Recent protests in Hong Kong have tended to run a familiar course. A restrained beginning; escalation into violence as the police move in with tear gas and rubber bullets, and then, sooner or later, nothing. The protests fizzle out. Thus it was five years ago with the pro-democracy “umbrella revolution” that called for free elections. Thus it may be again, with the protests this week against a bill that would formalise extradition to mainland China.
An exception was in 2003, when mass demonstrations led to a draft national security law being dropped. Whether this week’s protesters can replicate that success, however, is another matter. Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, seems intent on pushing the contentious bill through.
In several respects, though, the start of this protest struck a different tone from the largely youthful “umbrella” movement. In the numbers taking part in the initial march, in its solemnity, above all in the breadth of participation across ages and social groups, it was reminiscent of nothing more than the mass march of mourning on that June Sunday 30 years ago after the massacre at Tiananmen Square.
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