrest.[689] On 22 October 2019, following similar protests and violence in Catalonia and Chile, the Chinese government accused Western media of hypocrisy for not providing similar coverage and support to those protests.[690][691] Chinese diplomats and ambassadors in more than 70 countries broadcast Beijing's position on the protests to shape international opinion,.[692] Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping and State Council premier Li Keqiang have repeatedly backed Lam's administration and the police.[693]

Chinese state media outlets largely ignored the protests until 17 April 2019.[694] The protests were mostly censored from Mainland Chinese social media, such as Sina Weibo, though state-owned media and Chinese social media users later condemned the protesters, although Western media accused them of launching a disinformation campaign to disrupt public narratives.[695] State-run media pressured various companies, including railway operator MTR Corporation, airline Cathay Pacific, and the Big Four accounting firms[696] to take a hardline approach against employees who took part in the protests. Cathay Pacific witnessed a huge managerial reshuffling and began firing pro-democratic employees after the Civil Aviation Administration of China threatened to block Cathay's access to Chinese airspace,[697] while the MTR began to close stations and end its service early after being criticised for transporting protesters.[698][699][700] Chinese media also attempted to appeal to the "silent majority"[701] and blame the protests on Hong Kong's education system.[702] It also hailed police officers as "heroes",[703] demanded the government take more "forceful" actions and the court to hand out heavy punishments,[704][705] and advocated that police shoot protesters with sniper rifles during the PolyU siege.[706]

Foreign envoys reported the deployment in late August of a sizeable number of People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops to Hong Kong, going well beyond the usual rotation and bringing the number of PLA troops there to possibly twice the level from before the start of the protests. Drills by the People's Armed Police were observed across the border in Shenzhen in August.[707] On 6 October 2019, the PLA issued its first warning to the protesters, who were shining laser lights on the exterior of the PLA garrison in Kowloon Tong.[708] On 16 November, soldiers appeared publicly in the streets for the first time during the protests, in plain clothes and unarmed, to clear roadblocks and other debris left during protests alongside local residents, firefighters, and police officers before marching back to the Kowloon Tong barracks. The government insisted the soldiers were volunteers, and that it had made no request for assistance.[709] The act was criticised by pro-democrats who deemed it a violation of the Basic Law.[710] The Chinese government required goods mailed from Mainland China to Hong Kong to be investigated while goods which were believed to relate to the protests were forbidden from being mailed.[711][712] Chinese authorities also detained several individuals in mainland China after they voiced their support for the protesters.[713]

Starting from 2020, China has tightened its control in Hong Kong. On 4 January 2020, the State Council dismissed Wang Zhimin from the role of director of the Hong Kong Liaison Office and elected Luo Huining as his successor. The decision was widely linked to the poor performance of the pro-government candidates at the District Council Elections in November, and Wang's perceived poor judgment of how the protests evolved.[714][715] Zhang Xiaoming, who held the position of director of the HKMAO, was demoted and replaced by Xia Baolong in February 2020.[716] The new directors triggered the Basic Law Article 22 controversy in April 2020 by claiming that the two departments were exempted from it.[717] In May 2020, China announced that the NPCSC, China's rubber-stamp legislative body, would directly draft a national security law for Hong Kong and skip the local legislation procedures.[718] Political analysts believed that this would serve as a turning point for Hong Kong as Beijing's action would mark the end of the "one country, two systems" principle and Hong Kong's autonomy as promised in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.[719][720]

On 28 May 2020, China's National People's Congress approved the controversial national security laws for Hong Kong, which aim at cracking down protests and ban "any acts or activities" that the communist government considers to endanger China's national security. The critics have called this new legislation a "killer blow" to Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms. The legislation allows the government's national security agencies to operate in Hong Kong.[721]

International reactions[edit]

As a result of the protests, many nations issued travel warnings for Hong Kong.[722] Demonstrations in reaction to the protests took place in locations around the world, including: Los Angeles, Berlin, Canberra, Frankfurt, Melbourne, London, New York City, Seoul, San Francisco, Paris, Delhi, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Montreal, Toronto, Hanoi, Rome, Barcelona, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Santiago, Vilnius and Vancouver.[723][724][725][726][727] Solidarity rallies held by Hong Kong international students studying abroad were often disrupted by mainland Chinese supporters.[728][729][730] Following the death of Chow Tsz-lok, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng was heckled and jostled by protest supporters when she was entering Bloomsbury Square in London to give a lecture. She fell to the ground and injured her arm.[731] Some protesters in the concurrent 2019 Catalan protests have claimed inspiration from, and solidarity with the Hong Kong protests.[732][733] Journalist Michael Reid saw the 2019 Latin American protests as being inspired by the French yellow vests movement, the Catalan protests and the Hong Kong protests.[734]

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo comments on 18 November 2019.

