Tactics and methods surrounding the 2019 Hong Kong protests
|2019 Hong Kong protests|
|Part of the Hong Kong–Mainland China conflict|
|Tactics and methods|
This is a list of tactics and methods used by the protesters during the 2019 Hong Kong protests.
- 1 Demonstrations
- 2 Alternative protests
- 3 Language and arts
- 4 Technology
- 5 Publicity
- 6 References
Unlike the 2014 Hong Kong protests, the democracy movement of 2019 has taken place in a generally decentralised manner, and has been described as "impeccably organised" by the Los Angeles Times. The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) has a long history of organising social movements and was the organiser of the two massive protests on 9 and 16 June. Demosistō, led by Joshua Wong, who was in jail at the beginning of the movement, and the localist groups, called on supporters to participate in marches, rallies and other forms of direct action. However, unlike the 2014 Hong Kong protests, none of these groups have claimed leadership over this movement. Many pro-democracy legislators were present at the protests, but they largely played supporting roles. The logistics of the movement – bringing supplies, setting up medical stations, rapid mass communication – were the result of experience from previous protests. This decentralisation has led to more fluidity but has also made it difficult for officials to locate representatives for negotiations or prosecution.
On 1 July, after the protesters had forced their way into the Legislative Council, Wong said the act was intended "to show how the Legislative Council has never represented the voice of the people." He also said there would not have been any rallies or protests had the Hong Kong Legislative Council been democratically elected. However, some protesters believed that the decentralised leadership prompted protests to escalate without proper planning, as evidenced by the storming of the LegCo building.
Professor Francis Lee of the Chinese University of Hong Kong has called this new type of decentralised, leaderless movement, the "open-source" protest model. Through a participatory process of digital democracy activists are able to collaborate by voting on tactics and brainstorming next moves in an egalitarian manner in which everybody has an equal say. Telegram chat groups and online forums with voting mechanisms to make collective decisions have often enabled this type of flexible co-ordination.
Flexible and diverse tactics
Protesters are reported to have adopted Bruce Lee’s philosophy, to be "formless [and] shapeless, like water." By moving in a mobile and agile fashion to different government offices during the 21 June protests, they aimed to bring additional pressure to bear on the government. As the police begin to advance, protesters retreat to avoid being arrested, though they will often show up again later in the same district or reemerge in other places in a short period of time.
Another tactic is geographical dispersal. While the 2014 Hong Kong protests were centred in 3 locations, in the 2019 movement, demonstrations and clashes with Hong Kong Police diversified to over 20 different neighbourhoods spread throughout Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. Starting from October, protesters began to use the flash mob strategy as a result of the politicization of the MTR subway system. Small flashmobs of protesters will show up in areas near their home and "blossom everywhere" (Chinese: 遍地開花) to avoid arrest.
The "Do Not Split" (Chinese: 不割蓆) principle has helped maintain cohesion throughout the broad political spectrum of the struggle. Embracing a diversity of tactics has allowed participants to engage in different levels of action while respecting the roles that others play. This is in direct contrast to the 2014 Protests, where multiple protest groups end up criticising each other. Hong Kong political commentator Lewis Lau said, "'Do Not Split' serves as a bridge ... by promoting mutual respect for diverging views within the protest movement." Minimisation of internal conflict is key to achieving broader goals; a common phrase that has served as a reminder is "Preserve yourself and the collective; no division."
Solidarity between protesters and engagement with the "Do Not Split" praxis was evidenced by the two mothers' sit-in demonstrations of 14 June and 5 July and the silver-haired protest on 17 July. Tens of thousands attended the rallies, in support of the protest actions of the younger generation, while standing firm together in opposition to police brutality, Carrie Lam, and the interventionism of the mainland Chinese government.
Black bloc and group defences
During street protests, black bloc methods have enhanced anonymity and privacy, enabling demonstrators to "be water" and function more effectively as a group. Participants in demonstrations are increasingly dressed in black, and wear hard hats and gloves. To resist police surveillance and protect against chemical weapons such as tear gas and pepper spray, face masks and goggles are also popular attire, and some have even upgraded to gas masks. Protesters also developed a set of hand signs to aid communications.
