What pictures: 1.7 million people with umbrellas. Young and old. A toddler cheering the crowd from a pedestrian bridge. The mass demonstration on Sunday was a success for the government opponents in Hong Kong. The first weekend for more than two months without violence, without tear gas. After the ugly failures at the airport at the beginning of last week, the protest movement sent an important message to the world: we remain peaceful, we are united, and we are many. 1.7 million, that is a quarter of the Hong Kong population.
The Chinese leadership is putting this into a dilemma. Because all intimidation attempts have not helped anything: The verve of the protesters is unbroken. The threat of military intervention only makes them more defiant. If the People's Liberation Army should come, many Hong Kong people say: Then we'll go home. And when the soldiers leave, we return to the street. The hilly topography of the city makes an invasion of tanks difficult; The flexible tactics of the demonstrators - swiftly and quickly dive - means that Beijing's opponents are everywhere and nowhere. Therefore, it is far from agreed that the protests could be suppressed by military force. Hong Kong 2019 is not Tiananmen 1989.
Many dead are to be feared, Hong Kong's economy would come to a standstill
More likely is a deployment of the Chinese military police. The trains since 1989 to contain mass uprisings with minimal use of force. In a sports stadium in Shenzhen, Hong Kong's neighboring city on the mainland, hundreds of people are running warm. The Chinese leadership is ready to issue a marching order over the border at the next escalation. Beijing leaves no doubt about that.
Nevertheless, even the use of the paramilitary would be less suitable to pacify the protests. China's rulers must be prepared for Hong Kong citizens to defend themselves with all their might. Many dead are to be feared, a humanitarian catastrophe. Hong Kong's economy would come to a standstill. The hinge between the still-closed mainland and global markets would be broken. China's flagging economy would plunge into the midst of the US trade war.
Herein lies the true danger to the political stability that Beijing's rulers constantly invoke - not in skipping Hong Kong's democracy down to the mainland. There, most Chinese respond with amazing internal defenses to the defiant Hong Kong people. Only part of it can be attributed to propaganda. The memory of British colonial rule is alive; Hong Kong clung to privileges once granted to them by a corrupted alien power, the common lament. The moral failure of the West in its foreign assignments has also led to an increasing number of Chinese in every demand for freedoms smell empty words - and a hidden attack of foreign countries on their own economic rise.
Too much Western support would make it easier for Beijing to stamp the demonstrators into foreign agents. Such help might even be counterproductive. United diplomatic pressure on Beijing to seek a peaceful solution would not be. In Hong Kong, a front line is in the global fight for democracy. However, Western governments are under pressure. There is also a lot of silence in Berlin.
In truth, the Hong Kong people are on their own. An irony of these days is that isolated support for the demonstrators just came from the economy. The companies depend on Hong Kong's legal security for their China business. Beijing is forcing them back on line with all their might. Global corporations are being forced into political complicity. Anyone who wants to earn money in China can be blackmailed.
On the other hand, Hong Kong's demonstrators are clearly not. Many are willing to pay a high price. With guns, the Chinese leadership will not silence these citizens. Incidentally, with mass arrests such as the police are already doing, and incidentally, putting thousands into jail, according to one commentator, would be like trying to squeeze lava back into the volcano.