HONG KONG—For most of last year, life here was intertwined with protests. Those not attending demonstrations might have found themselves caught in the middle of a police clearance operation, with officers chasing black-clad protesters into subway stations or around shopping malls. Large video boards hanging off skyscrapers occasionally carried live footage of marches just a few blocks away. People distantly removed from the nucleus of unrest could count on live-streams on their phone. Even when I was not reporting, the protests were never far off: Dinners with friends sometimes came with a whiff of tear gas.
This week, I found myself once again staring at and scrolling through protest footage, not from the Hong Kong neighborhoods of Sha Tin, Yuen Long, and Causeway Bay, but from Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Watching from many time zones away, my mornings slipped by as I sat enraptured with news reports, checking my messages for updates from friends and family in the United States.
The protests that have rolled across the U.S. and the mass demonstrations in Hong Kong are undoubtedly different, both at their root and in how they have played out. Hong Kongers, for instance, point out that while buildings and businesses here were damaged, they were selective about targeting only pro-Beijing sites and tried to restrict looting. Some in Hong Kong have also posted photos to social media of American officers joining protesters in solidarity, remarking that such scenes would never take place here. (The reaction of those such as Senator Tom Cotton, a vocal backer of Hong Kong’s demonstrations who has supported cracking down on his own protesting citizenry, is one that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the government here or in Beijing.)