Protesters have also adopted different roles during demonstrations. Peaceful protesters chanted slogans, passed supplies, and volunteered as medics, while frontliners snuffed out tear gas and led the charge. Protesters have used laser pointers to distract the police, sprayed paint on surveillance cameras, and unfurled umbrellas to protect and conceal the identities of the group in action and to avoid facial recognition. When protesters departed via MTR, they often made donation piles of extra changes of clothes for other activists, and also left money to purchase single-use tickets and avoid tracking via Octopus card.
As protests continued to escalate and the police began to use more advanced riot control tools, activists upgraded their makeshift gears from using surfboards as shields. The 2014 Ukrainian Revolution was commonly described as an inspiration for Hong Kong protesters.
Offensive actions and the 'fighters'
Several media organisations have described the two most influential tendencies in the protests: the "brave fighters" on the frontlines, and the majority "non-violent peaceful" camp that has engaged in mass demonstrations, civil disobedience, and numerous creative actions. A study about the on-going protests by researchers from several Hong Kong universities found that "most of the participants agreed that 'the maximum impact could only be achieved when peaceful assembly and confrontational actions work together.'" Many "peaceful, rational and non-violent" protesters also expressed that they will not split with the "brave fighters" despite not agreeing with their tactics. Some of them also provided assistance to them by donating supplies and leaving money and coins for these fighters to leave after the protests. Some would also volunteered as drivers to take these radical protesters home. Some hardline protesters supported the idea of "mutual destruction" (Chinese: 攬炒), a Cantonese slang implying that by promoting social destabilisation and the economic collapse of Hong Kong, people are taking necessary steps towards the overthrow of the CCP which would then allow the society to start anew and achieve, "real democracy."
South China Morning Post described that the confrontational tactics used by protesters have evolved from vandalism to "a now familiar pattern", in which the protesters reportedly threw bricks, petrol bombs, corrosive liquid and other projectiles at police. As a result of clashes, there have been multiple reports of police injuries and assault of officers throughout the protests. The protesters occupied and vandalised the Legislative Council Complex and manhandled lawmakers who attempted to stop them. On 25 August 2019, hardline protesters began throwing petrol bombs at police. To prevent police from advancing towards protesters, soap and batteries were scattered on the ground. Tear gas canisters were put out with water or thrown back towards police. Also on that day, a group of police were chased and attacked by a larger crowd of protesters with makeshift weapons of sticks and rods. Police were outnumbered and the confrontation lead to the first gunshot of the protests, fired into the air, as police retreated from the attacking crowd. A police officer was stabbed in Hong Kong on 13 October in Kwun Tong during a protest inside a mall.
Vandalism and vigilante violence
Companies linked to the Chinese mainland have been targeted for graffiti and posters amid rising frustration that the Hong Kong government is failing to address demands of the protesters.; at least two Bank of China ATMs were set on fire on 2 October. Some Starbucks outlets, which are operated by Maxim's Caterers, were also vandalized. Books from Commercial Press, the oldest publishing house first established in 1897, were burned. Protesters have admitted mistakes after striking businesses such as the Shanghai Commercial Bank and Yifang Taiwan fruit tea, believing them to be Chinese-owned firms. Shanghai Commercial Bank was founded in Shanghai, but it is now a Hong Kong-owned bank. Protesters have issued a statement of apology to the bank. Protesters have developed a set of codes to describe their actions. For instance, “renovation” means trashing the store, whilst “decoration” means spray-painting slogans and “fire magic” refers to the throwing of petrol bombs.  In separate incidents, several people threw a Chinese national flag into the Victoria Harbour, and vandalised the offices of pro-Beijing lawmakers. A surveillance lamppost, said to be used by the government to monitor its citizens, was dismantled by protesters during the Kwun Tong protest.
After a large number of Mass Transit Railway stations were vandalised and subjected to arson, Hong Kong's rail operator has shut down all train services, as well as all light rail and MTR-operated bus services, on the night of 4 October. As of 4 October 2019, 83 out of MTR's 94 rail stations had been vandalized, so had 42 out of its 68 light rail stations. A total of 800 access gates, 500 ticketing and Hong Kong' travel card Octopus add-value machines, 400 Octopus machines at light rail stations, 700 CCTV cameras and 12 elevators have been broken during the unrest which started in early June. MTR has become a target of vandalism by the protester after the railway operation shut down four stations ahead of a legal, authorized protests after being pressurized by Chinese media. MTR was also accused of transporting police officers and criticized for not releasing the CCTV footage during the 31 August Prince Edward station incident.
