paper wristbands for eventsEchoes of a dark past

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A protester has a gasoline bomb ready in hand during an illegal rally in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, Oct 1, 2019. [Photo/China Daily]

The organization"s pamphlets are frightening to read because they are so clear and bold in describing the objectives and the methodology to be employed: "possession of the streets is the key to power", "we should not work in secret conventicles, but in mighty mass demonstrations"; and the constant aim to produce "relentless criticism of the state of affairs of the governmental system". The use of physical violence against opponents who do not share their point of view is strongly encouraged and, as a result, assaults against innocent citizens became increasingly common. Their members and followers included a large number of students and middle-class professionals, in addition to the unemployed and discontented. Political violence was the norm of the day.

The above description could well have been an extract from a future history book describing the background of the current turmoil and violence that has now engulfed Hong Kong, as they are so eerily similar. The above quotations are in fact translated from an SA (Sturmabteilung, or Storm Unit) pamphlet, the so-called "brown shirts" who used intimidation, political violence, fear and general thuggery to advance the cause of the Nazi movement and assist Adolph Hitler"s ascendancy and consolidation of power. Jewish-owned shops were vandalized, homes burned and anyone who dared to protest was savagely beaten up or killed. Substitute the "brown shirts" with our "black shirts", and it perfectly describes and matches the situation we are in today.

The movement in Hong Kong which likes to portray itself as peaceful, especially when speaking at international fora, has clearly proved itself to be anything but. Innocent people who dare to question them are ruthlessly beaten up by a mob of masked cowards in the most inhumane and vile manner. Innocent shopkeepers are harmed, their shops ravaged, and their goods stolen all because of supposed links to the Chinese mainland, and just like Germany in the 1930s, graffiti is sprayed on their walls. Public property is defaced and damaged, and many attempts have been made to destroy one of the very best public transport systems in the world, our beloved MTR.

Our very hard-working and brave Hong Kong Police Force has sadly had to bear the brunt of this for months now. Obviously, viewing the very limited number of serious casualties, they have been very restrained in their courageous attempts to maintain law and order, to protect lives and properties, at great risk to their own. It"s fair to say that a major incentive for the rioters in escalating their violence was that our police officers had been at times too cautious and too self-controlled. This is despite the terror their families have had to face, and the constant abuse they have to deal with on a daily basis. The so-called anti-extradition bill movement, obviously, would love to have a real martyr that it can exploit to re-energize their base and gather support, which has been waning over the past weeks as people become tired of the endless cycle of senseless destruction and violence.

On National Day, an all-out attempt was made to break Hong Kong society and test "Asia"s Finest" to its limit. Very well-coordinated sudden eruptions of violence occurred in 13 different locations across the city, from Tuen Mun to Sha Tin to Wan Chai. Fires were started in multiple locations, buildings vandalized and the police force attacked with hitherto unknown savagery. When a police officer was attacked from behind by multiple masked "black-shirt" thugs, another officer tries to save his colleague and in the melee shot one of the protesters in the chest after warning him. It"s worth pointing out that a typical US cop would empty his pistol"s magazine for much less. It looks like the young "Blackshirt" will live to spend some years behind bars, so the hoped-for a martyr still has not materialized. Some commentators have shouted that this was a case of police brutality and expressed outrage that a live bullet was fired, but they clearly live in la-la land. Physical brutal attacks against police officers will cause a serious, but proportionate reaction anywhere in the world, even in Hong Kong where we are not used to these high levels of violence. Strangely enough, the recent deaths of two student protesters in Indonesia clearly have not attracted attention anywhere near what the international media have accorded our gunshot-wounded young Hong Kong rioter.

The violent provocations on National Day are meant to induce a violent response from Beijing, thereby turning the so-called anti-extradition cause into a global anti-China rallying cry. The ironic thing is that on the same day in Beijing, President Xi Jinping underlined the importance of the "one country, two systems" arrangement and vowed it would be upheld. The very fact that, after four months of increasingly serious unrest, the central government has not directly intervened is clear proof of this. "Two systems" also means that Hong Kong not only has a high degree of autonomy, but also a high degree of responsibility. It is up to Hong Kong to clear up its own mess. All Hong Kong people can pitch in in this difficult endeavor by standing up and be counted. This is our moment of truth!

The author is an adviser on China-related matters to both the private and public sectors. He has lived in Hong Kong for over 18 years.

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