Policing the Anti-WTO Protests in Hong Kong
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The violent confrontations between anti-World Trade Organization (WTO) protestors and the Hong Kong police in December 2005 showed that their interactions generated uncompromising attitudes and escalating activities from both sides. As a result, conflicts between police and protestors became inevitable on the penultimate day of the WTO meeting. On the other hand, various factors at the structural, political/ideological, cultural, contextual and situational levels were at play, creating an environment conducive to violent confrontations. The “flashpoint” or political spark was ignited as the interactions between protestors and police turned violent. While David Waddington’s model provides a very useful framework through which we can better understand the dynamics of the anti-WTO confrontations in Hong Kong, it has neglected the possibility of an interactive bond between protestors and the public. The anti-WTO protestors in Hong Kong acquired the support and earned the sympathy of many Hong Kong people. This public support strengthened the determination of protestors to confront the police, and it became a bargaining chip during the negotiation between the Hong Kong Police Commissioner and the Korean protestors. Although the Police Commissioner refused to make concessions to the Korean farmers’ demand that their protests secured the support of many Hong Kong people, the conditions laid out by the Korean farmers showed that they attempted to utilize public opinion as a bargaining chip. The contextual uniqueness of forging a dynamic relationship between protestors and the public can enrich the analytical framework of Waddington’s flashpoint model. Contextually, the hidden pressure upon the Hong Kong police to handle the protests successfully without intervention from the People’s Liberation Army served to harden their strategies toward protestors who were greatly encouraged by the unexpected support of the Hong Kong public. Situationally, the police lines were broken on December 17, leading to police trepidation that the Convention Centre would risk being “shut down” by protestors. As a result of all these factors, the “disturbance” on December 17 became inevitable.