Violence were at times also directed towards alleged triad members. Two mahjong parlours in Tsuen Wan accused of having ties to the assailants who assaulted protesters during the August 5 general strike protest were vandalised and the staff scolded by protesters. In another incident at the airport, two mainland travellers, who the protesters accused of ties with the Chinese government, were forcefully detained by protesters for a number of hours, and were assaulted before they were released to paramedics. Hard-core protesters began taking justice into their own hands, attacking individuals and vandalizing pro-Beijing storefronts, banks, cafes and subway entrances; the protesters describe vigilante attacks as “settling matters privately” (Chinese: 私了) as they became increasingly distrustful and wary towards the police as a law enfocement agency. On 6 October 2019, actress Celine Ma claimed she was physically attacked while she was filming a group of demonstrators vandalising a Bank of China ATM. She was then escorted away with help from Australian journalist Robert Ovadia. Her injury required stitches on her chin and the back of her head.
Neighbourhood Lennon Walls
The original Lennon Wall was set up in front of the Hong Kong Central Government Offices staircase.[when?] During the months of June and July, Lennon Walls covered with post-it note messages for freedom and democracy have appeared throughout Hong Kong and even inside government offices, including RTHK and the Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office. According to a crowd-sourced map of Hong Kong, there are over 150 Lennon Walls throughout the region.
Lennon Walls have led to conflicts between pro-democratic and pro-Beijing citizens, some of whom attempted to tear messages off from the walls and physically assaulted pro-democracy activists. Police also removed officers' personal information from a wall in Tai Po.
Lennon Walls have also appeared in Toronto, Vancouver, Tokyo, Berlin, London, Melbourne, Manchester, Sydney, Taipei, and Auckland. Messages of solidarity for the Hong Kong democracy movement have also been added to the original Lennon Wall in Prague. On 30 July, a female Hong Kong student was assaulted during a confrontation between pro-democracy and pro-China students while erecting a Lennon Wall at the University of Auckland.
The Communications Authority received approximately 12,000 complaints criticising TVB's coverage for favouring the pro-establishment camp and the CCP. Protesters have claimed that TVB presented an over-simplified narrative with limited information, therefore avoiding more overt censorship methods. In light of this the Hong Kong branch of Pocari Sweat withdrew their advertisements from TVB to the delight of anti-extradition protesters while also angering Mainland consumers.
After an advertisement satirising recent police brutality appeared on the company's Facebook page, the local franchise of Japanese fast-food chain Yoshinoya said it had severed ties with their partnering marketing agency. This action received criticisms from protesters. Protesters also started an online campaign named "Bye Buy Day HK", which urged activists to spend less money on every Friday and Saturday and avoided shopping or dining at pro-Beijing firms. A mobile app was developed help people identify shops that have supported the protest movement and shops that have links with China.
Maxim's Caterers became a target for the protesters after Annie Wu, the daughter of the corporation's founder, called protesters "rioters" at the United Nations Human Rights Council and threatened to expel students who took part in the class boycotts at Chinese Foundation Secondary School, a school she helped found. All of its restaurants and outlets, including Starbucks, Simple Life and Jade Garden, were boycotted by the protesters. Maxim later distanced itself from these claims.
A group of protesters have been on hunger strike following the 1 July rally in Admiralty. Preacher Roy Chan initiated the action and has been joined by about 10 others, including Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung. They are camped near Harcourt Road in Admiralty, with many signs displayed to inform the public about their goals. At least five people have vowed to continue fasting until the extradition bill is officially withdrawn.
Non co-operation movements
Some democracy activists have adopted civil disobedience and direct action tactics. Examples include disruption of government operations, occupation of areas near the Revenue Tower and besieging Police HQ in Wan Chai.
In mid-June, protesters disrupted MTR services by blocking train doors and pressing emergency stop buttons in various train stations, delaying services. Demosistō also gathered at Mei Foo station to raise awareness for the issues and requested commuters to help "protect students." Disruption of MTR services continued after the Yuen Long violence on 21 July, with protesters obstructing train services at Admiralty station and requesting that MTR corporation be held accountable for mismanagement. Obstruction of MTR services received mixed responses from other commuters.
