It is an unlikely, naïve, downright ridiculous idea that the protesters could concede concessions or even free elections to the powerful in Beijing. "But we have to try it anyway," mumbles Nick * behind his gas mask.
Last Saturday, just after 8 pm in Tsim Tsa Tsui, the popular tourist area in Hong Kong's Kowloon district: hundreds of very young protesters in black, some hooded like ninjas, others ready to fight like Iron Man, leaping out of the Metro exits. In moments they've blocked the four-lane Nathan Road with bus signs, construction site scraps, and broken-off roadblocks. Nick, 24, powerfully built, his eyes hidden behind his diving goggles and his hair under a hardhat, pushes his way through the crowd and prepares for his job. By day he works as a programmer, now, in the dark, begins his transformation: Nick is "water mage" in a new role-playing game called Hong Kong Online, which invented the radicals among the demonstrators. The fire mage, he explains, sets garbage cans on fire and throw Molotov cocktails. Earth magicians aim at stones, light magicians aim at laser pointers. Water mages like him are a kind of fire department: Nick expresses smoking tear gas containers with a welder's glove.
"Deduction! Deduction!", Shouts the crowd, from the police station behind the shopping mall officials have just fired the first salvos of tear gas. Nick sprints forward and disappears in the biting fog, minutes later he comes back and races to the metro station, the special forces a few dozen yards behind him. When he has moved to safety, he looks at his flashing smartphone screen: The flash mob has set in motion, to the next station Tsuen Wan.
All of Hong Kong is now a combat zone. As long as the government does not listen to the demonstrators, they want to continue causing chaos. They will hardly reach their maximum goals. The regime in Beijing, in turn, does not want any further escalation, but also finds no means to pacify the protests.
A normal weekend in Hong Kong now looks like this: On Saturday alone, Nick and his colleagues build roadblocks at eight metro stations. It begins with an unauthorized demonstration in the afternoon in the suburb of Tai Po, after which several groups swarm in different directions. Some protesters study politics, other law or medicine, the youngest are still in middle school. Mike *, 25, a friend of Nick's, works as an official in a public agency. He experiences daily how close to Beijing politicians slashed their network tax money, he says his work was bleak. At night, as a guerrilla protester, he feels part of something bigger. "If we do not fight for our rights now, it will soon be too late," he says.
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At the end of the weekend, the police report more than a hundred tear gas missions and 149 arrests. Disguised civil servants mingle with demonstrators on Sunday night and indiscriminately arrest people. Allegedly Beijing-instigated gangsters in red shirts, members of mafia groups, are hunting down protesters. A young woman is dangerously injured in the eye by a lead bullet from the police. This now fires tear gas into metro shafts and shoots with rubber cartridges at the demonstrators. In protest against police action, doctors call for a strike on Monday. Also on Monday, thousands of demonstrators block the airport; on Tuesday evening, at the editorial deadline of this issue, the blockade continues. Proof that the protesters are approaching as brutal as the police, the government remains guilty. But the tone from Beijing is becoming increasingly shrill: Among the radical demonstrators, there are "signs of terrorism," says a spokesman.
When is the first dead and on which side? Will the central government shoot down the protests? Among the demonstrators, there are more and more who are willing to go to jail. Some are ready to die. But for what? There is some confusion about that. The vast majority of government opponents are calling for at least the definitive withdrawal of the law, which will allow for deliveries to mainland China, where the current crisis has ignited, and for an independent investigation of police violence. But more and more government opponents are no longer enough. "Free Hong Kong, revolution of our time" is the new slogan of these days, ten thousand times chanted, sprayed on every street corner as graffiti. Some understand this as the preservation of Hong Kong's previous special rights. Others demand free elections. Some dream of a city-state and refer to the author of the slogan: The independence activist Edward Leung organized an uprising in the district of Mongkok in 2016, since he is in prison.