Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Tense Night in Mongkok

A "riot" broke out in Mongkok after the authorities tried to clear out hawkers
The start of the second day of the Year of the Monkey did not go well.

I woke up this morning to find my Facebook page plastered with videos showing protesters clashing with police in Mongkok that started last night around 2am for several hours.

Apparently during Chinese New Year, unlicensed hawkers do a decent business in the area selling street food to hungry revelers. Previously the authorities would not bother with them much, except this year health inspectors decided to crack down on them and demanded the illegal hawkers, one of which was selling fish balls, to leave.

However they would not and people in the area began supporting them. By 10pm there were lots of people protesting what they perceived to be heavy handedness by the authorities, and at around 2am "riots" began.

At one point police pointed their guns at the protesters
There is footage of a group of policemen being surrounded by protesters who threw anything they had at hand -- garbage cans, rocks and later bricks ripped out from the sidewalk -- which may have caused one police officer to whip out his pistol and fire two warning shots in the air because nearby one of his men was on the ground injured.

Reporters who were there felt the atmosphere was even more tense than during the Occupy protests in the fall of 2014. Some felt the warning shots were excessive, and there are pictures of police pointing their guns at people.

That seems to demonstrate the authorities have lost their cool, but also the protesters seemed organized, many wearing helmets and masks. By the same token the violence the police inflicted on others seemed out of order, with a video clip of one women being beaten and fallen to the ground and she was bleeding profusely.

The government immediately branded the incident a "riot" and things did not calm down until around 8am this morning. Fifty-four people were arrested and prosecutors will definitely put them through the rigors of the legal system.

Protesters were violent too, throwing garbage cans at police
It was shocking and disappointing to find Hong Kong has become such an ugly place. Obviously there is residual anger from the Umbrella Movement that has not been resolved at all, and the polarization between the two camps is even more divisive.

When Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was asked today at a press conference if the fireworks would go ahead tonight, he said yes -- to give the impression that everything is fine and well in the city. But in reality there is a lot economically at stake -- so many companies benefit from the fireworks display, such as restaurants and hotels, that it would be un-Hong Kong not to go ahead with it.

However, one wonders how many people were really in the mood for an HK$8 million fireworks display after what happened last night?

Some Facebook posts were very angry at Leung for what they described as his poor leadership, and that he seems to have plans to run again for chief executive in next year's election.

As the fortune tellers have predicted, the Year of the Monkey will be a challenging one. And we've already had a taste of it.

However, the #fishballrevolution may catch on -- and if anything the sales of fish balls will probably go up!

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