On 30 July, the non-cooperation movement again targeted MTR service during morning rush-hour. For about three hours, activists disrupted the Kwun Tong line at an interchange station. Due to service outages, MTR provided free bus transport to affected commuters. A train at North Point station on Hong Kong island was also targeted by demonstrators. Rail staff had threatened to strike on 30 July, but railway unions did not officially endorse participation in strike actions.
During 5 August general strike, protesters blocked train doors in various MTR stations. As a result, a large extent of the MTR network was paralysed. The non-cooperation movement targeted rush-hour periods, thus impeding people from travelling to work, or returning home. The activists involved said their goal was to prevent passengers from reaching work in crucial business districts such as Central, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok During the strike, a pregnant woman felt unwell and requested aid from paramedics while waiting in the train station for many hours.
On the same day, the movement also struck the roads, where protesters used their vehicles to disrupt traffic including stopping in lanes and slow-driving in roundabouts. Some protesters used various instruments including street-side railings, traffic cones, barricades and rubbish bins to blockade the roads which stopped a number of vehicles from passing through. This practice is very common, and has also occurred at Cross Harbor Tunnel multiple times, preventing traffic flow from travelling through one of the busiest passages in Hong Kong. Reports showed the Hong Kong International Airport was affected by strike actions, resulting in a large number of flight cancellations and delays. Photos show many travellers waiting in the concourse.
Railway operator MTR's actions in the protests were criticized by protesters, leading to calls requesting Hong Kong citizens to jump over the station's turnstiles so that they can use the service without paying the travel fare. This prompted MTR to announce plans to recruit former members of the Brigade of Gurkhas in Hong Kong to tackle the non-co-operation movement and tighten up the security.
Police station blockades
Starting in late June, it became somewhat a standard practice that peaceful marches during the day transformed into more radical direct actions at night, often targeting police stations with street protests, blockades, and vandalism. Many blockades were also solidarity actions in response to harsh policing tactics and recent arrests of democracy activists. Various police stations in Yuen Long, Tin Shui Wai, Ma On Shan, Tseung Kwan O, Kwun Tong, Tsim Sha Tsui and Sham Shui Po as well as the Police HQ were besieged. Protesters constructed barricades, vandalised HKPF buildings, hurled bricks and eggs, and painted graffiti slogans on exterior station walls.
On the evening of 23 August, an estimated 135,000 people participated in "The Hong Kong Way" campaign, to draw attention to the movement's five demands. They joined hands to create a human chain 50 kilometres long, stretching across both sides of Hong Kong harbour and over the top of Lion Rock. The action was inspired by a similar event that occurred 30 years ago, on 23 August 1989. The Baltic Way involved 2 million people, stretching 675 kilometres across the territories of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as a call for independence from Soviet Russia. The Hong Kong Way event was organised from the LIHKG forums, along with real-time Telegram chat groups to assist with creation of the human-chain. One participant at the event described this protest as very different from others in the past: "This time it demonstrates harmony and love rather than venting anger and hate. The spirit is unity."
Following the Hong Kong Way campaign, some secondary school students formed human chains around their schools during early September.
Nightly democracy chants
Protesters started the tradition of shouting slogans from their apartment windows at night. Beginning on 19 August, residents shouted near the window every night at 10 pm, so that other neighbors and nearby residents may be cheered up until the protests and social struggles have finished. Chants for democracy and complaints about police and the government can be heard outside university dorms and in Hong Kong neighborhoods throughout the city. The idea to have a free and communal "late night concert" initially spread from the LIHKG forum, and has caught on as a regular act of solidarity and way to air grievances in an interactive manner. Common phrases that protesters shout include "five demands, not one fewer", "liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times", and "Hongkongers, add oil".
From May 2019 onwards, multiple petitions against the Bill from over 200 secondary schools, various industries, professions, and neighbourhoods were created. More than 167,000 students, alumni and teachers from all public universities and one in seven secondary schools in Hong Kong, including St. Francis' Canossian College which Carrie Lam attended, also launched online petitions against the extradition bill in a snowballing campaign. St. Mary's Canossian College and Wah Yan College, Kowloon, which Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng and Secretary for Security John Lee attended, respectively, also joined the campaign. Even the alumni, students and teachers at St. Stephen's College, which the victim in the Taiwan homicide case Poon Hiu-wing attended from Form 1 to Form 3, were unconvinced as they accused the government of using her case as a pretext to force the bill's passage.
