HONG KONG: The former head of Hong Kong’s Police Criminal Intelligence Unit has predicted more violence in the wake of unrest in Mongkok last month.
About 100 police officers were hurt when a crackdown on street hawkers escalated into a riot on Feb 8, with 75 people arrested in connection with the incident and 48 facing charges of rioting.
Unlike the largely peaceful civil disobedience Occupy movement of 2014, this time, the protestors came prepared with googles and masks, home-made shields, and projectiles.
Steve Vickers, now a specialist risk consultant, said he believes police will take a much harder line with trouble-makers if the incident is ever repeated.
"These are small elements of the original Occupy Central group who have split-off, have a far more aggressive agenda, you can call them almost anarchists, they're seeking for violence sake,” he said.
“I do not see an agenda or an endgame other than causing trouble. And frankly, the authorities cannot react as softly as they have. I'd like to see quicker arrests, people in court much more quickly.”
From a risk assessment viewpoint, however, Mr Vickers believes the Mongkok violence has not scared people off, or dented the city's reputation.
"My assessment is that the bulk of the business community are not concerned about that. They are concerned a series of factors, the disappearance of missing booksellers was one, some are concerned over the acquisition of the South China Morning Post by Alibaba, what would that lead to next. But the ability for the police to maintain law and order I think is not really questioned at this point."
Political analyst Joseph Cheng said the divisions were still concerning to many. “On one hand, people certainly find the CY Leung administration unpopular, there's a lot of sympathy for opposition towards the Hong Kong government,” he said.
“At the same time, there’s a lot of concern whether this alienation, disatisfaction will lead to instability."
Calls for an independent commission of inquiry about the motives of the rioters have been flatly rejected by Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying's administration, who said the alleged perpetrators on trial would be the best way to find out the truth.
Local delegates attending the National People's Congress meeting said Beijing does not see the incident as a genuine threat to national security, describing it only as a “small group of people stirring up trouble”, and it remains content to leave it to local authorities to maintain law and order.