HONG KONG - Hong Kong’s protests may be smaller these days, buy they're more frequent, more violent, and more unpredictable. The new phase was precipitated by the death of a young demonstrator as the semi-autonomous Chinese territory entered its 22 week of pro-democracy protests.
But five months in, Hong Kong’s leaders still refuse to give in to the protesters' political demands.
"I'm making the statement clear and loud here, that will not happen," Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a news conference.
Police these days crack down faster and firmer than ever. Following the first death of a student protester last week, this week has seen an increase in hardcore protesters destroying public infrastructure.
In some neighborhoods, the fight between police and protesters now resembles a battle for territory. The more aggressive tactics could be an attempt to reclaim international attention, says activist Edward Yiu.
“For such a small city trying to fight against an authoritarian regime, we need international support… which probably can explain why in the past four days protesters in Hong Kong insist to have a stronger say and would like to have more severe actions to as to arouse international concern,” said Yiu.
Even with the more aggressive tactics, polls suggest the protesters still have widespread public support. But the violence isn’t without critics.
“Demanding five things or we will burn down your railway stations on a regular basis is not going to end happily anywhere in the world," said Steve Vickers, the former head of the Royal Hong Kong Police Criminal Intelligence Bureau. “This movement has come off the rails and is really out of control. And the violent element, the sharp end of it, is really destroying the message that the rest of them had established through large demonstrations, which were peaceful,” he added.
But many argue peaceful protests aren’t working. And with China’s authoritarian Communist Party closing in, many protesters have decided they won’t give in without a fight.
The problem is only made worse by Hong Kong’s inaction, says former lawmaker Emily Lau.
“We are calling on everybody to calm down, to dial down, to de-escalate. But to do that, the Hong Kong government has to give something. You cannot just tell them - you protesters, go home, we are not going to give you anything. Crazy! Look at the way things are! They are not going to react!” said Lau.
Meanwhile, both sides seem to be turning more violent, with no solution in sight.