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. About 230 civil servants from more than 40 government departments, including RTHK, Innovation and Technology Bureau, Fire Services Department, Customs and Excise Department, Immigration Department and the Correctional Services Department also issued a joint statement condemning Lam's administration and demanding key officials involved in the incident, including Lam, John Lee, Teresa Cheng and Stephen Lo to resign while concealing their identities. The civil servants also threatened to launch a labour strike to paralyse the government's operations if the core demands are not met.
Language and arts
Cantonese has played an important role in the protest. An early slogan for the protest, "oppose sending to China", which was also a homonym for "to see off a dying relative", quickly gained attention. To deter online trolls and alleged Chinese spies monitoring the forum, some netizens communicated using phonetically spelt Cantonese words, which are difficult for mainland Chinese to understand. What Carrie Lam and the police said were also ridiculed by protesters, who turned them into various memes, WhatsApps stickers and some printed them on T-shirts. A variety of Cantonese slangs also developed during the protest. For instance, protesters often "dreamt" (Chinese: 發夢) about the protest scenes when they were discussing about the protests in online forums. When rallies or protests were banned, protesters will defy the ban to go "shopping". When a protester chanted "it is raining" (Chinese: 落雨), fellow protesters will unfurled their umbrellas to hide the group in action.
Protesters created derivative works mocking and condemning Lam and the police, such as reworking MTR's instruction signs to a set of "Mind the Thug" card, referencing the Yuen Long attack. Artists also created a variation of the "Bingo" minigame which allows people to guess what Carrie Lam may say during her press conference. Protesters created "elder memes" (Chinese: 長輩圖), which informed the city's seniors about the events in the city. and made various posters that aimed at informing the public what has happened, inspiring people to join the protest, and offering light comedic relief.
A 1974 Christian hymn called "Sing Hallelujah to the Lord" has become the "unofficial anthem" of the anti-extradition protests as it was heard everywhere at the many protest sites. On 11 June, a group of Christians began to sing the four-line-verse simple melody at the Central Government Complex as they held a public prayer meeting through the night before the Legislative Council was as scheduled to begin the second reading the following day. On the morning of 12 June the Christians, led by pastors, stood between the crowd and police to help prevent violence and pray for Hong Kong with the hymn. Under Hong Kong's Public Order Ordinance, religious gatherings are exempt from the definition of a "gathering" or "assembly" and therefore more difficult to police. The song was sung repeatedly over 10 hours throughout the night and a video of the event quickly became viral online. Hong Kong local ministries, many of whom support underground churches in China, supported the protests. Most Hong Kong churches tend to shy away from political involvement; however many are worried about the effects of the extradition bill on Christians since mainland China does not have religious freedom laws.
"Do You Hear the People Sing", the unofficial anthem for the Umbrella Movement in 2014, has also resurfaced as a commonly sung song during the protest. The song was also sung by protesters during a friendly football game between Manchester City and Kitchee on 24 July at Hong Kong Stadium to raise foreign awareness regarding the situation in Hong Kong.
A group of anonymous composers has written the song "Glory to Hong Kong", which became the theme of the protest and was regarded as Hong Kong's unofficial national anthem by protestors. On 10 September 2019, Hong Kong supporters sang the song at a football match for the first time during a FIFA World Cup qualification match against Iran. On the same night, the song was also publicly sung at more than a dozen shopping malls across Hong Kong.
Flags and symbols
Some protesters waved the United States flag in support of the prospective introduction of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a bill proposed by the US Congress. Some of the protesters also waved a Union Jack as well as the flag of Taiwan (Republic of China) and even South Africa. The Dragon and Lion flag, which was a flag used by Hong Kong during the colonial era, can also be seen during the protests, though its usage was often disputed. Some protestors also waved the Ukrainian flag, as they drew inspiration from the Ukrainian Revolution in 2014, viewing it as a source of spiritual support.