Some radical protesters fled to Taiwan to avoid prosecution.[735] The Hong Kong protests were considered a contributing factor in the landslide victory of Tsai Ing-wen during the 2020 Taiwanese presidential election. Tsai has repeatedly shown a supportive attitude toward the Hong Kong protesters and have used the slogan "today Hong Kong, tomorrow Taiwan", using the city's unrest as an example to display the threats posed by the "one country, two systems" principle to Taiwan's autonomy and democracy during her presidential campaign.[736] Christina Lai from Academia Sinica suggested that the unrest in Hong Kong had brought about a sense of "urgency" for Taiwanese voters, as China's hardline approach towards Hong Kong protesters implied that in the future, they would use the same strategy to undermine Taiwan's autonomy. Tsai's rejection of the principle enabled her to gain support from young voters.[737]

In the United States, the House of Representatives and Senate both unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in light of the extradition bill and protests, with amendments that differ between the two versions needing resolution before being presented to President Donald Trump for approval.[738][739][740][67] Trump signed the bill on 27 November, alongside a companion bill restricting US exports of crowd control devices to the Hong Kong police forces.[741] Trump also warned that should China passed the national security law, the US would react "very strongly" against it.[742] Various US politicians have expressed disapproval of corporate decisions related to the protests.[743][744][745][746]

Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, had urged China to uphold the promises it made in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which was a legally binding international treaty.[747] The UK had also stopped selling crowd control equipment to the HKPF.[748] A former employee of the British consulate in Hong Kong, Simon Cheng, reported in an interview with the BBC that he was tortured by Chinese officials during his 15-day detention in China in August 2019. According to Cheng, his captors, who he believed to be secret police,[749] called him "a British spy and secret agent", and subjected him to torture in what he called a "tiger chair" to make him confess that he had been instigating unrest in Hong Kong on behalf of the British government. Raab released a statement saying that he was "outraged by the disgraceful mistreatment".[750] In response to the political and media backlash, Chinese state media later released footage of the Cheng's confession for "soliciting prostitutes",[751] and CCTV footage of him entering and leaving a clubhouse. Cheng stated that he had made the confession after he had been threatened by the police that he would otherwise be unable to contact his family and be detained indefinitely.[752]

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet demanded the Hong Kong government conduct an investigation into police use of force against the protesters; she subsequently said that she was "troubled and alarmed" by the escalating violence used by the protesters.[753] Amnesty International praised the protesters for their dedication despite facing "abusive policing tactics" which include the "wanton use of tear gas, arbitrary arrests, physical assaults and abuses in detention" by the HKPF.[754] Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, was denied entry to Hong Kong at Hong Kong International Airport on 12 January 2020. He had come to the city to release the 2020 World Report by his group.[755] It features a picture of a mass demonstration in Hong Kong on the front cover. Hong Kong officials insisted that the decision to bar Roth from entry had been made in Hong Kong, not in mainland China.[756]

Norwegian lawmaker Guri Melby announced in October 2019 that she would nominate the Hong Kong people for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, adding that the protest movement deserved recognition "for its brave efforts".[757] On 5 February 2020 the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Chair Marco Rubio and co-chair James McGovern also announced their intention to nominate the Hong Kong protesters for the Nobel Peace Prize, recognising the protesters who have "risked their lives, their health, their jobs, and their education to support a better future for Hong Kong".[758]

On 29 May 2020. The US president Donald Trump ordered to remove the exemptions that give Hong Kong special status in America due to Beijing's new national security law for the territory. Trump announced that the extradition treaty between Hong Kong and the US will be affected, the US travel guidance for this territory will be changed, and the officials who undermined Hong Kong's freedoms will be sanctioned.[759]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The number of civilians injured is certainly understated, because some protesters sought medical help from underground clinics due to mistrust in the government services.[20]
  2. ^ The figure includes an unknown number of repeat arrests occurring in the course of the protests. According to an article in the South China Morning Post, as of 10 October 2019 there were close to 2,400 arrests, with about 60 being repeat arrests.[22] The number of arrestees currently in custody is uncertain as of 18 April 2020.[23]Wong, Suelon (27 May 2020). "Hong Kong police arrest hundreds and fire pepper balls at protesters". Financial Times. Retrieved 27 May 2020.</ref>[24]
  3. ^ The government refused to disclose the chemical composition of the gas, citing "operational concerns".[456]
  4. ^ Police defended the officer's actions at the Tsuen Wan incident saying that he and his colleague's lives were at risk as a group of protesters was assaulting another officer at the time.[461][462] Protesters argued that the officer shooting the man's chest was unnecessary and that he had other less lethal alternatives available at his disposal.[463][464] Explaining the Sai Wan Ho incident, police alleged the unarmed young man was trying to grab the officer's service weapon.[465]
  5. ^ The teen was arrested before any petrol bomb was thrown.
  6. ^ Headliner had a segment that poked fun at the police. This forced the broadcaster to suspend the airing of the segment and the production of future seasons.[528] An episode from Pentaprism features a guest speaker from The Education University of Hong Kong (EdU) who compared the Siege of PolyU to the Tiananmen Square crackdown and described it as a "humanitarian crisis"[529]
  7. ^ At a press conference on 5 August 2019, Lam explained her absence from the public eye in the preceding two weeks. She was concerned about the risk to organisers over the possible disruption by protestors of public events and press conferences.[567]
  8. ^ Middle-aged and elderly volunteers attempting to separate the police and the young protesters in the frontline and providing various forms of assistance.[615] Various professions organised rallies to stand in solidarity with protesters. These professions included: teachers, civil servants, the aviation industry, accountants, medical professionals, social workers, the advertising sector, and the finance sector.[616][557][617][618][619][620] To express their support, sympathisers of the protest movement chanted rallying cries from their apartments every night,[621] wrote Christmas cards to injured protesters and those in detention,[622] and rallied outside Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre where the detainees are held.[623]


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