The weekend saw the Hong Kong protests continue to spiral out of control, and if history is to judge, then the last 10 days have seen the protests pass a red-line with the death of an innocent bystander; protestors setting a man on fire, the police shooting of a protester during day-long street battles, multiple citizen and police injuries, and hundreds of people arrested.
On Thursday, a spokesman for the Prince of Wales Hospital confirmed that a 70-year old man hit on the head by a brick during a clash between anti-government protesters and residents in the Hong Kong border town of Sheung Shui on Wednesday had died.
The death followed the death one week earlier of a 22-year old university student who suffered a severe head injury after falling in a parking garage close to the scene of protests.
Other violent incidents throughout the week included a 15-year-old boy being hit in the head by a tear gas canister on Wednesday night that resulted in a skull fracture and internal bleeding.
In the most shocking display of violence, a 57-year old man was deliberately set on fire after chasing protesters who had vandalized an MTR station. The man had a flammable liquid poured on him that was then lit. He remains is in intensive care and in critical condition with burns to 44% of his body. The police have classified the case as attempted murder.
There was also the police shooting of a 21-year old protester who confronted an appeared in ready to attack a policeman who already had his gun pulled out while arresting another protester. The student was listed in critical condition on Monday but his condition had improved to stable by Thursday.
Protests at six of the universities are causing international students from China, the USA, Taiwan and other countries to leave their studies, at least temporarily, and return home. The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) announced on Wednesday that it had cancelled the rest of the semester, while most other universities have suspended classes until next week or replaced lectures with online modules for the rest of the term.
As the protests evolved at universities throughout the week, many people were dismayed to see students breaking into sports equipment rooms and stealing bows & arrows, javelins and other equipment that they could use against the police.
According to Hong Kong media reports, hundreds of mainland Chinese students have left or are leaving Hong Kong, while Taiwan has coordinated with its carrier China Airlines to evacuate 81 of its students studying at CUHK.
Both Hong Kong domestic companies as well as international companies located in Hong Kong have also become increasingly concerned that the “non-violent weekend protests” that started five months ago have now become daily protests and are taking over the central business district and disrupting business.
Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping described the continuing violence as a threat not just to law and order and the city’s prosperity and stability but also “a blatant challenge to the bottom line of the ‘one country, two systems’” governing principle and that putting an end to violence and restoring order remained Hong Kong’s most urgent priority. Without naming Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, he said he firmly supported the administration “led by the chief executive to execute its functions in accordance with the law”.