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Jacobin - September 4, 2019

"Hong Kong's government just withdrew the anti–civil liberties bill that set off massive, rolling protests and convulsed the city for months. But the political crisis is bigger than one measure — and protesters could be emboldened to push for even more."

The rolling protests are at once a testament to the inventiveness of protesters and a threat to the Hong Kong government, headed by the Beijing-backed Lam. As the Chinese government works to shore up its rule at home and its rise globally, the Hong Kong crisis has assumed outsized significance, eclipsing the local political dynamics.

Here’s where things stand.

1

The kaleidoscope of protest tactics is keeping the authorities on their toes.

The protests are now in their fourth month, thanks to the ever-changing shape and form of demonstrations: from peaceful mass rallies of millions to violent, small-group battles with police; from general strikes and airport occupations aimed at maximizing disruption to more symbolic student boycotts. In particular, the protesters’ guerrilla strategy — declining to occupy any one place, which might exhaust protesters and weaken the movement’s shock value, but instead moving around the city from week to week and splitting into different groups to target governmental institutions — has enabled the movements to renew and regroup.

The general strike on August 5 was more political than economic. While inequality and poor employment prospects for young people are inescapable realities, the movement cannot be reduced to these material considerations. The Left has tried and failed to raise social and economic demands. Unions’ previous calls for workers to walk out gained little traction, and the general strike that did materialize was organized online, without the trade unions’ initiative (though with key support from the flight attendants’ unions). The strike’s disruptive potency came from its targeting of urban transportation rather than the number of workers that stayed out.

One new development is that violent street fighting has become an accepted tactic both within the protest movement and by the Hong Kong public writ large. When protests spill into residential areas, denizens tend to side with demonstrators over police, who are criticized for excessive force, particularly when deploying tear gas. Previously seen as among the more restrained in the world, the Hong Kong police force is giving protesters grist for escalation — making more than 1,100 arrests since June — and deepening the authorities’ legitimacy crisis. ...
Read full article at Jacobin