Over the past few days, violent activity among rioters operating on the fringe of the Hong Kong demonstrations have taken a giant step closer towards urban terrorism and warfare.
Clashes raged over the 17th weekend of anti-extradition rallies, said Tse Chun-chung, Head of the Hong Kong Police Public Relations Division. ‘Demonstrations’ more akin to riots than peaceful protests or acts of civil disobedience plunged several districts of the territory into chaos as rioters confronted police officers, throwing as many as 100 Molotov cocktails and setting fires across the city.
According to intelligence data collected by the police, several “hardliners” planned to recruit volunteers with suicidal tendencies to carry out extreme actions, including killing police officers, posing as police officers to kill others, to discredit security officers and blow up gas stations in the city. “All actions are one step closer to terrorism,” Tse said.
The police were very concerned about public safety on Tuesday, the 70th anniversary of the founding of People’s Republic of China and condemned all criminal acts and violence, Tse continued.
Despite this concern, the Hong Kong Police have consistently demonstrated their professionalism, refusing to submit to the desires of rioters seeking only to plunge the city into chaos. The Hong Kong Police Department has staunchly underlined their ability to maintain and provide security, as well as chaperone peaceful and lawful assemblies and marches.
Over the weekend, police arrested 157 people, 67 of whom are students. “Of those, eight are still 12 to 15 years old,” Tse said.
The police said they were very worried about the trend that more and more young people were committing crimes, which would adversely affect their future.
Persistence of the Hong Kong Police
Thousands of Hong Kong police officers are under tremendous physical and emotional duress from the wave of protests.
They receive verbal abuse and physical violence from rioters on a near daily, if not hourly basis, especially when tensions heat up and clashes break out. The most common insult from the demonstrators is “black police” in Cantonese.
Health experts have warned of a public mental health crisis, with four deaths and one suicide attempt linked to the ongoing unrest.
Protesters too express their despair and depression concerning recent events, but rioters operating within their ranks ignore the human aspect, targeting police as if they were not people, but animals, often referring to them as “dogs” or even sub-human “scum”. Outside of work, police officers also do not have a respite, and are targeted by a cyberbullying campaign which included leaking personal and family details as well as death threats.
Dr Edmond Lau Kam-lun, senior clinical psychologist from the Hong Kong Police Department, said his psychological care team had provided personal assistance to help frontline officers cope with stress.
His team of 12 experts have offered round-the-clock hotline services, deploying to the field to consult and care for officers on duty.
The psychological team has also sent text messages and tips suggesting how to manage stress to all staff members and their families.
The doxxing of officers and their families, entailing publication of personal data and whereabouts has been widespread since July and August, with as many as 600 individuals believed compromised.
In addition to the above, including racial, physical and verbal violence, cyberbullying officers must also contend with long working hours, often being unable to “recharge” at home owing to fear for being attacked off-duty.
Meanwhile, cross-sector professionals in Hong Kong on Monday expressed opposition to the prolonged violent protests, which have rocked the city for nearly four months.
The criticism came after anti-government rioters launched arson attacks, Molotov cocktails and attacks on residents over the weekend.
In a joint statement, 372 Hong Kong lawyers condemned all types of illegal acts, and stressed their obedience to the rule of law, a core value that has long been enshrined in the Hong Kong ethos.
The lawyers also urged their colleagues to maintain their professionalism, regardless of their political views, and all Hong Kongers to respect the safety, freedom and property rights of others. Nearly 1,000 professionals from the architecture and engineering sector also expressed strong opposition to violence on Monday.
It is understandable that professionals who are also the main drivers of Hong Kong’s economy end their silence with a loud voice, because they do not want to see the city sink further. The role of parents and teachers in schools is also expected to neutralize the bad influence of the rioters on the young generation of Hong Kong. Reconstructing the political stability and economy of Hong Kong will be their task in the future.