The Coming Reckoning in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is moving toward meltdown and a terrible and violent confrontation between the protesters and authorities is almost inevitable. The Hong Kong protests are getting worse in their levels of violence and upheaval.

Prior to this weekend, government forces in Hong Kong have largely been restrained from excessive force. The protests have been ongoing for months. On Tuesday government forces fired their first live bullet, injuring a protester. The government’s relative show of restraint is likely due to the Chinese government’s desire to not allow the world to be distracted from its celebration of the Communist government’s 70th anniversary. That anniversary passed this week. The calm and restraint are very likely to have passed as well.

Beware of Black and White Pictures

Protestors hide from firing range of riot police near the Tsim Sha Tsui police station in Kowloon, Hong Kong, China on August 11, 2019 in. After firing tear gas on protestors for staging an unauthorised protest police charged protestors and made multiple arrests. Pro-democracy protesters have continued rallies against a controversial extradition bill since June 9. While Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam apologized for introducing the bill and declared it “dead,” protests have continued to draw large crowds with demands for Lam’s resignation and a complete withdrawal of the bill. Photo by Adam Ferguson for Time

The protests are being painted in the media largely as a good guy versus bad guy episode. The protesters are the good guys of course and they are fighting for their democratic rights. Be careful of this perspective. While there is rarely ever a reason to defend a Chinese sponsored government, much of the violence and chaos to this point has been committed largely at the hands of the protesters. This is likely to change very soon as the tables turn toward the oppression from the government the world has been anticipating – but that may be what the protesters are ultimately seeking.

After four months of protests the demonstrators, at different times, the protestors have taken over the parliament building, international airport, subway stations, and entire streets and neighborhoods. Vandalism has been abundant. This weekend as the violence interactions between police and protesters ticked up to a new level a protester hijacked an excavator to dig up a road, another group tied tripwires across the streets. Other groups threw petrol bombs and other objects at the police. This all came before the police fired water cannons onto the protesters.

hong kong protests

The violence is escalating and the government is probably about to take a very dark turn, but be careful about believing narratives that the western media wants us to follow. While many of the protestors are seeking democracy the government has mostly refrained from violent counter-responses in this valuable economic pillar of the Chinese government.

One of the most violent episodes this weekend occurred when the protestors attacked a civilian. The BBC reports that the civilian hit one of the protestors. The Washington Post reports that the civilian drove his car deliberately into the protestors. Who is to say which is true? The man was swallowed by the crowd of demonstrators and beaten within an inch of his life before other demonstrators stopped the beating.

The Violence Is Going to Get Worse

 hong kong protests

As violence from the demonstrators continues to escalate and the government, along with their Chinese authorities continue to have less incentive to not respond in kind – the violence is going to get worse. A reckoning is coming in Hong Kong.

The city and economy cannot afford to tolerate the upheaval and disruption much longer and the protestors appear intent on not giving up. There is a “fight for democracy” element here. But there is also an element in which the protestors are seeking to force a confrontation between themselves and government forces. In that confrontation, world sympathy is expected to produce a gain for their demands.

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JB Shreve is the author of "How the World Ends: Understanding the Growing Chaos." He has been the host of the End of History podcast since 2012. He has degrees in International Relations and Middle East Studies. His other books include the Intelligence Brief Series. Regular posts and updates from JB Shreve are available at