The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The evolution of Hong Kong’s protests

The demonstrations and demands have been shaped week by week. Another pivotal moment could come Tuesday as a counterpoint to celebrations in Beijing.

A woman covers her face after inhaling tear gas on the streets of Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, on Aug. 14. (Nicole Tung for The Washington Post)

It started with a proposal that Hong Kong’s government said was simply closing a loophole: allowing extraditions from the semiautonomous territory to mainland China. Instead, it was a spark. Wave after wave of demonstrations have roared through Hong Kong since June. The rage is fed by a unifying fear — that Beijing’s leaders seek to systematically pick apart the freedoms promised to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.

As the protests build toward another possible key moment — the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Tuesday — the images from Hong Kong’s streets track the evolution of a crisis with no end in sight.

June 9: The groundswell of opposition to the extradition bill erupted for the first time. An estimated 1 million people crammed the streets demanding that the legislation be scrapped. [Read the story]

Hundreds of thousands marched to protest new extradition law that would send prisoners to the Chinese mainland on June 9. (Video: Reuters)

June 12: Demonstrators occupied a major thoroughfare in central Hong Kong as commuters headed to work. The protesters quickly established supply lines, distributing food, water and umbrellas. Police, however, moved in to keep protesters from settling in for the long haul, as they had during the Umbrella Movement in 2014. Police fired volleys of tear gas, scattering the stunned crowd and raising the first cries of alarm against crowd-control tactics. [Read the story]

On June 12, Hong Kong police fired pepper spray at protesters near government buildings as tensions ramped up over a controversial extradition bill. (Video: Reuters)

June 15: After dismissing protesters and then comparing them to errant children, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam offered her first concession: a promise that her government would suspend the hugely unpopular extradition bill. The problem was that she continued to laud the bill’s objectives, and protesters dismissed the move as insincere. [Read the story]

June 16: They marched for hours, snaking miles across the city. By the end of the day, organizers estimated that as many as 2 million people turned out for one of the largest displays of dissent in Hong Kong’s history. [Read the story]

A fired-up crowd including families with children and the elderly joined demonstrations in Hong Kong on June 16, despite the city's leader's apology. (Video: Shibani Mahtani/The Washington Post)

July 1: The day started with Lam clinking champagne flutes with a host of former leaders in celebration of the territory’s handover to mainland China in 1997. It ended with protesters storming the Legislative Council building. A more radical form of protest was emerging. [Read the story]

The Washington Post's Shibani Mahtani reports from Hong Kong as huge government protests took place on the 22nd anniversary of the territory’s return to China. (Video: The Washington Post)

July 21: A large group of protesters found a new target: the Chinese government’s liaison office, which at the time was unprotected. Protesters defaced the Chinese emblem, scrawled graffiti and mocked Chinese President Xi Jinping. [Read the story]

July 24: Beijing had been steadily ramping up rhetoric, hinting that it could use military force to crush the protests. Video released by Chinese state media showed paramilitary police conducting crowd-control training drills in the border city of Shenzhen. China has also blamed unspecified “foreign forces” as the architects of the unrest. [Read the story]

Aug. 5: A general strike leads to major disruptions in the subway network and the cancellation of hundreds of flights. Concurrent protests were held at several city parks and quickly descended into clashes with security forces. [Read the story]

Aug. 12-13: Protesters surge into Hong Kong International Airport, one of Asia’s busiest transport hubs. [Read the story]

Flights from Hong Kong International Airport were canceled for a second day as protesters continued to hold demonstrations Aug. 13 in both terminal buildings. (Video: The Washington Post)

Aug. 25: Police deploy water cannons for the first time. [Read the story]

Aug. 31: Blue-stained dye shooting out of water cannons, massive bonfires across Hong Kong streets: These were the scenes from some of the most intense clashes. [Read the story] Police stormed subway stations later at night and arrested protesters returning home, spraying pepper spray in the train carriages and swinging batons. [Read the story]

Sept. 4: Lam formally withdraws the extradition bill, bowing to one demand laid down by protesters. The response to Lam’s announcement was swift and nearly unanimous. Too little, too late, said many protesters. They quickly adopt a new slogan, “five demands, not one less.” [Read the story]

Sept. 8: Protesters adopt a new call: appealing to the United States for help, hoping that Hong Kong can benefit from the ongoing geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China. [Read the story]

Thousands of Hong Kong protesters Sept. 8 chanted the U.S. national anthem and called on President Trump to intervene to free the Chinese-ruled city. (Video: Reuters)

Sept. 26: Lam is hit by a barrage of criticism in her first dialogue session with randomly selected Hong Kong residents. As protesters massed outside, Lam waited nearly four hours before she could leave the building under police escort. [Read the story]