Protesters also created the wilted or bloodied bauhinia flower flag, which was modified from the Hong Kong regional flag, A black and white version of the Hong Kong flag, referred to as "Black Bauhinia", was also seen in protests.
Badiucao, a Chinese cartoonist and political dissident, designed the Lennon Wall Flag, a symbol of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement. According to Badiucao, the flag was inspired directly by the Lennon Wall in Hong Kong. It consists of 96 coloured squares which symbolize the post-it notes on the walls: "Every colour on the flag is a different voice. And every individual voice deserves its place in Hong Kong." The number 96 represents the year 1996, the year before the handover of Hong Kong.
Chinazi, or Nazi China, is a term derived from criticism of the similar actions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Nazi Germany. With criticism and sarcasm, Flag of Chinazi was created by combining Flag of China and Flag of the Nazi Party. Creations include golden stars forming Nazis 卐 on a red background., and also Nazis 卐 replacing the golden stars on the Flag of China
In 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests, protesters displayed the Flag of Chinazi. American journalist and political commentator, Nicholas D. Kristof, from The New York Times mentioned Graffiti were everywhere denouncing the influence of Chinazi. Barrister Lawrence Ma, a Shanxi committee member of the CPPCC with Australian nationality, pointed out that the person using the Flag has violated Section 4 of the "National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance"
Protesters also took to the Internet to exchange information and ideas. Netizens used the popular online forum LIHKG to gain traction for protests and brainstorm ideas. These included disrupting MTR services, gathering for vigils, organising "picnics" (a term used to avoid surveillance), and making anti-extradition bill memes that appeal to conservative values so that Hong Kong elderly would better understand the anti-extradition rationale. The Pepe the Frog Internet meme has been widely used as a symbol of liberty and resistance, and has gained international media attention.
Protesters have been using Telegram, an optionally end-to-end encrypted messaging service, to communicate to conceal identities and try to prevent tracking by the Chinese government and Hong Kong Police Force. The app's servers were under denial-of-service attacks on 12 June. The app's founder Pavel Durov identified the origin of the attack as China, and stated that it "coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong."
After 11 August, when a protester's right eye was allegedly ruptured by bean bag rounds, netizens have started the #Eye4HK campaign, calling people around the world to take a photo of themselves covering their right eye and share it on social media to show support to the movement and the anti-extradition protesters.
Protesters have also developed a mobile app named "HKmap.live", which crowdsources the location of police and anti-government protesters. Apple briefly banned the app for allowing users to "evade law enforcement", though the ban was quickly reversed.
Police claimed to have found a website run by the hacktivist group Anonymous that disclosed personal data of more than 600 officers. In early July, the police arrested eight people in connection to the alleged doxxing. In separate incidents, police targeted activists for their involvement in Telegram chat groups: during June and July, two people were arrested for conspiracy, under accusations of administering chat groups, and told that investigations would continue. However, neither has been charged with a crime.
The New York Times reported that a Telegram channel named 'Dadfindboy' was used for doxxing police officers. Personal information and photos of family members were revealed along with abusive language. The channel had more than 50,000 subscribers, and featured calls for violence against the police. The personal information of hundreds of officers and their family members had been released online as early as 19 June 2019. The police arrested nine people on doxxing related offences on 3 July 2019. As of 28 August 2019, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) had recommended an investigation into hundreds of cases that involved personal data leaks and related cyberbullying of police and their families, some of which involved threatening messages directed at the children of police officers.
In June and July, protesters in Hong Kong used Apple devices' AirDrop feature to broadcast anti-extradition bill information to in public, such as inside MTR trains, allowing recipients to read about concerns regarding the proposed law, aiming to raise awareness among the residents in Hong Kong.
During the 7 July protest in Tsim Sha Tsui, a major tourist district, protesters again used AirDrop to share information regarding protests and concerns about the bill with tourists from mainland China. Some shared QR codes that looked like "free money" from Alipay and WeChat Pay, but actually redirected to information–written in Simplified Chinese–about the on-going democratic movement. Because AirDrop creates a direct link between local devices, the technology bypasses mainland China's censorship efforts that have distorted and limited information about extradition bill protests.
