A guest post by Richard Scotford.
To understand what happened in Tai Po yesterday you have to first know what happened in Kwun Tong last weekend.
A lot of money is now being pumped into grassroots groups that support the Blue Ribbons, which are flush with cash but short on real, quality support. In comparison, local Pro-Democracy groups are all but penniless, but have growing, hardcore support. The CCP wishes to turn these groups against one another. This is a classic CCP tactic, or create enemies and contradictions between the people so people fight people leaving the CCP to pillage unfettered and uncriticised. The CCP have being instigating this kind of class struggle since their inception and they have a lot of experience with it. However, what they don’t have experience with are genuinely civic minded groups that can’t just be locked up for a decades to remove the problem. Meaning, that in HK, their tried and tested methods don’t get the traction they’re used to on the Mainland.
Which brings us back to Kwun Tong. Last Sunday the Blue Ribbons had a stage set up. There are several videos of the speakers on stage and one can confidently say that what they were advocating wasn’t really resonating with the passers-by. What was interesting is that anyone who tried to film the stage was quickly surrounded by a number of people who blocked the camera and acted menacingly. Which beggars the question, why are they making a public stage if they don’t want their message to be filmed and recorded? Maybe the person filming wanted to promote the message? The reality is these groups are very exclusive, not inclusive. They may be on the streets spreading their message, but their target audience is generally reserved for a small group of people who think exactly like them. Any challenging questions will be quickly met with intimidation, violence and gestures for you to leave.
A single person who supports democracy would be crazy to open up discussion in these areas, even a small group would? So, what would happen if a large group of pro-democracy advocates walked passed?
Well that’s exactly what happened last weekend in Kwun Tong. After a few incidents where Blue Ribbons violently intimidated Yellow supporters earlier in the day, a reasonably large group of Civic Passion supporters, with banners and flags walked by the Blue Ribbon stage and were immediately attacked by their guarding goons. A quasi-street battle ensued with the Civic Passion supporters getting the worst of it. All the yellow banners were destroyed and they were left scurrying for safety. The police that were there stood by and watched the Blues rough up the Yellows.
— Xavier (@xaviwavi87) January 25, 2015
As more police reinforcements arrived, the Civic Passion supporters complained to the police and were duly arrested for common assault. Six in total. No Blue Ribbons were arrested for instigating the violence. Instead some were sent away in ambulances while those complaining that they had been attacked were carted off to the police station. As far as I’m aware, the police are pressing on with their intent to charge those attacked with assault.
The implications for this event are far reaching for HK society. I wont even touch on the highly explosive idea of police openly supporting attackers and not those being attacked, but will save this for another day.
Instead, we will move on to yesterday’s incident in Tai Po.
There is a direct link to what happened in Kwun Tong and what took place in Tai Po. Civic Passion, supported by Frontline Democracy(本土民主前線), decided that they would not be intimidated by the Blue Ribbon’s campaign of fear and intimidation on the streets. Leticia Lee, the face of the Blue Ribbons, was scheduled to have another street stand in Tai Po, so they would meet her there directly. They knew from the onset that they would experience incredible prejudice from the police if they turned up in numbers, which they did, but this would not stop them. The purpose of yesterday’s action was to highlight the clear hypocrisy and collusion of the police. In this respect, the operation in Tai Po was a complete success. Police hypocrisy was in abundant display yesterday in Tai Po.
It is an accepted part of HK society today that the police will let goons loiter around Blue Ribbon stands and not bat an eye-lid if they decide to rough up the odd Yellow Ribbon. In fact, police are often there as supporters. “Civilians” who were manning the Blue Stage yesterday were later seen in police uniform at Tai Po police station, this is how hand-in-glove the Blue Ribbons are with the police. If you don’t whole-heartedly support the Blue message then being near the stage can be a dangerous place to be. This is an in disputable fact that can be field-tested by anyone brave enough to believe the contrary. Don’t take my word for it, go and test it for yourself.
In stark contrast to this, despite it being the Blue Ribbons that manifest violence on a regular basis it’s the Yellow Ribbons who are immediately mobbed by huge numbers of police should they begin to form up. This is exactly what happened in Tai Po. Once Civic Passion and Frontline Democracy began to congregate the police were all over them, pushing shoving and not letting them move freely.
— LostDutch (@lostdutchhk) February 2, 2015
Admittedly, the police argument is, if we let the Yellows near the Blues, there will be a danger of a disturbance, we’re only keeping the peace. And this is exactly the reason why everyone went to Tai Po yesterday. To highlight that there IS a danger of disturbance, and right on cue, the police let the Blue Ribbons repeatedly express their anger and violence, yet cracked down on the Yellows. The danger of violence is ever-present from the Blues, but the police always take the opportunity to antagonise and beat on the Yellows. Extreme elements of the Blues and the police are hand-in-glove. One of the same. The Blues are the political wing of the police and you can see from the many videos, the police will defend them like brothers.
Yesterday’s action was a clear show of force by the Yellows, A warning to the Blues, that they will not get away with their goon tactics in the districts, even with open police support. The police are on notice too that if Leticia Lee wants to spread the message of hate and violence for them, then they will be met with a strong showing of power from the pro-democracy action groups. They will not be intimidated off the streets. The police will have to mobilise vast resources of men if they continue to let the Blue Ribbon Goons control the message in the districts.
This is an important fight which can’t be overlooked by anyone. Civic Passion and Democracy Frontline are leading it but other less muscular groups like HKFS and Scholarism have intentions to take the pro-democracy message to the districts too. The unspoken tactic from the government is that United Front groups under the guise of supporting the police will prevent this through intimidation and violence and the police will look the other way. As a pro-dem supporter. You may think that Civic Passion and Frontline Democracy are too radical, but if they aren’t going to lead this fight, who will? The districts will become a place where no one other than the Blue Ribbons can speak their message. It’s all very well wanting to be non-confrontational, but the boundaries have already been set by the police and the Blue Ribbons, pro-democracy messages will not be allowed to be spread unfettered in the districts. They will be met with violence and intimidation, whether you’re a Scholarism, HKFS, Civic Passion or Frontline Democracy.
— LostDutch (@lostdutchhk) February 1, 2015
The police were caught entirely on the hop with this action yesterday. Photos of the western commander turning up in his Sunday sweater shows that all their focus was on Central and they did expect Yellows to rise to the challenge or the low level intimidation policy that has been going on. On top of this, once again, the police proved that there really is no low for them and their political beliefs. Photos and videos of them providing bus services for the Blues, loading Blue gear into police vans, letting blue Ribbons act disorderly yet swinging batons at Yellows who act similar, all paint a picture of a police force in political and moral free fall. For the police, this is very personal now, they are are politically instep with the Blues and when they feel like they are threatened they will happily unleash the full powers invested in them as police officers to protect them. As a Yellow you can expect no such liberty from the police any time soon.
This fight is far from over, in fact this was an opening salvo.
Big marches on HK Island are out. The fight for the districts is the new frontline, and we will see a lot more bad policing and goon behaviour before there is a victor.
Scotford is a democracy writer and noisy muser on all things China. Follow him on Twitter.