Hong Kong has descended into a never-ending spiral of chaos, worsened by protesters' anger at the government's invocation of an emergency law to ban face masks.
Protesters, in defiance of the ban, went on rampages that destroyed the city's public and private property, including MTR stations and shops that are rumoured to be triad-linked.
Kwun Tong was one of the worst-hit stations over the weekend when protesters targeted MTR stops after Hong Kong’s mask ban was announced. https://t.co/7M4zydk1DT #HongKongProtests pic.twitter.com/Yg6aOCmlf8— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) October 8, 2019
It is in the midst of the unrest that someone, supposedly an exchange student from the United States, spoke out against their actions, adding on to growing condemnation of the protesters.
"I understand your demands, but please stop inconveniencing me"
Addressing his post on CUHK Secrets -- a platform much like NUS Whispers -- to the "frontline protesters", he first said he understands their political demands and why they are "so disgruntled at the government".However, he went into his main pitch next, saying the suspension of the MTR services recently has "really brought so much inconvenience" to his life.
He said he would like to explore the city so he can enjoy his short exchange in Hong Kong, but he could not do so if MTR services are being suspended.
Hong Kong's entire MTR line was shut down on the night of Oct. 4 after protesters took to the streets of all 18 districts of Hong Kong.
While certain train services have resumed operations, early closures of train stations are not uncommon.
In 13 years in #Hongkong, never saw the Central #MTR station looking like that at 8pm on a weekday. Though no official curfew is enforced, closing the MTR network early seems almost as efficient #HKprotests. pic.twitter.com/Upbg3vbf9B— Florence de Changy (@FChangy) October 8, 2019
"Not the best way to do it"
The exchange student then said while he understands why protesters are "so mad at [the] MTR for its misbehaviour", the MTR does not just belong to the MTR company, but also belongs to everyone who lives in the "beautiful city".
He further gave his opinion on the issue, saying protesters could have selected "a better way" to show their anger against the MTR instead of vandalising the stations.
"Your goals are venerable but I do not think it is the best way to express your anger against MTR or to earn public understanding and support," he said.
He ended his post by saying while he supports their demands, he hopes his "tiny demand" can be heard and respected too.
Commenters not impressed
While many netizens heard him, they did not quite buy into what he was saying.
Many of them expressed the view that he, as a foreigner with no stakes in the city, has no right to tell the local protesters what to do when it comes to their own movement.
They also reiterated that unlike him, who is just temporarily passing through the city, and unlike wealthy Hongkongers who could easily uproot themselves at anytime, most of them have to contend with living in Hong Kong for the rest of their lives.
Nevertheless, they said he does not have to stop being adventurous just because protests are ongoing, and gave him some suggestions on exploring the city on other modes of transportation, such as buses and minibuses.
Most protesters generally support hardline means of protest
While frontline protesters are sometimes differentiated from the rest who simply take part in peaceful marches and leave before clashing with riot police, the majority of protesters are said to support the more hardline approach for a variety of reasons.
The reasons they give to justify the violence are as follows:
1. MTR stations are targeted due to their perceived close relationship with the police
For instance, police were able to view surveillance footage at MTR stations, while MTR only released selected screenshots of the footage to members of the public, despite them asking for evidence to prove nothing bad happened at Prince Edward station.
2. Peaceful means of protest have not wrought any tangible results
For instance, an estimated one million people turned up for a march on June 9 to oppose the second reading of the extradition bill scheduled on June 12, but Chief Executive Carrie Lam did not give in to their demand at that time, and insisted for the second reading to be resumed on June 12.
Also, the previous 2014 movement was largely peaceful, which was why it failed to force the government to give in to their demands.
3. Many of them think this is the last chance they have
They see this as the last time they can voice their dissent against the Hong Kong government, especially with the window they have before the 2047 deadline narrowing.
Perhaps protesters were also venting their frustrations with the Hong Kong government for refusing to listen to their complaints, such as the ones on alleged police brutality.
Some protesters also say the frontliners were buying them time so the rest could escape.
However, there are still many who disagree with the radical methods of vandalism targeting MTR stations and businesses, saying such methods have wrought limited results so far, and are, in fact, destroying the movement as it negatively affects the public’s perception of the protesters.
Even so, an important theme of the leaderless protests this time round, as opposed to the Occupy Central movement in 2014, is not to point fingers at one another.
Protesters, even the “milder” ones, can be said to be generally in agreement with the more “radical” ones when it comes to the vandalism of public and private property.
Top image via Hong Kong Free Press