Tiananmen in Hong Kong

The Alarming Echoes of 1989

Police officers fire tear gas at protesters in Sham Shui Po neighborhood of Hong Kong, August 2019  Tyrone Siu/REUTERS

At first, when demonstrators began spilling into city streets, citizens were surprised by their audacity and struck by their idealism, openness, and élan as they confronted the might of the Chinese Communist Party. The demonstrators’ demands were limited and answerable, their behavior civil, and their marches orderly. Yet as their numbers grew, they allowed themselves to entertain a heady sense of possibility—a hope that this time they might actually be heard. When they ran into police lines, instead of yielding they defiantly but peacefully kept going. Government officials and party organs denounced them as unpatriotic fomenters of social turmoil, but they turned the insults into fuel for an expanding movement. Before long, they had occupied the heart of the city.

Weeks passed, and the demonstrators, worried about losing steam, changed tactics, reinventing themselves and winning over additional elements of society and thereby giving their movement new life. Party officials

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