As protests and the police response escalate in Hong Kong, where demonstrations against China's broken promise to grant full democracy in 2017 are growing into something even larger, the police are using more force than they have at perhaps any time since Hong Kong joined China in 1997.
This video is a disturbing indication of how police are handling the protests. Taken by South China Morning Post reporter James Griffiths, it shows police, apparently unprovoked, grabbing an elderly protester by the arm and pulling him in to pepper spray him directly in the face:
Hong Kong police officer grabs elderly protester, turns and pepper sprays them full in the face: http://t.co/5l0pFtGGTF— James Griffiths (@jgriffiths) September 28, 2014
The video is shocking for its apparently arbitrary violence against a harmless-looking elderly protester, but made all the more so for the fact that this is Hong Kong, a place that prides itself on its orderliness and peaceful marches. This is just not something that happens in Hong Kong, except that it's happening. These sorts of scenes are enraging Hong Kong residents, who on Sunday began joining the student-dominated protests occupying the city's Central district.
This all began as opposition to the Chinese government's recent announcement that it would allow Hong Kong to hold its first-ever fully democratic elections in 2017, as promised, but with the new and enormous catch that a pro-Beijing committee would select the candidates. That alone upset Hong Kong residents, sparking the protests, but now the heavy-handed police response may further anger residents and rally them against the Chinese government. There's a deep anxiety in Hong Kong about whether they will be allowed to preserve their special freedoms. Every scene like this heightens fears that they will not.
The South China Morning Post, one of Hong Kong's best outlets, has an excellent liveblog of the ongoing events here, with more photos and videos.