The verdict is in: Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam's attempt to pacify furious pro-democracy protesters by fully withdrawing the extradition bill that inspired the at-times-violent protests hasn't worked. Protesters took to the streets Wednesday night (local time) shortly after Lam withdrew the bill, and more rallies are scheduled for this weekend, including another sit-in at Hong Kong International Airport, which - if the recent past is any guide - will likely turn violent.
An editorial in the Communist Party-controlled China Daily (via Reuters) warned that protesters have "no excuse" to continue the violent rallies after the "olive branch" from Beijing. And adding to the confusion surrounding the situation, the home of media tycoon Jimmy Lai was attacked early Thursday by two masked men who hurled firebombs before speeding off on a motorbike. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.
Lai's security guards responded by quickly putting out the fire, Bloomberg reported, before reporting the incident to police. Though it's not clear who orchestrated and ordered the attack, it's certainly possible that the incident was intended as a warning for Lai to keep quiet.
Lai's publications, which include the Apple Daily newspapers, have drawn the ire of senior officials in Beijing over their overt stance in support of the protesters. Lai has been denounced as a traitor by the Chinese state media, and it's certainly possible that the attack was intended as an act of intimidation.
It's also possible that government-aligned thugs staged the attack as a "false flag", and intends to blame protesters. Moreover, protesters may have staged the attack with the intention of blaming pro-government thugs.
Whatever happened, we imagine more details, and possible some arrests, will be forthcoming.
Two masked men threw firebombs at the gate of Lai’s home at around 1 a.m. local time Thursday before leaving, Cable TV news reported people at the scene as saying, adding Lai’s security guard put out the fire and called police.
Police put out a statement concerning a firebomb incident but didn’t mention whose residence was attacked. Police said they received a report from a security guard at the site, saying that the suspects had thrown what are believed to be petrol bombs before fleeing by motorcycle.
Lai, whose publications such as the Apple Daily newspapers have championed Hong Kong’s three-month-old democracy movement, has been labeled a traitor by Chinese state media over the months-long protests in the Asian financial center.
Apple Daily has been sending photographers to the front lines of the protests, even as violence has escalated over the past month, often broadcasting live online the skirmishes between protesters and police.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Lam said during a press conference that Beijing "understands, respects and supports" her government's decision to pull the extradition bill in an effort to help her city "move forward" from months of unrest. Lam dodged questions about why it took her so long to pull the bill, saying it's "not exactly correct" to describe her decision as "a change of mind."
"Throughout the whole process, the Central People’s Government took the position that they understood why we have to do it. They respect my view, and they support me all the way," said Lam, according to Reuters.
Protesters have insisted that the government must meet all five of their demands. The four others are: retraction of the word "riot" to describe protests, release of all 1,100+ demonstrators who have been arrested, an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality and the right for Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders.
For what it's worth, Lam announced other measures, including opening a "platform for dialogue" to address young peoples' deep-rooted concerns about social mobility. But demonstrators insist that this is too little, too late.