Nov 11, 2019

Violence in Hong Kong as leader denounces "enemies of the people"

Riot police mass today in Hong Kong. Photo: Ivan Cheung/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hong Kong endured one of the most violent days in five months of protests today, with police shooting a protestor at close range, protestors lighting a man on fire, and Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam denouncing "enemies of the people."

Why it matters: More than 60 people were wounded, according to Lam, and tear gas filled the air in the Central business district in the middle of the work day. Chris Johnson, a former top CIA China analyst now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Michael Morell on the Intelligence Matters podcast that protest leaders realize violence by more "hardcore" elements risks sapping western support.

More takeaways:

1. There's a narrative in Beijing that to send in the troops would play "into a U.S. trap" to isolate China "just as our rise is hitting its stride," Johnson says.

  • "Hong Kong actually has many more things within their domestic emergency powers that they can use and would use before there was a violent crackdown [from the mainland]."

2. Chinese leaders reluctantly concede that the situation in Hong Kong will strengthen nationalists in Taiwan and virtually guarantee the re-election of President Tsai Ing-wen in January.

  • "They look at events in Hong Kong and think 'that’s one country two systems? No thank you.'"

3. Chinese elites know what's happening in Hong Kong, but many mainlanders only know the party line and buy the idea of Hong Kongers as "spoiled children who don’t understand the beneficence of China."

4. Chinese overreach isn't the only factor here. Johnson also cites a property crisis driven by "the greed of Hong Kong's tycoons."

Go deeper

Finger-pointing over misjudging Hong Kong

Anti-government protesters shine phone lights at police as they chant slogans in Hong Kong yesterday. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Top Chinese leaders, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, "have been managing their response" to the violent protests in Hong Kong from a villa in Shenzhen instead of using the formal bureaucratic system that's been in place for two decades, Reuters scoops.

Why it matters: Under normal circumstances, Beijing and Hong Kong communicate through the Liaison Office, "housed in a Hong Kong skyscraper stacked with surveillance cameras, ringed by steel barricades," Reuters writes. This change shows the central government isn't happy with how the Liaison Office has been handling the protests.

Go deeperArrowNov 26, 2019

Trump signs bill expressing support for Hong Kong protesters

Photo: Xinhua/Li Xueren and Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

President Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on Wednesday, reaffirming U.S. support for the city's autonomy after months of pro-democracy protests.

Why it matters: The bill, which was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House, serves as a major rebuke of China at a time when Washington and Beijing are engaged in critical trade talks. China has warned that it will take retaliatory measures if the bill becomes law.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 27, 2019

House passes bill expressing support for Hong Kong protestors, rebuking China

Pro-democracy protesters gather for a rally in Victoria Park, Hong Kong. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images.

The House voted 417-1 on Wednesday evening in favor of the Senate's unanimously-passed Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, sending the bill to President Trump's desk. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was the sole "no" vote.

The big picture: The bill reaffirms the U.S.' commitment to supporting democracy and human rights in Hong Kong as it relates to city's autonomy. The legislation comes amid months of violent clashes between police and protestors in Hong Kong, and could set up a confrontation between the U.S. and China in the midst of Trump's high-stakes trade war. The White House has not yet commented on whether Trump intends to sign the bill.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 20, 2019