For months, Hong Kong has been shaken by unrest that has spread across neighborhoods and class divides, attaching to one grievance and then another, sweeping as many as two million people into the streets. This particular march was organized against the smart lampposts that are being installed around the city, which protesters fear will be used for surveillance; it was also the latest vessel for the free-floating rage against Hong Kong’s police and politicians and, underpinning it all, the central government in Beijing.
The trouble began earlier this year, when Hong Kong’s government proposed a bill that would allow fugitives in the city to be extradited to mainland China. In a city already grappling unhappily with the privileges and perils of its standing as a special administrative region, the spectre of Hong Kong residents vanishing into the mainland’s opaque police and court system provoked immediate outrage. A groundswell of protests turned violent on June 12th, when street battles erupted between police and activists. The bill was then suspended indefinitely, but that wasn’t enough to quell public anger. The protesters have repeatedly returned to the streets and train stations and even Hong Kong’s airport, demanding a slate of reforms, including the total withdrawal of the extradition bill, an investigation into police use of force, and the right to elect leaders without the influence of Beijing.
Peter, who is twenty-two and recently earned a university degree in business, has a lanky frame and bushy hair that tumbles forward over his eyes. He lives with his parents and works part time as a waiter. At least, that was his life before the protests. Now he’s the de-facto leader of a cell of brawlers, none of whom knew one another before meeting in the streets this summer. They consider themselves front-line defenders of their home town and the tip of the spear against Chinese authoritarianism.
Read more by Megan K. Stack at The New Yorker…