Peer-to-peer mesh broadcasting
Protesters had already eschewed traditional SMS, email, and WeChat, which are monitored by the state or are easily monitored. With the looming possibility that the government may enact emergency legislation, including measures to cut off Internet connectivity, Hong Kong has seen a rapid uptake of a smartphone ad hoc network software package called Bridgefy, a peer-to-peer bluetooth mesh networking application. Although the Bluetooth protocol is not secure, and the metadata can also be pinpointed by those with the technical means, the app allows transmission of messages without an Internet connection. The app functions by networking users' standard Bluetooth connections through the creation of a mesh network across an entire city. Messages transit via other Bridgefy users' phones until they reach the intended target. Direct messages are encrypted, while publicly broadcast messages are not. The broadcast mode allows messages to be sent to all users within immediate range. The app publisher announced that downloads had increased forty-fold over the month of August, with 60,000 app installations in the last week of August alone, most of them from Hong Kong. In the 2014 Hong Kong protests, FireChat had been used for smartphone ad hoc networking.
In addition to launching a crowdfunding campaign to place advertisement in major international newspapers, Hong Kong residents also raised funds to support the legal fees and the medical expenses for the detainees and the injured protesters respectively. For instance, the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund raised more than HK$12 million in a month. A campaign was also held to crowdfund a 4-meter tall pro-democracy statue "Lady Liberty Hong Kong". It reached its goal of raising HK$200,000 within six hours.
In June, protesters launched an online crowdfunding campaign to place open letters as full-page ads in major international newspapers before the 28–29 June G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan to raise global awareness and appeal for world leaders' intervention on the bill, urging everyone to "ally with [them]" and to "[demand] the preservation of Hong Kong's freedom and autonomy under the Chinese government." The goal to raise HK$3 million was accomplished in less than four hours, and successfully raised HK$5.45 million in less than six hours. The open letter was published by popular international newspapers including The New York Times, The Guardian, Japan Times, The Globe and Mail, Süddeutsche Zeitung, The Chosun Ilbo, Le Monde and the online version of Politico Europe. The advertisements were printed in the local languages of the readership for each periodical, and while graphic design and layout varies, most included the slogan and appeal to "Stand with Hong Kong at G20" along with the open letter.
A GoFundMe campaign was started on 11 August 2019 to raise funds for a second advertising campaign. It raised US$1.97 million in two hours with contributions from over 22,500 people. The proceeds were used to again place open letters as full-page ads in 13 major international newspapers including the Globe and Mail, New York Times, Le Monde, El Mundo, and Kyunghyang Shinmun. The ads appeared in the newspapers on 17 August 2019.
Citizens' press conference
A group of protesters held a citizens' press conference, hoping to "broadcast under-represented voices" and their own perspectives to the public. This was a response to daily police press briefings, which they claim to spread "malicious distortions" and "untruth", and that they intended for these press conferences to "act as a counterweight to the government's monopoly on political discourse." In the press conferences, they would wear black, put on face masks and safety helmets, and conduct the discussion in both Cantonese and English, along with a sign language interpreter.
These press conferences were coordinated using Telegram and LIHKG, and the speakers stressed that they are not the leaders of the movement but wish to speak for the average protesters. Quartz described that such tactic is a "battlefront" in public relations with the government.
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On the one side are those dubbed 'brave fighters' who are up on the frontlines, building road barriers and clashing with police. On the other side is the so-called 'peaceful, rational, non-violent' camp, who want to keep confrontations to a minimum.
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Throughout the past months, there have been ongoing debates among protesters as to whether the 'brave fighters' camp, who are on the frontlines and advocate more aggressive tactics, are more effective in putting pressure on the government than the so-called 'peaceful, rational, non-violent' camp, who want to keep confrontations to a minimum.
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[The study] also found the extent to which protesters agreed or strongly agreed with the saying 'the use of violence by protesters is understandable when the government fails to listen' increased from 69% to more than 90% over the summer. Only around 1% disagreed or strongly disagreed, down from 12.5% in June.
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Some radical groups believe the only way to destroy the central government and Communist Party is by destroying the city first. They even have a term for it, lam chao, which roughly means ‘self-destruct together’, as a way to ‘liberate’ Hong Kong ... [this is] a popular Cantonese slang among local extremists ... Now you know why you can't appeal to rioters with the line that they are hurting the city; they want to undermine the government, destroy the economy and destabilise society."
