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Reuters – Pun sees himself as a peaceful, middle-class Hong Kong student. Yet since the beginning of June, he has been building barricades and throwing bricks at police, risking his own liberty to fight, as he sees it, for the city’s freedoms.
In one of the world’s safest cities, the idea of violence as a legitimate form of political expression – hand-in-hand with peaceful protest – is becoming increasingly mainstream in the evolving tactics of a decentralized pro-democracy movement that has disrupted Chinese-ruled Hong Kong for 11 weeks.
“I know violence cannot fight violence, but sometimes aggression is needed to attract the attention of the government and others,” 22-year-old Pun said last week, speaking at the city’s airport after overnight clashes with police.
“I have thrown rocks, I have acted as a shield with umbrellas for others, I have been helping to build barricades, to bring supplies, to take injured people to a safe zone. I have also been hit by police with batons. We’re all slowly getting used to this. We have to.”
Protests in the former British colony erupted in early June over a now-suspended bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial.
But the unrest has been fueled by broader worries about what many say has been an erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997.
Unlike the Umbrella movement in 2014, when a largely peaceful 79-day occupation of Hong Kong’s financial area failed to achieve its aim of universal suffrage, a more confrontational stance from some of the protesters was evident from the start.
They came equipped with helmets, masks and goggles, and well-studied plans for supplying the protest frontlines with gear and mitigating the effects of tear gas.
And it seemed to yield some results. Within days, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, while not formally withdrawing the extradition bill, as protesters demanded, suspended the measure and declared it “dead”, a word she repeated on Tuesday.
Emboldened, the protest movement has since morphed into a broader, increasingly creative and sophisticated push for greater democracy, posing the biggest political challenge yet for Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Protesters escalated their aggressiveness, playing cat-and-mouse with the police all over the territory. While a giant march on Sunday was peaceful, activists have not ruled out further violence.
“We learned a lot from our mistakes in the Umbrella revolution,” said Pun, wearing a new set of clothes after ditching in an airport washroom the all-black protest attire he had worn the night before.
“Definitely more people accept there will be some violence now. They may not like it, they may not want to be a part of it, but they don’t condemn us. We are joined together as a force.”
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The suspended apps are associated with about 400 developers, Facebook said, adding that it is not necessarily an indication that these apps were posing a threat to users.
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The FTC privacy probe was triggered last year by allegations that Facebook violated a 2012 consent decree and inappropriately shared information of 87 million users with British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.
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