The government in Hong Kong is considering cutting off internet access to its citizens in order to halt the pro-democracy protests that have been raging there for months.
“The warning came as the international financial hub remained partly paralysed from three days of protests in which the city’s rail network and business outlets seen as pro-China were badly vandalised,” India’s The Telegraph said. “The surge in protests was in response to the Hong Kong government’s announcement on Friday it would invoke colonial-era emergency laws not used for more than 50 years to ban demonstrators from wearing face masks.”
The move would perhaps stir the hornet’s nest further, as it would mirror moves made by the communist Beijing leadership in order to maintain totalitarian control over its citizenry. The protestors in Hong Kong are explicitly protesting against that type of governmental authoritarianism.
Some of the governing leaders in Hong Kong are pro-Beijing, and are seeking to avoid further confrontation with the ruthless dictatorship.
“At this stage, the government will consider all legal means to stop the riots,” said Ip Kwok-him, a Hong Kong Executive Council member who is described as a “veteran pro-Beijing politician.”
“We would not rule out a ban on the internet,” he continued.
The internet is crucial for planning and execution of protests among participants, as it was during the Arab Spring in 2010. During that uprising, the governments in Egypt, Libya, and Syria all made the internet inaccessible to citizens in order to stop their rebellion.
But Beijing is no stranger to internet censorship. It has commonly used censorship as a tool to keep the citizens of mainland China under its thumb. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and SnapChat are just a few major websites blocked on the mainland. As recently as last year, the Communist Party had a contract with Google to build a censored version of the search engine. The project, called Dragonfly, has officially been terminated after backlash from human rights groups, but some insiders at the company maintain that it is still covertly working on Dragonfly.
Meanwhile, protestors in Hong Kong appear unfazed. They continued their demonstrations over the weekend – the 18th straight weekend in a row – and ignored the mask ban imposed by their own government officials.
“They marched despite not having applied for the demonstration with the police force. Riot police later fired tear gas to disperse protesters,” according to NTD News. “Dozens of protesters were also arrested. At least three injured protesters were sent to the hospital and in critical condition. Meanwhile, for the first time, soldiers from a local Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) barrack directly warned protesters gathered outside.”
The protests have become a bit more violent as of late, potentially signaling a sense of urgency from the citizens of Hong Kong.
Several news outlets reported last week that a young protestor was shot by police in Hong Kong with live ammunition.
“An 18-year-old protester was hit in the chest by a live bullet fired from close range by a police officer in Tsuen Wan, while exchanges of tear gas and petrol bombs took place in at least 13 parts of the city,” South China Morning Post said.
The protestor was reportedly taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.