A protestor throws a rock at a police station in Hong Kong, August 2019
Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters

For five months, Hong Kong has seen waves of massive protests and violence in the streets. And for five months, the local authorities, with the backing of Beijing, have responded in increasingly draconian ways—from wielding batons and firing lethal shots at protesters to jailing them on rioting charges—that have succeeded mostly in inflaming public sentiment. The situation has devolved into a stalemate, featuring escalating protests and brutal clashes between police and demonstrators. The question on everyone’s mind is if and when the Chinese government will resort to more aggressive means—including use of the military—to end the unrest for good.

The protests began in February in response to a proposed law that would allow Hong Kong to extradite residents of the territory to the Chinese mainland, tearing down the last firewall protecting Hong Kong from Beijing. Although Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam agreed to “suspend” the extradition bill on June 15, residents have continued to press their demands, calling for the formal withdrawal of the bill, an independent investigation into police abuses, the dropping of riot charges against protesters, and the introduction of democratic reforms.

On July 21, after activists defaced the national emblem outside of Beijing’

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  • MICHAEL C. DAVIS, formerly of the University of Hong Kong, is a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
  • VICTORIA TIN-BOR HUI is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame
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