continued from my previous post
反高鐵示威者行為過激? Are the hk high speed rail protesters extremists? Are they over-reacting?

As we have discussed before in the above post, the Stop-The-Rail Movement (“The Movement”) v. HKSAR is an asymmetric conflict, in which HKSAR has an overwhelmingly superior advantage. They control the police, the media, and have the initiative as the incumbant. Crucially, they are the enforcer of the law and they have the least to worry worry about being arrested and prosecuted.

Knowing they cannot wrestle control from HKSAR, The Movement has focused on two objectives
1. Attracting more supporters and
2. galvanising the existing ones

For each of the above, actions are needed, but the key question is “how much action”.

The 16 January Siege, in which officials of HKSAR as well as legislators in the SAR-Loyalist camp were trapped inside Legco for 6 hours, is a minimal show-of-force, as if to tell public, “We can make a difference.”

In order to maintain the siege, the Protesters, at times, when the Police tried to barracade them in, had to breach the Police line, and else they would risk being cut off, and the siege would have failed right then. [For a detailed analysis, visit the HK-golden forum]

Note that it was the police, representing HKSAR, who escalated the conflict in the first place, and the protesters used the minimal escalation tool, or course of action, in their arsenal (compare the example in my prior post).

There will always be debate on this, but judging by the split media and public opinion, it was probably “about right”. Notably,
1. The protesters siezed metal barracades (actions) but didn’t attack the policemen. They stayed within the law and nobody was arrested.
2. On the contrary, the police released pepper-sprays without prior warning, in order to divert attention and escort the officials and loyalists out of the Legco building into the J2-exit of the MTR Central Station. That is in clear breach of the operation protocol.

And crucially,
3. Everbody went home safe.

So, the answer to the question in the title is No, and 1-0 to the Movement.


1. HKgolden forum:


And what action. When I saw these guys rush to grab the equipment of the”enemy” and use it against them, I felt the same rush that I do when watching, say, Ronaldinho play for Brasil. This is team politics, and the cheeky, confident and plugged in demonstrators of the baat sap hau play–with apologies to la liga argentina– a “beautiful game”.

– the siego of legco in the eyes of Daisann, a Gwai-Lo in Hong Kong

3。 [信報-羅耕] 政府目中無人

See also: 立法局包圍戰之
[反高鐵] 點解我地要突破警方防線 (附圖解釋)

When you have an asymmetric conflict like the StopXRL movement, do drastic measures from the weaker side always equal irrational over-reactions? 喺反高鐵呢種唔對稱嘅對抗中,強硬行動係唔係一定過激?

Imagine two antagonists (or countries). Let’s call them Sam and Joe. Sam is rich and have a lot of weapons available, but Joe is strong. They are in a dispute over something and their conflict is escalating.

Consider their weapons:

Sam: fist, handknife, handgun, M-16, M1A1 tank, Apache helicopter, F-15 fighter, F-22 fighter, Satellite Laser system

Joe: fist, handknife, AK47, Mig 31 fighter jet, Satellite Laser system

As their conflict escalate, they would pull out bigger and more powerful weapons from their war chest. Now, as Joe is stronger, Sam loses out in the fist fight, and pulls out a handgun. Joe has no choice but to get his AK47. Sam pulls out his M-16, but as he is not as good a marksman, he called in an M1A1. Joe had no choice but to call in his Mig 31 fighter jet. The conflict escalates into a space war.

Now let’s put ourselves in Joe’s shoes. Was he irrational or “over-reacting”? No. He just made use of his limited resources as well as he could. The problem is that Sam was in a much convenient position to escalate a conflict, and in each escalation he chose to put Joe in an uncomfortable position.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, what choices did the governement or the police give the protesters? We tried sit-ins and conflict-free demonstrations. The government simply ignored us. When we want dialogues, what did they give us? Has the Hong Kong SARS actually tried to act like a government for the people of the people, even if it is not by the people? 當喺中聯辦綁條絲帶都會被人剪傷手, 你仲想同佢和諧落去?

Don’t take things on their face values. There are often reasons, even logical ones, behind conflict escalations.

Further Reading:

Conflict Escalation: theory
Constructive Escalation

About hkXRL and Mai Po