- As US officials and politicians condemn China over a controversial new national security law and related crackdowns on pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong, there’s also been unrest on America’s streets.
- Police in Hong Kong moved to disperse demonstrations against the law in recent days by firing tear gas and using a water cannon.
- After an unarmed black man named George Floyd died following an incident with police in which an officer knelt on his kneck, protesters took to the streets in the city of Minneapolis on Tuesday night.
- Minneapolis police, dressed in riot gear, fired tear gas at the demonstrators.
- Tear gas is considered a chemical weapon and is banned in warfare by most countries, including the US. Police are permitted to use it in a domestic capacity as a “riot-control agent.”
- Many on social media drew comparisons between the tactics of police in Hong Kong and officers in Minneapolis.
Police in Hong Kong and Minneapolis, Minnesota, had something in common this week. They both used tear gas on protesters.
Thousands upon thousands of people have flooded the streets of Hong Kong in recent days to demonstrate against a controversial national security law that threatens to upend the city’s semi-autonomous status. The protests are reminiscent of the massive demonstrations in Hong Kong last year, which were inspired by similar, pro-democracy sentiments.
Hong Kong police recently arrested over 100 people, largely on charges of unlawful assembly, and fired tear gas and used a water cannon in an effort to break up the demonstrations as some involved reportedly threw bottles at the officers.
—The Hill (@thehill) May 24, 2020
The national security law, unveiled by China’s rubber-stamp legislature last week (bypassing Hong Kong’s chief executive and legislature), criminalizes sedition, secession, and foreign influence in the city.
The move essentially discards the city’s “one country, two systems” model, and has raised questions about whether Hong Kong will maintain its “special status” with the US. The city is treated differently by Washington than mainland China when it comes to trade and other areas.
Politicians and top US officials have strongly condemned the move.
“It’s hard to see how Hong Kong could remain the Asian financial center that it’s become if China takes over,” White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on May 24.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement described the law as a “death knell” for Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy.”
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a member the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement decrying the law as “unacceptable,”
“The Chinese Communist Party is fast moving to end what is left of Hong Kong’s autonomy,” Cruz said. “As I’ve long said, Hong Kong is the new Berlin, and now the U.S. must stand strong with our allies and hold the line against the spread of communism.”
Similarly, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas recently tweeted: “Red China thinks it can crackdown on Hong Kong in violation of its treaty commitments & the civilized world won’t notice during the pandemic. Wrong. We will notice, China will only prove again it’s a pariah state, & China will suffer severe consequences.”
Meanwhile, back in the US, an unarmed black man named George Floyd died following an incident in which a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. A video of the incident showed Floyd moaning and pleading with the officer to get off of him, shouting, “I can’t breathe.”
“My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts … Please. Please. I can’t breathe, officer … I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe,” Floyd could be heard saying in a video of the deadly encounter, filmed by a bystander.
Police said they were responding to a “forgery in progress.” Four of the officers involved were fired, but Floyd’s family wants them charged with murder.
The fatal incident, which took place on Monday, prompted protests in Minneapolis on Tuesday night. Police in riot gear fired tear gas and projectiles at the protesters as the demonstrations became unruly. A police car was vandalized, windows were broken, and graffiti was sprayed, per NBC News.
—BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) May 27, 2020
Tear gas — also known as CS gas — is considered a chemical weapon and is banned in warfare by most countries, including the US. But the use of tear gas as a “riot-control agent” by law enforcement in a domestic capacity is still legal in the US and a number of other countries.
The use of tear gas in Minneapolis on Tuesday prompted a great deal of discussion on social media, including comparisons with the tactics of police in Hong Kong. Some also noted that gun-toting protesters who recently demonstrated against coronavirus restrictions in Michigan were not met with force of this nature.
—Laurel Chor (@laurelchor) May 27, 2020
—Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal) May 27, 2020
—Meena Harris (@meenaharris) May 27, 2020
—Will Guillory (@WillGuillory) May 27, 2020
—Jenny from the Vox (@jenn_ruth) May 27, 2020
—Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) May 27, 2020
—Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) May 27, 2020
The protests in Hong Kong and Minneapolis, and the use of tear gas to disperse them, occurred amid the coronavirus pandemic. The novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, is known to lead to shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, among other symptoms.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website states that riot control agents such as tear gas can lead to chest tightness, coughing, choking sensation, noisy breathing (wheezing), and shortness of breath.