13th June 2019 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam called the stand off between protestors and police yesterday an “organised riot”. In a three-minute video, she reiterated that: “This is not an act that shows love for Hong Kong.” She expressed disappointment over the dangerous acts by protestors that could jeopardised the safety other citizens and young people.

Was the protest yesterday an ‘organised riot’? The sequence of events (i.e. staged accidents, removal of bricks at Tamar Park etc) that happened yesterday seem to indicate that it was an organised plot with a few leaders behind. Telegram group chats were used to communicate with tens of thousands of protestors.

First, let us compare Occupy Central that happened in 2014 with the anti-extradition protest which turned violent yesterday.

Pro-democracy activist and Occupy Central co-founders (from left) Chan Kin-man, Benny Tai. Photo credit : AFP

Occupy Central was led by Pro-democracy activist and co-founders, Chan Kin-man and Benny Tai. They led a rally with student protestors near Central Government Complex on September 28, 2014 by announcing the beginning of their civil disobedience campaign. The mass but peaceful sit-in protests in Central and Causeway Bay were meant to force the then Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to resign and that the Chinese Government to retract its decision on the city’s 2017 chief executive poll, which would restrict the number of candidates to two or three approved by a 1,200-strong nominating committee. Many Hong Kongers were called on to join the protest.

Over 30,000 people took part in the protest during the early days and the number grew to more than 50,000 when police used tear gas against unarmed protestors. The term ‘UMBRELLA REVOLUTION’ was created after unarmed protestors used umbrellas to protect themselves against pepper spray.

Occupy Central 2014

Key areas in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok were occupied and remained closed to traffic for 77 days. Despite numerous incidents of intimidation and violence by triads and thugs, particularly in Mong Kok, and several attempts at clearance by the police, suffragists held their ground for over two months. After the Mong Kok occupation site was cleared with some scuffles on 25 November, Admiralty and Causeway Bay were cleared with no opposition on 11 and 14 December, respectively.

Fast forward to 2019, Government’s proposal to amend the extradition bill that could result in Hong Kongers being sent to mainland China for trial sparked widespread anger amongst Hong Kongers. In defiance of public opinion, government’s stubborn take on the bill has prompted over a million protestors (according to organisers) to take to the streets on last Sunday.

The situation escalated when the second reading of the bill was scheduled to be held at the Legislative Council meeting at 11am yesterday. Protestors gathered one night ahead in Admiralty area but this round, they came equipped with a modus operandi.

Picket line formed at Hong Kong MTR station

We reported yesterday that several civil society organisations collaborated with Demosistō, small pro-democracy political party advocating self-determination  for Hong Kong formed a picket line to obstruct passengers from traveling between Central and Hong Kong MTR Station. They started since early morning to call on fellow Hong Kongers to go on strike and join the protestors at Tamar Park and Legislative Council Building. This move might be planned voluntarily by the protestors independent from the master plot.

Picket line formed at Hong Kong MTR station.

Road blocks on major traffic routes using staged ‘accidents’

We reported two days ago in an article that organisers had called upon protestors to stop their vehicles at Tsing Ma Bridge and Lung Cheung Road to obstruct traffic at around 5am on 12th June. The news was similarly reported by other local media.

The blockage was meant to cut off traffic towards the airport so that Hong Kong’s image as a world-class city would be tarnished. The second road block at Lung Cheung Road was meant to paralyse the traffic between Kwai Chung and TST. Organisers posted on social media that they would provide food and drinks while loudspeakers would be used as warning to disperse the protestors if presence of police vehicles were detected.

Although the road blocks did not occur on Tsing Ma Bridge and Lung Cheung Road, several ‘accidents’ were staged on Queensway and Gloucester Road from 9.30am yesterday as we reported in an article. Not only private vehicles were involved, a bus also ‘broke down’ after veering off-course on Gloucester Road at 10.30am yesterday. 4 Mercedes G-wagons stopped on Gloucester Road again at 10.40am. These cars are expensive and it’s surprising that the vehicle owners would risk being prosecuted for obstructing traffic.

Elsewhere in Central, several more private cars stopped abruptly to obstruct traffic on Des Voeux Road in Central after 6pm yesterday. The sequence of events seems to confirm the organiser’s motive to paralyse the traffic in the city so that protestors could occupy Admiralty and Central Districts smoothly in two stages.

At 12.20pm, three vehicles and one motorcycle purportedly ‘broke down’ on Johnston Road in Wan Chai.
Bus stopped abruptly on Gloucester Road at 10.30am yesterday.
Traffic ‘accident’ allegedly staged on Queensway yesterday morning.
The G-wagons on Gloucester Road.
More cars stopped on Connaught Road Central.
Several cars stopped on Des Voeux Road at around 6pm yesterday.
Several cars blocked the traffic on Des Voeux Road yesterday evening.
Cars stopped at Connaught Road Central yesterday evening.
Another Mercedes stopped abruptly on Connaught Road Central yesterday evening.

