Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 13, 20 October 2019

Hong Kong Violence: A divide within
Harini Madhusudan


What happened? 

A homemade bomb was detonated for the first time during the months of protests. There are clear indications of an escalation of the rift between the protesters and the police at the street level. Suryanto Chin-Chiu, a superintendent of the Hong Kong police's explosives disposal unit, said at a news conference, that the device was hidden in a bush and was triggered using a mobile phone near Mong Kok district of Kowloon. 

A group of moderates have been voicing out that the violent turn of events may jeopardize the support to the pro-democracy movement, both at home and overseas. The pro-democracy legislators repeatedly hackled Carrie Lam for two consecutive days, after which the Legislative Council meeting was adjourned. Lam's policy speech at the Council, her chance at winning back the hearts of the people after four months of protests, became a point of criticism. For the detractors, it is offering little as a substantive political solution. 

What is the background?

The protests in Hong Kong have entered the fourth month, and there seems to be no end in sight for a solution or an end to it. There is a clear divide within in using violence as a means. There is fear among the moderates that the government in Hong Kong may use the violence as an excuse to postpone the local elections that are scheduled in November. 

At the Legislative Council meeting, Carrie Lam focused on the economic aspects. She promised increased housing and land supply; un-attractive offer in a city that has the least affordable property markets. When it came to political concessions and the demands by the protesters, she said, progress can be made only when the protests end. Both Cam and Beijing have held that Hong Kong's freedoms are being protected and have dismissed the demands of the protesters.

What does it mean?

The first sign of frustrations among the protesters, against their own and visibility of the divide among the protesters, is a sign that the protests are entering an important phase. Several reports and surveys show that youngsters who are willing to fight on the streets and willing to face the bullets at the frontline do not have their family support. The protesters seem to have disagreements on the level of violence that needs to be used. The protests could fall apart, If Beijing and Lam were to wait it out a few more weeks. 

However, the failure of Carrie Lam's government to grab the attention of their citizens during the speech at the Legislative Council is an indication that none of them knows what to do at this point. 

Harini Madhusudan is currently pursuing Ph.D. at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. She can be reached at

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