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Hong Kong protests: Violent, some supporters diverge

"I remember being in disbelief, watching my TV – what's going on? Why did they do that?" said Jose. "By this day, I knew what they were fighting for … I went back to my room and sat there and stared at my wall for a very long time."

Both sides accuse the other of excessive violence and provoking the use of police tear gas and protesting petrol bombs. Even Hong Kong itself is littered with riots, shops vandalized and cluttered, and many subway entrances are charcoal from black lights sprung by protesters.

However, without a clear end, new divisions appear to be emerging. In the city – apart from hard front protests and fierce adversaries, there are now moving party supporters and moderates who say they have been driven by violence.

When is it too far?


9659002] Most people have a different answer as to whether the unrest has crossed the line. Protesters say they are not there yet because they have not killed or seriously injured anyone – if anything, they believe the police are the ones who have gone too far.

Marcus, a 22-year-old protestor, stated. he drew the line in "unnecessary violence" – but like many in the movement, he sees their actions as largely justified. For example, he felt that the violence at the airport had gone too far, but quickly pointed out that the mafia had found evidence that the man was a police officer undercover.

  Why young protesters in Hong Kong think they are running out of time in the fight for democracy

"When you are in a situation like this, no one has time to look like, let's check this out, "he said." The proof was in his bag. "

Marcus's position reflects an apparent general relationship between the movement and its sympathizers – a vague opposition to violence, but an instinct for leniency. the protesters. " when we lose, this is called rebellion, "said Yara, a 22-year-old educational consultant." But if we win, it will be called a revolution and eventually all the violence will be for good. "

  Protesters set fire to a branch Bank of China in Hong Kong on October 13, 2019

Many protesters who spoke to CNN returned to this perceived image of great blessing. They say they fear Hong Kong will lose its protected freedoms of speech, press and assembly, and that the semi-autonomous city will eventually be swallowed up by mainland China.

When confronted with a similar fate, real or perceived, demonstrators say little else seems to matter. Transit troubles, missed flights, even distorted education – to them, it all seems like worthy sacrifices for a movement they think can save the city.

The critics of the "silent majority"

Persistence in sharp contrast on the other side are members of the self-styled "silent majority" – people who oppose the riots. They say protesters are spreading chaos and fear across the city, throwing away the economy and hurting not only their own cause, but also anyone caught in the crossfire.

It is not clear how many people are actually in the "silent majority" or if they are indeed a majority at all, but the group seems to be slowly growing – at least in public. One protest-critical Facebook group amassed over 125,000 members in two months.

By comparison, one of the largest protest groups in the encrypted Telegram messaging application has about 240,000 members.

Many say that there can be no pardon for the violence and vandalism of protesters. According to them, this would effectively justify the violence against anyone of different opinions and open the door to dangerous polarization and censorship.

  Hong Kong's Self-Naming

Even more sinister than the destruction itself is "acceptance by the anti-government people," says 26-year-old Patrick, who also initially supported the protesters' right to peaceful protest before the situation escalated .

He blamed supporters on the sidelines of saying "without condemnation" – meaning that they are either afraid to speak out against the movement or really believe the violence is right. He said he did not know which was worse.

"I think that's the scary part – not just the action itself, but the reaction to the action," he added.

Some protesters have apologized for wrongfully vandalizing politically neutral shops and for attacking the mafia airport. But many say that is not enough.
  Demonstrators hold an apology sign at Hong Kong International Airport on August 14, 2019.

"No violence and error when it comes to about violence, "said 41-year-old Sarah. It supported peaceful mass marches in June but began withdrawing support when protesters began vandalizing the subway, attacking police officers and leaking private information about employees' families online.

Millie, a 39-year-old employee of the banking industry, said that violating protest transit systems is not just an inconvenience, but a violation of the right of every person to daily life.

"They" take some of the freedom from that person to travel, "she said." Blocking people – which is their freedom to practice

Among this "tacit majority", they also talk about simple bewilderment – if protesters want democracy, why are they breaking ATMs? What does the common-law subway have to do with vandalism? [19659002] Given the protesters' reasons – that ATMs belong to Chinese-owned banks, the protesters believe the subway operator is in combination with the police – critics interviewed by CNN have branded them as alarm, counter-productive or as Sarah k me, just "stupid."

"Even if the government gets ahead of them, it doesn't legitimize the violence," she said. "The law is the law. You do not hurt people, you do not violate government property."

The dividing line of privilege

A common restraint among the movement is that critics do not understand the struggle because they have less personal stake in it. They may be wealthy or expeditious or have dual citizenship so that they can leave Hong Kong at any time – their privilege does not allow them to fully grasp the desperation of the front leaders, protesters say.

Some of the "silent majority" admit this. "I understand that I'm probably one of the privileges. None of this really affects me," said Sarah, who is of Hong Kong heritage but lived in Canada before moving to the city. "I check my privilege constantly. I realized they stayed here … they don't have a second passport, this is their home."

However, she believes that her privilege does not criticize her wrongly, simply unwanted. In fact, that distance means "it's easy for me to be objective," she said.

  Scattered Goods in a Vandalized Store during a protest in Hong Kong on October 20, 2019

Others categorically reject the view that class or civic privilege has something to do with movement.

"I do not buy this argument," Patrick said, noting that the movement is diverse, attracting supporters of all ages, nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds.

Millie stated that accusing protesters of privilege was just an excuse. After all, she was not born into wealth or privilege. She acknowledges that protesters may face public obstacles – an unacceptable life that reduces upward mobility – but "we've all been there," she said.

In addition, Milli added, she has only Hong Kong citizenship. This is her home too – and protesters are destroying it.

Support fluctuates as protests drag on

Millie, Patrick, and Sarah supported the protests initially, to varying degrees. Sarah was "absolutely against" the bill – but now that it has been withdrawn and the devastation has spread, "I do not support (the protesters) at all," she said.

Even some of them are still moving backwards within the movement. After the shock of the airport mafia attack, Jose wondered if he could continue to support her. In the end, she decided the answer was "yes," but she said she broke off somewhat and made less frequent engagements than before.

  Protesters in Hong Kong destroyed a shop in Mongokok County on October 20, 2019.