At around 8.30pm yesterday, several tow trucks with ‘Anti-extradition’ signs arrived near the cars purportedly ‘broke down’ in the middle of Connaught Road Central. They then called on the public to set up help centre for protestors. A few masked South Asians were spotted at the scene to assist. It was because of the timing of their appearance that made us wonder if they were paid. If the South Asians were there all along, we would have no qualms about their ethnicity and their participation in the protest.

Masked South Asians were spotted on Connaught Road Central where the cars purportedly stopped.

Protestors removed bricks from pedestrian pavement at Tamar Park

We reported yesterday that protestors were seen removing bricks from pavement at Tamar Park and building walls with them as an act of defiance against the controversial extradition bill. If protestors intended to stage a peaceful protest, they should not have resorted to destruction of public properties.

The protestors came equipped with gloves and cement carts to build the ‘walls’ in an orderly manner. It seems like the wall built was to signify the lack of freedom under the Chinese Government.

Protestors were equipped with tools.

Use of Telegram secret chat group as information control centre

A 22 year old student, Ivan Ip, one of the administrators for a secret Telegram chat group called ‘公海總谷’ created for instructions and information to be shared amongst protestors was arrested on the night of 11th June by police at around 8pm. They obtained search warrant before going into his home. He was also requested to reveal all members of the Telegram group chat members, shared contents and information on other administrators and group creators. According to sources, Ivan claimed that he did not participate in the protest on 9th June but he merely shared updated information on the protest within the group chat.

He was then released on bail at 4am yesterday after being detained at Sheung Shui Police station. The Telegram chat group has since been deleted. According to sources, the members in the group reached 20,000-30,000.

In defiance, the organisers continued with their modus operandi using an alternative Telegram chat group called ‘SCOTT SCOUT’ consisting of almost 33,000 subscribers. An administrator of the group known as SCOTT was seen giving instructions to the subscribers and many of them were sharing multiple information on locations of riot police who were codenamed ‘DOGS’. Videos of injured protestors, photos of riot police were shared in split seconds in the group chat. Someone was also assigned to take and share aerial photos on the protest on a regular basis in the group to predict and plan the next moves. Information on first aid centres, collect points for essentials such as masks and gloves was also shared in the group.

First hand aerial photo of the protest at admiralty was shared moments after tear gas was fired.
Location of riot police was shared via photos taken by protestors.
Video of injured victim was shared in the group.

At 7.46pm yesterday, a few of them suggested to temporarily abort the protest citing safety issue as a major concern. Scott, in one of his last messages sent at 7.48pm yesterday mentioned that he would continue to discuss with his ‘superiors’ because their support was waning. He even mentioned that they spent 24 hours to set up everything but the operation failed and advised everyone to take care of themselves. We reported at 8.02pm that the organisers had aborted their mission due to safety issues.

At 8.26pm, protestors were told to disperse into the crowd and retreat into Central where FREE GOGOVAN service would take them home. Someone even asked the protestor who sustained eye injury to identify himself in the group.

A hand drawn map used to strategise against the riot police was also shared in the Telegram group.

A hand drawn map showing presence of riot police was shared in the Telegram group.

Scott, one of the administrators in the Telegram group sent a message at 7.48pm that he would continue to discuss with his superiors.
Protestors were advised to retreat to Central in the Telegram group where GOGOVAN offered free rides for them.

Who funded the protest?

All medical supplies, gloves, food and drinks, masks, tools and even GOGOVAN services cost money, we can argue that some protestors may volunteer to contribute but when specific collect points were mentioned and supplies were constantly replenished during the stand off, it leaves us wondering, is there someone or a group of people who funded the protest yesterday? The staged accidents involved luxurious vehicles like Mercedes G Wagons and South Asians were spotted at the ‘accident’ scene in Central.

Also, Scott mentioned in the Telegram secret chat that he would discuss further strategies with his seniors at 8.27pm yesterday. Who are the seniors and are they also reporting to someone higher in the hierarchy? The ‘someone’ may have a personal interest at stake and he would do whatever it takes to prevent the extradition bill from being pushed through. As many Hong Kongers also take issue with the Government’s stand, it made things easier for the man behind the scene to leverage on naive young people and manipulate the situation to his advantage.

Hong Kongers are entitled to organise peaceful protests but selfish actions such as staging fake accidents to endanger the lives of other road users and removing bricks from road pavements seemed to be orchestrated with malicious intent. Police may be condemned for their excessive use of force but law and order still needs to be maintained in the city so that our daily lives wouldn’t be affected. After the Hong Kong Government’s experience with Occupy Central in 2014, they were better prepared this time to move in swiftly by dispersing the unruly protestors completely within one day to restore order even though their high-handed actions were severely criticised.