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In recent weeks, the protesters’ anger has largely shifted to focus on the scale and intensity of the police response. On Monday they surrounded and vandalized several police stations, setting fires outside at least two of them ... Since protesters started to increasingly target police stations this past weekend, officers have appeared to be more aggressive in making arrests. But the increased assertiveness risked further inflaming public sentiment, and at least one protest not originally scheduled for Monday was driven by anger over an earlier arrest. 'For me the most alarming thing is we’re kind of on a knife's edge here – open disrespect for the police, police stations being targeted,' Mr. Dapiran said. 'We are on the cusp of what could be a general breakdown of law and order. It hasn't gotten there yet, but the government hasn't done anything to stop it.'
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The 1989 event, three months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, generated worldwide attention. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania would gain full independence two years later, during the fall of the Soviet Union ... Today, inspired by the Baltic demonstrations of 1989, thousands of protesters in Hong Kong formed 'The Hong Kong Way.'
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The Hong Kong Way comes just five days after as many as 1.7 million demonstrators took to the streets in a peaceful rally on Aug. 18) — and before city gears up for another weekend of protests. The Chinese territory has seen a rare period of calm, with last weekend the first in more than two months with no tear gas fired by police.
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Over the past week, residents were seen out on their balconies or opening their windows to shout 'Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our times', 'Ga Yao!' – a Cantonese expression of encouragement often translated as 'Add oil' – or simply vent expletives toward police and the government. The shouting, heard across the territory, is often interactive – one person starts and a chorus of others soon respond. 'Some people may think it's naive,' said Torres Fong, 22, a Hong Kong Baptist University student who joins the shouting from his dorm room every night. 'I think its value is far higher. It shows how Hong Kongers are united in this movement and how the spirit is spread across every district. We all live in a tense political atmosphere. Shouting is a way to let out steam and keeps us focused on our core demands.'
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'Even if you’re not a Christian it's still the anthem' of the pro-democracy movement, says Tse, who obtained his PhD from UBC and has long been watching conflict in Hong Kong ... 'The hymn captures the aspirations of the protesters, in the sense they don't want their home to be ridden with violence by police, who sometimes seem to be in an unholy alliance with triad gangs,' says Tse, author of Theological Reflections on the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement (Palgrave) ... Pastor Chiu says Christians are quietly working among the demonstrators, even though most in Hong Kong, Canada or Australia would not necessarily be churchgoers. Congregations are opening their doors to demonstrators who need rest and washrooms. Pastors in green vests are moving among the throngs, offering comfort.
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For Hong Kong, this is all new—not least because Telegram and LIHKG were essentially niche products just a few months ago. In July alone, Telegram became the city's seventh-most downloaded app from No. 88 a year earlier, according to mobile data provider Sensor Tower. LIHKG usage surged tenfold from the year before.
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And when the police stopped wearing identification badges as the violence escalated, some protesters began to expose officers’ identities online. One fast-growing channel on the social messaging app Telegram seeks and publishes personal information about officers and their families. The channel, 'Dadfindboy,' has more than 50,000 subscribers and advocates violence in crude and cartoonish ways. Rival pro-government channels seek to unmask protesters in a similar fashion ... By turns facetious, juvenile, cruel and profane in tone, the [Dadfindboy] channel repeatedly reveals personal information and photos, some of them intimate, of the family members of police officers, sometimes with intimate social-media photos. The channel has featured calls for violence, often in cartoonish ways, although there is no proof that it has incited any specific acts.
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The protesters also use iPhone's AirDrop function to anonymously and rapidly share information.
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Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said all options are on the table as she tries to quell the pro-democracy demonstrations that have rocked the city for months – including invoking a colonial-era law that grants her broad powers similar to martial law. The last time it was used, in 1967, there was no internet. This time the law could be used to order the blocking of messaging apps or websites favored by protesters, or even to disrupt internet service entirely ... The law was written almost a century ago and has only been invoked once – during Hong Kong's 1967 riots. That was well before the internet was created. But the authority granted specifically covers 'the control and suppression of publications, writings, maps, plans, photographs, communications and means of communication.'
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The Bridgefy CEO said he cannot divulge whether Hong Kong users are primarily using direct messages (which are encrypted) or public broadcasting (which is not).
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