>> Javier C Hernández, The New York Times
Published: 2019-07-02 13:15:58 BdST
The split-screen protest offered vivid evidence that the divide in the former British colony is not merely between protesters and the Beijing-allied government — the protesters are increasingly at odds with one another.
On Monday, as activists armed with metal bars and makeshift battering rams were on the cusp of breaking down the doors of the Legislative Council, a group of veteran politicians sympathetic to their cause pleaded with them to reconsider.
“Please ask if it’s worth it,” Claudia Mo, a lawmaker, told one black-masked protester. “Think about your mother.”
The confrontation made clear that the protest movement that has upended Hong Kong for months as citizens condemned meddling from the mainland is at a crossroads. Until now, protesters took pride in having no recognized leaders and using encrypted messaging to crowd-source their direction. But the pitfalls of that approach have begun to emerge, with protesters disagreeing over tactics and goals and lacking a consistent position from which to negotiate — even as the government toughens its stance.
“Now Beijing has a good excuse to become even more uncompromising,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political scientist at Hong Kong Baptist University.
On Monday, Hong Kong social media was filled with pleas for the protesters to return to non-destructive methods. And early Tuesday, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, condemned the violence and praised the police, who she said had exercised restraint.
For weeks, the Hong Kong protest movement had stayed on the high road.
A few days after police used rubber bullets and pepper spray against demonstrators June 12, protesters held a vast and peaceful demonstration of more than 2 million.
On Monday, the vast majority of protesters were once again peaceful. But the images that dominated the day were generated by a core of a few hundred protesters who broke into the legislature.
The protesters now risk helping President Xi Jinping of China justify his desire for tighter control of Hong Kong, analysts say.
© 2019 New York Times News Service